Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jerry, Don't do it!

1-31-08 - I know Jerry Jones is in love with the idea of moving up to the top spot to get fellow Arkansas Razorback Darren McFadden. But it's not worth it. Highly drafted running backs rarely work out. Word is, it will cost the Cowboys both number one draft picks and Marion Barber. This could be the reverse of the Herschel Walker trade if it goes through.

David Reed

KXII Sports

The Dallas Morning News reports Dom Capers can choose between becoming a Cowboys' defensive consultant or their defensive coordinator

It was initially assumed that Capers would interview for Dallas' LBs coach vacancy, but he's never coached that position in his 21-year career. If Capers takes the coordinator job, he would be replacing Brian Stewart, a Wade Phillips guy. Owner Jerry Jones appears to be begging for team turmoil.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Cowboys re-signed DE Stephen Bowen to a one-year, $435,000 contract

Bowen was not highly rated coming out of Hofstra with Marques Colston in 2006, but at 6'5/300 has ideal size for an end in Wade Phillips' 3-4. He made 14 tackles and accounted for nine QB pressures off the bench in 2007.

Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cowboys Team Report

Posted: January 30, 2008
Jean-Jacques Taylor
For Sporting News

PERSONNEL ANALYSIS: Owner Jerry Jones said there's no question the Cowboys will pay WR Terrell Owens his $3 million roster bonus in March, which will keep him on the team this season for $7 million because he will earn a $4 million salary. The announcement didn't come as much of a surprise; Owens had an outstanding season and set a franchise record with 15 touchdowns. Owens will turn 35 in December, but he keeps himself in fantastic shape and is relatively durable. While he had some nagging injuries the last two regular seasons, none has been associated with muscle groups that make you think his body is starting to break down. He's still fast, big, strong and among the league's best receivers. ...

WR Terry Glenn's status is a little murkier. Glenn, who missed 15 games this season after having knee surgery in training camp, might not necessarily need microfracture surgery in the offseason. The Cowboys would like to restructure his contract and sign him to an incentive-laden deal that would allow him to $2-3 million, if he plays to the level he has shown in the past few years. If he needs surgery, the 34-year-old's career might be over.

SCOUTING REPORT: LB Kevin Burnett, who made himself a quality role player in the Cowboys' nickel defense, should be ready to push Akin Ayodele for a starting spot next season. While Ayodele is a solid player, Burnett has more athletic ability and could be more of a playmaker than Ayodele because of his combination of size and speed. Burnett, who weighed 240 pounds this season, wants to play at 250 pounds next season so he can hit harder. He uses excellent technique as a tackler, but at 240 pounds doesn't always generate the power to bring running backs and tight ends down without some help. He's good in coverage and is a good tackler in the open field. He does gamble a little too much, which can lead to teams exploiting him on occasion.

HARD TRUTH: Coach Wade Phillips is under the gun, whether he acknowledges it or not, now that Jerry Jones has made offensive coordinator Jason Garrett the NFL's highest-paid assistant. Phillips, who is sensitive to any criticism, must be prepared to deal with the questions that arise every time the Cowboys have a rough spot next year about the possibility of Garrett replacing him. The drumbeat will increase if the Cowboys don't win a playoff game for the 12th straight season in 2008.

The Cowboys are interested in former Dolphins defensive coordinator Dom Capers, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Star-Telegram suggests that Dallas' interest in Capers could be a step toward building Jason Garrett's staff. Capers and recently hired OL coach Hudson Houck worked with Garrett in Miami. If the Cowboys add Capers, who has no ties to Wade Phillips and teaches a different version of the 3-4, it may be a clear indication that Garrett will be head coach by 2009.

Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

An arbitrator reportedly ruled last Friday that Terrell Owens owes the Eagles $769,120

The NFLPA filed a grievance on T.O.'s behalf when the Birds tried to recover $1.725 million of the $2.3 million signing bonus he got on a seven-year deal in 2004. Owens was suspended the final four games the next season for "behavior disruptive to the team." His agent hasn't confirmed the report. T.O. is set to receive $7 million from the Cowboys in 2007.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News

Albert Breer of The Dallas Morning News reports that the Cowboys have hired Dave Campo to be their new secondary coach

Campo, who rose through the ranks of the Cowboys staff to be their head coach from 2000-2002, was most recently the Jaguars' assistant head coach/secondary. Campo is a Jerry Jones favorite, and the experienced pieces continue to fall into place for an eventual transition to the Jason Garrett era.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cowboys Awards: Defensive Player of Year

from DMN Blog: Defensive Player of Year
9:18 AM Fri, Jan 25, 2008 | Permalink
Albert Breer


With all due respect to the rest of the defense, this was an absolute slam dunk. Ware is one of the top 10 players in the game, regardless of position, and should be All-Pro for years to come.

The 14 sacks are just the beginning. How about 27 quarterback pressures? Or eight tackles for losses? Or 80 tackles at a position that doesn’t pile up that statistic, and the fact that teams are constantly running away from him? Or the jump he gets off the ball in long-yardage that makes him darn near unblockable?

