3 Dallas Cowboys

They took a big chance on the game's most controversial player, but if all goes well, the potential payoff is huge
September 03, 2006

THE BELIEF
A solidified offensive line will allow quarterback Drew Bledsoe to take fulladvantage of Terrell Owens's arrival and throw downfield more often. Thevolatile T.O. will keep his cool under coach Bill Parcells and provide bigplays for an offense that lacked explosiveness last season.

THE REALITY
No one said it wasn't going to be interesting. After arriving at camp, Owensmissed a string of practices with a hamstring injury, at one point riding astationary bike in an outlandish Discovery Channel cycling outfit, and lastweek he was fined for missing a meeting and a rehab session for his injury. Thehamstring kept him out of Dallas's first three preseason games, making itdifficult to tell how he'll fit in once the real games begin.

But other signswere more promising. Coming off a bitter dispute with his quarterback inPhiladelphia, Donovan McNabb, Owens was cooperating with Bledsoe. Shortly afterT.O. signed in March, the Dallas quarterback sat down with his new wideout toexplain how he expected their relationship to work. "I simply told him thatif he gives me good information, I'll get him the ball," says Bledsoe.

But it's how wellthe line performs that's the real key to the season. Last year that unit fellapart following injuries to left tackle Flozell Adams (torn right ACL, Week 6)and guard Marco Rivera (strained neck, Week 15), and the entire offense wentinto a funk that it never escaped. By season's end the Cowboys had allowed 50sacks and were averaging an anemic 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. When campopened the status of Adams's recovery left Parcells "a little worried,"and the 6'7", 335-pound nine-year veteran was placed on the physicallyunable to perform list for the first four days of practice. As camp progressed,however, Adams began to move more fluidly and had less swelling in the repairedknee.

That's reassuringfor the quarterback's safety and the passing game as a whole. Should Adamsstruggle, the Cowboys might have to use tight ends and running backs in passprotection as they did last season. That means Dallas has to rely more onthree-receiver sets that rob Bledsoe of his check-down options--a running backin the flat, for instance--and make the offense more predictable. "We hadto play some younger guys when Flozell went down, and that meant I had to stayin and block more," says Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten, whose receptionsdropped from 87 in 2004 to 66 last year. "We had to do what was necessaryto protect the quarterback." (And might that eventually be fourth-year manTony Romo? More mobile than the 34-year-old Bledsoe, he got significantpreseason playing time.)

The 11-year veteranRivera is needed not only for his play on the line but also for his leadership."Marco brings a calmness to the group when he's out there," centerAndre Gurode says. Rivera had surgery to repair a herniated disc in March 2005,but his back still bothered him throughout last season. He's looked solid incamp this year and should be ready to anchor the line. The new starters upfront are quick, powerful fifth-year left guard Kyle Kosier and right tackleMarc Colombo, who looks to have beaten out free agent Jason Fabini and 2005starter Rob Petitti for the job.

"We can haveT.O., Witten and all these other weapons," says Bledsoe, "but it reallycomes down to the line. We have to have things go right up front."

2006 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER
10 at Jacksonville
17 WASHINGTON
24 Bye

OCTOBER
1 at Tennessee
8 at Philadelphia
15 HOUSTON
23 N.Y. GIANTS (M)
29 at Carolina

NOVEMBER
5 at Washington
12 at Arizona
19 INDIANAPOLIS
23 TAMPA BAY (T)

DECEMBER
3 at N.Y. Giants
10 NEW ORLEANS
16 at Atlanta (S)
25 PHILADELPHIA (M)
31 DETROIT

(M) Monday (T)Thursday (S) Saturday

SCHEDULESTRENGTH
NFL rank
T17
Opponents' 2005 winning percentage
.504
Games against playoff teams
8

ENEMY LINES

AN OPPOSING TEAM'SSCOUT SIZES UP THE COWBOYS

> As talentedas tight end Jason Witten is, and considering how many big plays he makes, hestill doesn't get the recognition he deserves from around the league.