There’s no doubt about this one. Ware’s excellence goes beyond his own production. Because of the attention he demands from an offense, it trickles down in other players’ production, and affects the entire game. He’s got two years left on his rookie deal, but the Cowboys might as well go ahead and just break the bank right now.

DMN Blog: Don't sweat the first-round slots

Don't sweat the first-round slots
2:21 PM Fri, Jan 25, 2008 | Permalink
Tim MacMahon

Something to remember while checking out mock drafts for the next few months: The odds of the Cowboys staying at Nos. 22 and 28 are slim.

You won't find many, if any, GMs that love wheelin' and dealin' more than Jerry. Consider that the Cowboys have made a trade involving a first-round pick in 14 of 19 drafts since he bought the franchise.

Plus, Jerry is well aware that No. 22 is a cursed draft slot. He learned his lesson with David LaFleur and has traded down the last two times the Cowboys had the 22nd overall pick. (J.P. Losman and Brady Quinn haven't done anything to disprove my Curse of 22 Theory.)

With two first-rounders, the Cowboys have great flexibility for this draft. If the Bobby Carpenter and Marcus Spears trade rumors are true, they might get a couple more mid- or late-round picks with which to wheel and deal.

So feel free to get your hopes up for guys that aren't projected to be on the board in the twenties (other than Darren McFadden).

Cowboys Awards: Offensive Player of the Year


How do you decide between an All-Pro receiver, an All-Pro tight end and a quarterback who had the best statistical season in franchise history? Put three names in a hat and pull one out.

That's not really how we picked T.O., but this was without a doubt the toughest decision. Hate to ruin the grand finale, but part of our thinking was that we didn't want the same guy to be Offensive Player of the Year and MVP.

T.O., who arguably had the best season by a receiver in franchise history at the ripe old age of 34, gave the Cowboys a gamebreaker. He averaged 16.7 yards per catch and scored on 15 of his 81 receptions. His presence played a large role in the career years of TE Jason Witten, WR Patrick Crayton, RB Marion "The Barbarian" Barber and QB Tony Romo. If you didn't double-team T.O., he made you pay.

The Original 81's A in citizenship this season was a big bonus. He proved to Bill Parcells and everybody else that a healthy, happy T.O. is still one of the league's premier weapons.

DMN Blog: Campo to speak with Cowboys

Campo to speak with Cowboys
8:15 PM Sat, Jan 26, 2008 | Permalink
Albert Breer

Five years removed from his ouster as head coach of the Cowboys, Dave Campo could be returning to Valley Ranch as secondary coach.

According to a source, Dallas has received permission from the Jaguars to speak with Campo, who has served as Jacksonville’s secondary coach and assistant head coach the last three seasons. Multiple sources indicated that Campo would like to return to Dallas, where he has family and where he coached from 1989-2002 in several different capacities.

An off-season directive of Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio has been to address a secondary that was torched by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the playoffs (combined 79 completion percentage, 599 yards). On Friday, as Del Rio gave Campo permission to speak with Dallas, he hired Donnie Henderson -- a former coordinator with the Jets and Lions -- as a "defensive assistant". It is expected that Henderson will be the new secondary coach.

We'll have more coming soon.

DMN Blog: Assessing the turnover

Assessing the turnover
9:23 PM Sat, Jan 26, 2008 | Permalink
Albert Breer E-mail News tips
Here's the full story on Dave Campo.

If Campo is hired, it'll leave one opening -- linebackers -- on the staff. Here's the turnover Wade's group has seen this offseason:

Assistant head coach
Old: Tony Sparano (Dolphins)
New: Jason Garrett

Offensive line coach
Old: Sparano
New: Hudson Houck (Dolphins)

Defensive line coach
Old: Kacy Rodgers (Dolphins)
New: Todd Grantham (Browns)

Linebackers coach
Old: Paul Pasqualoni (Dolphins)
New: ???

Secondary coach
Old: Todd Bowles (Dolphins)
New: ???

Credit Jerry and Wade for moving swiftly to fill a lot of these openings. It may not be relevant to the offseason program -- which won't start until March -- but it's good to have people in place with the scouting combine less than a month away.

Did Hamlin use the Cowboys just for more money?

Cowboys | Hamlin may not return to team
Fri, 25 Jan 2008 12:13:39 -0800

Calvin Watkins, of The Dallas Morning News, reports Dallas Cowboys FS Ken Hamlin, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, may not re-sign with the team if another team offers him more money.

San Diego coach Pagano may be candidate for Cowboys coaching job

Cowboys | Pagano may be a candidate for coaching job
Fri, 25 Jan 2008 14:55:48 -0800

Clarence E. Hill Jr. and Rick Herrin, of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, reports San Diego Chargers assistant coach John Pagano may be a candidate for the Dallas Cowboys vacant linebackers coaching job.

Julius Jones Will Probably End Three-Year Run in Platoon with Marion Barber

by (Columnist)

Expected to be turned out to free agency by the Dallas Cowboys, running back Julius Jones has been receiving "very strong offers" from other teams, according to his agent, Ken Kremer.

Commentary: Julius Jones was the starter-in-name for the Cowboys this season, though Marion Barber finally wrested control of their platoon. During Barber's first two seasons, Jones got the nod on 65 percent of carries, while Barber played the change-of-pace and goal-line back. This season, Barber got more carries, more receptions and many more touchdowns, demonstrating to the Cowboys that Jones was dispensable as a free agent.

Jones finished with only 3.6 yards per carry, the worst average in his four year career. It's hard to imagine him as a super-star starter somewhere, though he may be serviceable sharing the backfield someplace like Houston or Detroit.

Fantasy Football Impact: Regardless of whether Dallas adds another back or hopes that Tyson Thompson will be an adequate backup, Marion Barber should sneak into a top-five draft position next season. Jones, on the other hand, well, we'll see.

Clarke more than happy to pass touchdown torch to T.O.

By CHAREAN WILLIAMSStar-Telegram Staff Writer
Frank Clarke says his Cowboys' receiving touchdowns record was made to be broken by Terrell Owens.

Owens' 15 touchdown catches in 2007 broke Clarke's 45-year-old team record. Clarke said Owens recently sent him a note, acknowledging what Clarke had done with the Cowboys in 1962 when he made 47 catches for 1,043 yards and 14 touchdowns in only 12 games.

"The letter was really just icing on the cake for me," Clarke said in a telephone interview. "He was pleased. I just think it's wonderful that he is the one who broke it. I think so much of him. If I had had half of that intensity that he has, Jerry Rice would have been chasing my records."

Bob Hayes had 13 touchdown catches in 1966, but no one else -- not Lance Rentzel, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson or Michael Irvin -- came close to erasing Clarke from the record book until T.O.

"I'm flabbergasted that the record stayed that long, considering all the great receivers we've had in Dallas," said Clarke, who played with the Cowboys from 1960-67. "... I was pretty nonchalant about it when it happened. It was only the Cowboys' third season, and we weren't thinking about records. It's just such a great honor for me that it was T.O. who broke it."

Specialists feeling left out

Jan Stenerud can't understand how, after all of these years, he still is the only specialist in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ray Guy, a seven-time Pro Bowler and nine-time All-Pro who averaged 42.4 yards per punt, is on the list of finalists again this year. He is in his 17th year of eligibility, having retired after the 1986 season.

"Ray Guy's name has come up so many times," said Stenerud, who was in the Class of 1991. "I have no idea why he's not in. He is a great, great punter, the greatest who ever lived."

Stenerud also put in a plug for Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who Stenerud said "made the biggest kicks on the biggest stage." Vinatieri just completed his 12th NFL season and is considered the best clutch kicker in the history of the league.

"There are a lot of kickers who have played a lot of years and done a lot of amazing things," Vinatieri said last week in a telephone interview. "A lot of them deserve to be in there.... I still have five, six, seven, eight years left. I have a lot of chapters left in my career. It would be a huge honor if and when it happened."

Bad company

The Cowboys have not won a playoff game since 1996 when they beat the Vikings 40-15 in a wild-card game. Only the Lions have a longer drought among NFC teams. The Lions' last playoff win came in a 1991 divisional game against the Cowboys.

Got rings?

The Patriots have 19 players with Super Bowl rings. Nine of them have three, having won with New England in 2001, '03 and '04. They are linebacker Tedy Bruschi, linebacker Mike Vrabel, quarterback Tom Brady, left tackle Matt Light, receiver Troy Brown, running back Kevin Faulk, linebacker Larry Izzo, long snapper Lonie Paxton and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

Lewis plays a part

Mo Lewis never played for the Patriots. Yet, he inadvertently played a part in the Patriots' dynasty.

It was Lewis' hit on Drew Bledsoe in 2001 that jump-started the career of Tom Brady. Lewis, who retired in 2003, crashed his shoulder into Bledsoe's chest, leaving Bledsoe with a sheared blood vessel in his chest.

Brady has started every game since, going 100-26, including the postseason.

"After talking to somebody for a few minutes, nine out of 10 will say, 'Hey, you're the guy who hit Bledsoe and started Tom Brady's career,'" Lewis told The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. "I always say I never knew it was going to happen like that. I guess we're kind of bonded together now.

"Anytime the Patriots are on television, my friends will say, 'Mo, your team is on.' I'll say, 'The Jets?' And they'll say, 'No, the Patriots.'"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cowboys | Team denied access to Thomas

Pete Aldrich, of the Dallas Morning News, reports the Dallas Cowboys have been denied permission to talk to Atlanta Falcons assistant coach Emmitt Thomas. The Cowboys were interested in Thomas to fill the team's vacancy at secondary coach.

Peter King: Jason Garrett will be head coach of Cowboys

"One more thing about Jason Garrett's decision to stay: Don't buy the stuff about Garrett making so much money he'll usurp the authority of Phillips. First, Garrett is a coach's son. He's a total team guy, a low-ego guy and never would do anything to make Phillips uncomfortable. Now, having said that, if the Cowboys have another one-and-out exit from the playoffs next season, I think Jerry Jones will take about 10 minutes to fire Phillips, interview one minority candidate and then hire Garrett as his next head coach." --Peter King

Cowboys interested in AFC cornerback?