> AcquiringTerrell Owens was the right move, but they should not have gotten rid of LarryAllen at left guard. He can still play.

> For theCowboys to succeed, the offensive line's got to be good--better than it waslast season, when Dallas gave up 50 sacks.

> The worstthing that could happen to this team would be for quarterback Drew Bledsoe toget hurt.

> The biggestchallenge for the Cowboys is to get the team chemistry right. And of course,there's always the potential for a blowup between Parcells and T.O.

Roy Williams hasthe hype and has made big plays on Monday Night Football, but he struggles inpass coverage.

BREAKOUT PLAYER
Terence Newman
CORNERBACK

Though he had onlythree interceptions last season, Newman played so well overall in the Cowboyssecondary that he should have gone to the Pro Bowl. At least that's the view ofcoach Bill Parcells, who notes that Newman did not allow a touchdown pass in2005. This season the four-year veteran is making a major push to get toHawaii. He spent more time working out at the team's facility in the off-seasonthan any other Cowboy, and to many within the organization he's become theleader of the young defense.

PROJECTED STARTINGLINEUP
WITH 2005 STATISTICS

COACH
BILL PARCELLS (163-123-1 in NFL), fourth season with Dallas

OFFENSE

TERRELL OWENS--NEWACQUISITION
POS WR
REC 47
YARDS 763
TD 6

JULIUS JONES
POS RB
RUSH 257
YARDS 993
TD 5

DREW BLEDSOE
POS QB
ATT 499
COMP 300
PCT 60.1
YARDS 3,639
TD 23
INT 17
RATING 83.7

ANTHONY FASANO(R)--NEW ACQUISITION
POS TE
REC 47
YARDS 576
TD 2

TERRY GLENN
POS WR
REC 62
YARDS 1,136
TD 8

MARC COLOMBO
POS RT
HT 6'8"
WT 325
G 5

MARCO RIVERA
POS RG
HT 6'4"
WT 307
G 14

ANDRE GURODE
POS C
HT 6'4"
WT 314
G 16

KYLE KOSIER--NEWACQUISITION
POS LG
HT 6'5"
WT 309
G 16

FLOZELLADAMS
POS LT
HT 6'7"
WT 343
G 6

JASON WITTEN
POS TE
REC 66
YARDS 757
TD 6

MIKEVANDERJAGT--NEW ACQUISITION
POS K
FG 23-25
POINTS 121


DEFENSE

MARCUSSPEARS
POS LE
TACKLES 31
SACKS 1 1/2

AKIN AYODELE--NEWACQUISITION
POS WILB
TACKLES 70
SACKS 2 1/2
INT 0

JASONFERGUSON
POS NT
TACKLES 37
SACKS 1

BRADIE JAMES
POS SILB
TACKLES 93
SACKS 2 1/2
INT 0

CHRIS CANTY
POS RE
TACKLES 35
SACKS 2 1/2

ANTHONY HENRY
POS CB
TACKLES 48
INT 3

TERENCE NEWMAN
POS CB
TACKLES 59
INT 3

DEMARCUSWARE
POS WOLB
TACKLES 58
SACKS 8
INT 0

KEITH DAVIS
POS FS
TACKLES 66
SACKS 0
INT 0

GREG ELLIS
POS SOLB
TACKLES 35
SACKS 8
INT 0

ROY WILLIAMS
POS SS
TACKLES 81
SACKS 2 1/2
INT 3

MAT MCBRIAR
POS P
PUNTS 81
AVG 42.5

(R) Rookie(college statistics)

2005 RECORD9--7

NFL RANK (RUSH/PASS/TOTAL)
OFFENSE 13/15/13
DEFENSE 15/11/10

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PHOTOROB HOLT/SPORTPICS (ADAMS) ON THELINE
For the T.O. experiment to succeed, blockers such as Adams (left) must givetheir QB time.
PHOTOKIRBY LEE/WIREIMAGE.COMWILLIAMS PHOTOROB HOLT/SPORTPICS TWO PHOTOS PHOTOHELMET PHOTOS BY DAVID N. BERKWITZ

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)