Originally posted by slick325 from a sports forum:

That's Drayton Florence of the San Diego Chargers. He's a free agent this offseason. Former 2nd round pick from Tuskegee. He's only 27 yrs. old, a former starter for the Chargers and has obvious ties to Wade and Brian Stewart.

Terry Glenn will need microfracture surgery on his knee

It's becoming more and more unlikely that the Cowboys will retain Glenn at his current $1.74 million price tag. When Jerry Jones was asked about Glenn's future with Dallas, he said he would discuss it with him soon, and left it at that. Glenn's career is most likely over, but there's a chance the Cowboys could give him a small contract to rehab with them.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Jerry Jones said he will "definitely" pay Terrell Owens' $3 million roster bonus

There was little doubt that Owens would be back for the final year of his deal, especially as Owens has apparently become the sobbing epitome of a team player. Jones also said that he is open to working out an extension of the 34-year-old's contract.

Source: Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News relays a rumor that the Cowboys are shopping DE Marcus Spears and LB Bobby Carpenter in trade talks

Spears is a solid defensive end, but has never lived up to his first-round draft position. The Cowboys could move Jay Ratliff outside to take his job, with Jason Ferguson and Tank Johnson rotating inside. Carpenter, another first-round pick, just isn't a good fit in a 3-4 defense. He'd be a nice addition for 4-3 team looking to add depth at OLB.

Source: Dallas Morning News

The Cowboys are expected to get a three-to-five year deal done with restricted free agent Marion Barber

If Barber receives any offers in free agency, the Cowboys will almost certainly match. After finally installing him as the starter in their divisional playoff game, Barber will now receive starter's money.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Cowboys NT Jason Ferguson (torn biceps) expects to be fully healthy by the start of training camp

His '07 season ended after one game. Ferguson turns 34 in November and may have to take a pay cut, but Dallas should find room for the run stopper.

Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cowboys Team Report: Offseason Outlook

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
For Sporting News


Running back: The Cowboys don't have that much work to do in free agency, though they're expected to get offseason deals done with defensive end Chris Canty and running back Marion Barber that will keep them in Dallas long term.

Barber was named the starter Sunday for the first time this season and responded with 129 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in the loss to the New York Giants. Barber will enter next season as the starter, though the Cowboys will look to add a complementary runner in free agency or the draft.

Finding a backup for Barber is necessary because deposed starter Julius Jones will be an unrestricted free agent and has no interest in returning to Dallas.

Barber's teammates feed off his slashing style -- he led the NFL with 29 broken tackles -- and his ability to sustain plays after initial contact. He also led the NFL in fourth-quarter rushing yards (402) during the regular season, so there is naturally some concern about whether he'll be an effective closer at the end of the game if he enters the fourth quarter with 15 or more carries.

Wide receiver: The Cowboys need to upgrade at wide receiver because Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn are both 34. Old players tend to get hurt and take longer to recover. Look for Dallas, which has two first-round selections, to use a pick in the first- or second-round on a wide receiver to make sure Tony Romo has plenty of weapons.

Cornerback: Dallas owner/GM Jerry Jones also should use a premium pick on a cornerback. One of the offseason goals is to get a long-term deal done with cornerback Terence Newman, who has a year left on his contract. Still, the Cowboys must start grooming a cornerback to replace Newman's counterpart, Anthony Henry, who could move to free safety.

Nickel back Jacques Reeves is an average player, and the Cowboys will look to upgrade his spot, too, through the draft and/or free agency.

Safety: Dallas also will look to get a deal done with safety Ken Hamlin, who was excellent this season, earning his first Pro Bowl berth. The Cowboys want to lock him up long term because the coaches like the way he handles all of the alignments in the secondary.


Greg Ellis, named Comeback Player of the Year, averaged nearly a sack a game. Ellis, who had 12 1/2 sacks in 13 games, missed the first three games recovering from a ruptured Achilles' tendon suffered in November 2006.

Ellis lacks great burst or strength but is a master technician and does an excellent job of using hand techniques to free himself from blockers. He also uses a multiple pass-rush moves, which means he can setup offensive linemen in the first quarter for a move he'll use in the fourth quarter.


Stephen Bowen has made himself a valuable member of the Cowboys' defensive line rotation. He is solid against the run but also has proved to be an adept pass rusher. He plays with good pad level and has a good burst at the snap.

Bowen had to fight in training camp just to make the team. He'll spend this offseason working on technique and getting stronger, so he can have more of a role next season.

History will prove Garrett made the right decision

by Dennis Dillon

Most NFL assistants go through their entire careers without getting even a sniff at a head coaching job. This week alone, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was courted by two teams that have vacancies at the top of their coaching staffs. And you know what he told them?

Thanks, but no thanks.

The Atlanta Falcons, who have been looking for a head coach since Bobby Petrino abruptly resigned with three weeks left in the season, met with Garrett for a second time. The Ravens, who fired Brian Billick after a disastrous 5-11 record, actually offered Garrett a contract.

Garrett listened to their overtures, considered his options -- and decided to stay in Dallas.

A lot of folks probably think Garrett is crazy for turning down those opportunities. I happen to think he's smart. After all, he has a degree in history at Princeton.

Staying on with the Cowboys makes a lot of sense for the 42-year-old Garrett.

Let's start with the money (doesn't everything begin with the money?).

Garrett may not get as much to stay in Dallas as he would have if he had taken a job in Baltimore or Atlanta, but you better believe he'll receive a big pay raise. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a big fan of Garrett's -- it's nice to have a rich, powerful man in your corner -- and you can bet he'll take care of Garrett.

Don't forget: Jones hired Garrett to be offensive coordinator last offseason -- before he hired Wade Phillips as his coach. It doesn't take much reading between the lines to figure out that Garrett likely will be Jones' choice to succeed Phillips when the time comes.

Now, let's look at the franchise situations. The Cowboys are a good team now that figures to get even better in the next two or three years. Yes, I know they haven't won a playoff game since 1996 and were bounced out of the postseason in their opening games each of the past two years. But they have a slew of playmakers, including quarterback Tony Romo, running back Marion Barber, wide receiver Terrell Owens, tight end Jason Witten, linebacker DeMarcus Ware and defensive end Greg Ellis. They carved out a 13-3 record during Phillips' first season as coach. And you could argue that they were the best team in the NFC during the regular season.

The Ravens have been on a gradual decline since they won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season. They never could muster a potent offense under Billick, which is mystifying because he came to Baltimore with the reputation as an offensive guru. And now injuries and age are starting to infiltrate the defense that has carried the team on its back for so many years.

The Falcons have been on an even steeper slope since they lost the Super Bowl after the 1998 season. They have had three winning records in the eight years since then, and they are 8-8, 7-9 and 4-12 in the past three years.

Finally, let's look at the quarterback situations -- which can eventually make or break any head coach.

Dallas has Romo. I don't care if his star has been tarnished by the back-to-back early playoff exits. Romo is a player on the rise and he's only going to get better with Garrett coaching him. With the exception of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger -- and perhaps Carson Palmer -- there's no other QB I'd rather have to build my offense around for the long term.

The quarterback position in Baltimore has been a turnstile for years. In they come, out they go. Now they have a past-his-prime, injury-prone Steve McNair and a never-has-lived-up-to-his potential Kyle Boller. Neither looks like a reason the Ravens can get to the playoffs.

And you know about the Falcons' mess. Dog's worst enemy Michael Vick is out of Atlanta's picture -- probably forever -- and of the four quarterbacks who started games for the team this season none looks like he's the kind who'll keep defensive coordinators from sleeping at night.

Garrett was a Cowboys quarterback who backed up Troy Aikman from 1993 to 1999. Maybe he thinks he has some unfinished business in Dallas. Perhaps he believes he's not quite ready to be a head coach; he's only been an NFL assistant for three years, and a coordinator for one year. But I don't think it will be long before he's the head man on some team's sideline.

But for now, Garrett's best move was not moving at all. As they say in the beer commercial, "Brilliant!" And you don't have to be an Ivy Leaguer to figure that out. Dennis Dillon is a senior writer for Sporting News.

Cowboys Need to add a Deep Arrow to their Quiver

By Rafael Vela

The Buffalo Bills of the early ’90s offer a case study in the value of a deep threat.

In 1990 their K-gun, three wide receiver no-huddle offense ran roughshod over the NFL. Only a determined ball control New York Giants attack and a missed Scott Norwood field goal kept this unit, which pasted Oakland with 51 points in the AFC title game, from winning the Super Bowl.

That team scored over 28 points a game. Its receiver trio divided up the field. Andre Reed was the all purpose threat, a complete player who could beat you on the flanks and in the middle. Don Beebe was a speed threat from the slot. Thurman Thomas was a running and receiving threat from the backfield.

They got their room to operate because James Lofton kept opposing safeties honest. He averaged almost 19 yards per catch, so defenses could not load up the short zones trying to stop Thomas and Reed.

In ‘92 Lofton began to age. By ‘93 Lofton was gone and while the Bills made their final two Super Bowl runs their points per game dropped to 24 and then 21 points per game though Beebe, Reed, Thomas and Jim Kelly were still going strong.

The ‘07 Cowboys may not seem like the proper parallel with those old Bills. After all, their points per game rose from over 26 to over 28 points from ‘06 to ‘07. And this came with Terry Glenn playing in the first season and not playing in the latter.

I would argue that the Cowboys’ improvement came from a better passing scheme, that better utilized Terrell Owens and some maturity from Tony Romo.
Let’s look at the Cowboys’ December. They scored 28 points against a Detroit team hell bent on stopping Owens, but had to go the long way to do so. Jason Witten caught 16 passes in that game and Dallas lost its big play capability.

Against the Eagles, Owens was again doubled, though Romo’s scattershot play affected the team more than anything.

Against Carolina, Dallas ran off two scoring drives in the first half, but scored only six points after Owens left with a bum ankle. The Cowboys would score only four field goals in the six quarters after he left.

In the playoff game, Dallas showed great skill at converting third down passes, but had no deep threat. New York doubled Owens in the game and while he and Witten got their yards, the plays that linger are Patrick Crayton’s drop and stutter step in the final seconds.
Dallas needs a deep threat. It had a very good one in Terry Glenn but lost him to a knee injury, one that will likely end his career. What’s more, it needs one that is good out of the box. Rookie receivers are notoriously slow to develop; a Randy Moss is a rare bird.

For a blueprint, they can look to New England. The Patriots’ ‘06 ended in Indy, when their defense collapsed in the second half. The most obvious shortcoming seemed to be the aging linebacking corps, that could not cover Colts’ tight ends and receivers.

Instead, the New England brain trust looked at its receiving corps, which dropped several key passes in that loss, and blew it up. For a modest price, the Pats got a wealth of veteran production. They:
traded a 4th round pick to Oakland for Randy Moss;
traded a 2nd and a 7th round pick to Miami for Wes Welker, whom they signed to a long term deal;
signed free agent Donte Stallworth to a one-year $3.6 M deal with an option.
The Patriots gave Tom Brady dependable targets and watched their points per game explode from 24 a game last season to almost 37 this year. Teams could double Moss, but risked having Stallworth or Welker destroy them.

Dallas learned this the hard way. They kept Moss in check for much of the game but had no answer for Welker and watched Stallworth burn them for a 60 yard bomb in the 4th once the defense dialed up harder blitzes to get Brady.

Bloggers talk about chasing Moss, who will be a free agent, but he’ll be a top dollar signing. Dallas already has the all purpose threat in Owens and a steady, over the middle slot man in Crayton, who signed an extension this year.

Getting the deep man is key, and guys like this don’t cost an arm and a leg. Look at Stallworth’s contract. That’s in line with what Crayton will be making. It’s the mid priced deal that can be so valuable if the other pieces are in place.

That’s why I look at Chicago’s Bernard Berrian and to Stallworth himself as top targets for Dallas in free agency. Berrian has a reputation as being one dimensional but its the dimension Dallas lacks. He averaged 15.5 yards per reception in the Bears’ ‘06 Super Bowl drive and had a higher average until teams realized he was the lone legitimate weapon in Chicago’s passing arsenal.

He’s durable and should not cost a fortune.

Also look for Stallworth, who is due a $6 million roster bonus by February 25th. With Moss and Asante Samuel also facing free agency, there’s not much chance the Pats pick this up. He might be a good signing for a team at something approaching his ‘07 money.

With Jason Garrett staying the passing system will remain intact. Adding the deep speed should make Owens and Witten that much better, not to mention the running game.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

DMN Blog: Pacman wants to be a Cowboy

1:36 PM Fri, Jan 18, 2008 | Permalink
Tim MacMahon

The Cowboys could use a shutdown cornerback and big-play return man, right? Well, Pacman Jones fits the description.

Great news: Pacman wants to play for the Cowboys!! He says so on this video that found.

“Hopefully I can get out of Tennessee. I want to go up to Dallas,’’ Jones says. “So we’ll see how it goes and I am just going to keep my head up.”
There is the minor issue of Pacman being suspended, but that didn't stop Jerry from signing Tank Johnson, who created a bunch of buzz but didn't make much impact this season. Of course, Pacman makes Tank look like an Eagle Scout.

There are no signs from Valley Ranch that rain is in the forecast, but that shouldn't stop us from debating whether Pacman would be a good fit for the Cowboys. What do you folks think?

Hudson Houck philosophy in a nutshell

Thanks Yakusa Rich:
Good old Article on Hudson Houck

In 1970, the freshman football coach at Southern California looked at the varsity's offensive line coach and saw what he wanted to be: a great teacher and disciplinarian, a leader who was demanding but also had fun with his players. "If he would have stayed and been an offensive line coach, he would have been the best there was," the freshman coach says, 36 years later.

You know what became of the line coach? He led the Redskins to three Super Bowl championships and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. Now, Joe Gibbs is in his second term in Washington.

The freshman coach also advanced to the NFL, where he has found a way to star in a supporting role for five teams in the past 23 years. You might not recognize his name, but he became what he envisioned Gibbs could have been.

"If there was a Hall of Fame for offensive line coaches," says Chargers tackle Roman Oben, "Hudson Houck would be first in line."

Houck has left his fingerprints from Seattle to Miami. When he was with the Rams (1983-1991), Eric Dickerson won three NFL rushing titles and five offensive linemen were selected to a combined 21 Pro Bowls. When he was with the Seahawks ('92), Chris Warren had the first 1,000-yard rushing performance of his career. When Houck was with the Cowboys (1993-2001), Emmitt Smith was a two-time rushing champion and six linemen racked up 22 Pro Bowl selections combined.

Among the prominent linemen Houck has tutored are Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews (during Houck's tenure as USC's line coach from 1976-82); Jackie Slater, Doug Smith and Dennis Harrah in Los Angeles; and Larry Allen, Erik Williams and Nate Newton in Dallas. Munoz and Slater are in the Hall of Fame; Matthews and Allen eventually will join them.

"It's not a coincidence that wherever he's been, it seems there's somebody who emerges as one of the game's best," former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman says.

But one of Houck's best coaching jobs came sans star power. Two years ago in San Diego, he took five new starters — a combination of pedestrian veterans and inexperienced youngsters — and molded them into a cohesive unit that helped the Chargers finish third in the league in scoring, fourth in fewest sacks allowed and sixth in rushing. They won 12 games and went to the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

Going into his second season as Miami's line coach, Houck faces a similar challenge. The Dolphins are expected to have new starters at left tackle (free-agent addition L.J. Shelton), center (former guard Rex Hadnot) and right guard (Bennie Anderson or Seth McKinney). After Miami closed the 2005 season with six straight wins, some preseason publications, including Sporting News, project the Dolphins as a wild-card team. The line will be a big factor in determining the season's outcome.

"Getting the new guys, the new pieces of the puzzle, and putting them together is our major goal at this point," says Houck.

A three-year center at USC who helped the Trojans win the 1962 national championship, Houck has flirted with other positions during his career. He wouldn't have minded coaching running backs, defensive backs or linebackers. But he has stayed betrothed to the offensive line, a unit that can be as sturdy as brick or as breakable as straw depending on its coordinated effort.

"You've got to have five guys working on the same page," Houck says. "They've got to have the same communication. They all have to be doing the correct footwork."

It all requires choreography, and no one devises line schemes better than Houck, who breaks down his philosophy into three areas.

He teaches physical football by emphasizing leverage, the best technique for moving a defender. Houck compares it to sumo wrestling.
He puts his players in the best position to succeed by devising drills that simulate what they'll do in a game — and repeating them over and over.
He sets the standard. "I've got to let them know when they're not putting in enough effort," he says. "And that's something they don't want to hear sometimes."
Houck has coached through personal tragedy — his first wife died on Christmas Day 1988 after a long bout with cancer. He is 63 and has two years left on his contract. How much longer will he continue?

"I'm just going to keep going until that motor wears out — or until my wife says, 'That's enough,' " he says.

That day will have to wait. The master choreographer still has a lot of line dancing to direct.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has turned down the Ravens' head coaching offer and will stay with Dallas in 2008

Garrett may have used the Falcons and Ravens to up his offer, although its possible he was genuinely undecided. It's likely Garrett will be given the title of "assistant head coach" and now Wade Phillips may need a raise just to keep up with Garrett. Jones likely gave Garrett a tacit promise that he'll eventually succeed Phillips. Garrett's return is good news for all Cowboys skill players, especially Tony Romo.

Source: is reporting that Jerry Jones gave Jason Garrett around $3 million to stay in Dallas

That's a lot of money from an owner who has always questioned the value of coaches. Jones wasn't allowed to promise Garrett he'd be the team's next head coach, but the raise basically ensures that he will be.


DMN: BLOG: Garrett's opening statement

3:05 PM Thu, Jan 17, 2008 | Permalink
Albert Breer

I know Tim spoiled already a little bit. But here's the full run-down of how Jason Garrett opened up his press conference:

“I just want to start off with saying that I’m awfully excited to be sitting in this chair. The last few days have been an interesting experience for me and for my wife Brill. I had a chance to visit with (Baltimore Ravens Owner) Steve Bisciotti and his wife and (Ravens General Manager and Executive Vice President) Ozzie Newsome and (Ravens President) Dick Cass up in Baltimore with some other people in the organization and it was a great visit. I can’t thank them enough for allowing us to go through that process. It’s pretty easy to see why they’re regarded as one of the premier organizations in football.

"It was fun for us to go through the process and visit with them about their head coaching position. Then Brill and I had a chance to go down to Atlanta and visit with (Falcons Owner and CEO) Arthur and Stephanie Blank and (Team President) Rich McKay and Tom Dimitroff – their new general manager – and it was equally a great visit for us. These are great experiences that we had a chance to go through. We told ourselves that we wanted to go through the process and fully investigate these opportunities.

"Mr. (Jerry) Jones and Wade Phillips graciously allowed us to do that and once we got through that process and as we got back to Dallas fairly late last night and came to a conclusion that for a variety reasons, this is the best place for us. The reasons to be me - you can articulate them and they’re pretty evident – they start with Jerry Jones and what he’s done for this organization and for this league and for giving us a chance to be a part of this team. This is a team that I have a history with and he just does a fabulous job as an owner giving us as coaches and our players a chance to win. He’s just a special guy and has been a special guy in my life for a long time. It starts with him and then it trickles down to Wade Phillips, our head coach. I had a chance to become the offensive coordinator here last year and work with a guy who is as fine as a guy I have met in football and in life. He’s just a tremendous person and is a tremendous coach. He’s great for us as coaches to work for, and certainly the players who respect him immensely, and is a great guy for them to play for. We made great strides this year.

"We didn’t achieve all of our goals, but we’re heading in the right direction. When Brill and I looked at each other we said, ‘Boy, we have a great chance here in Dallas.’ We have a great feeling for this place; we have a great feeling for Dallas; we have a great feeling for the Cowboys organization. A lot of it goes back to our history here, but I think maybe this decision to stay here has a lot more to do with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007 and what the Dallas Cowboys can be in 2008. I was talking to (Cowboys Director of Public Relations) Rich Dalrymple before, and you go through this process and we’re really fortunate to go through it, and you learn a lot from it as a result from it.

"But you go through the thing and you realize that you make decisions in lots of different ways. You make them intellectually, you make them emotionally, you make them with your gut – there’s a lot that goes into making important decisions in your life. As I reflected back on the last three days, and I didn’t know it at the time, I think I might have made this decision as I was standing in front of our offensive team on Monday after we lost to the (New York) Giants. There were some things that I wanted to say to them about how fortunate I felt to be one of their coaches and to be coaching with some of the guys in the room, and it was really hard for me to get through it.

"It was really hard. I stopped a number of times, but I was persistent because I wanted to get these thoughts out to these guys in the room and how much I respected them and how much I appreciated them. And when I reflect back on these past few days, I think that meeting told me maybe more than anything else that I needed to know about my feelings about this place. My feelings about this place, because of my time here in the past and because of what we can be in the future, but maybe more than anything else is what we are right now.

"There’s some great people in this organization and it starts at the top and works it way down through our head coach and the other coaches that I have the good fortune of working with and it filters down to our players. This year was a special year for me, and Brill and I feel like because of this and because of the way we feel about these group of people that this is the right place for us going forward and we’re excited about the prospects for the Cowboys in the future.”

DMN Blog: 'Boys should be hiring an offensive line coach "pretty quickly."

Houck coming back to Cowboys?
2:36 PM Thu, Jan 17, 2008 | Permalink
Tim MacMahon

Wade Phillips, who briefly chatted with a handful of reporters after Jason Garrett's press conference, mentioned that the Cowboys should be hiring an offensive line coach "pretty quickly."

Will it be Hudson Houck?

"I don't want to spill the beans," Phillips said, retreating into the coaches' offices.

Houck, who is available after spending the last three seasons with the Dolphins, sure would make a lot of sense. He has a reputation as one of the best OL coaches in the business, in large part because of his work with the Cowboys from 1993-2001. He also worked on the San Diego staff with Wade Phillips for a couple years.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Our draft picks are #22 and #29

DMN Blog: Johnson wants to return

Albert Breer E-mail News tips

Brad Johnson's one-year deal with the Cowboys expires in March, and he'll hit the free agent market again, but he doesn't plan on retiring.
Walking from the stadium tonight, he passed along word that his plan is to return for a 17th season, and he'd like to do it in Dallas. That's obviously up to the team, but the reason he wants to come back again was clear.
"I'm just having too much fun to give it up," he said.

PFT: Garrett Leaves Baltimore Heads for Atlanta

Posted by Mike Florio on January 15, 2008, 5:58 p.m.

Adam Schefter of NFL Network reports that Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has left Baltimore without becoming the team’s new head coach.

Per Schefter, the Ravens didn’t want to let Garrett get away. He’ll now head to Atlanta, where the Falcons will try to do to the Ravens on Garrett what the Dolphins did to the Falcons on Bill Parcells.

Meanwhile, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly is ready to pay through the nose (or other orifice) to keep Garrett.

This one is suddenly getting very interesting. At least Cowboys fans now have a reason to eat some of that leftover popcorn.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cowboys vs. Giants: Winner Gets Packers In Next Sunday's NFC Title Game

Zach Buchanan - Email Staff Writer
January 12, 2008 6:31 PM

WHAT: New York Giants (11-6) at Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
WHEN: Sunday, 3:30 pm (CST)
WHERE: Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas
TELEVISION: Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver and Chris Myers)

BIG ISSUE: Winning their first playoff game since 1996 will be hard enough for the Cowboys, but to do so they must do something they've never done: Beat a team three times in one season. Granted, they've only had one opportunity to do that, losing to the Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round of the 1998 playoffs after sweeping them in the regular season, but that doesn't make the task any less daunting. The Cowboys will have to walk the fine line of doing what they've done to beat the Giants in the past and attacking them with something New York hasn't seen yet in order to advance to the NFC Championship against the Packers, who pummeled Seattle at snowy Lambeau Field on Saturday, 42-20. Based on the arctic conditions in Green Bay, the Cowboys can take comfort in knowing the title game would take place in the more pleasant confines of Texas Stadium if they get past the Giants.

The Giants are playing solid football as of late. Even before beating the Buccaneers, 24-14, in the first round of the playoffs, the Giants treated a 38-35 loss to the undefeated Patriots as a sort of moral victory, and have been playing with confidence ever since. They'll need that confidence to beat the team that has had their number since their second meeting last season. The Giants winning at Tampa Bay this past Sunday upped their recent road playoff record to just 2-4.

NUMBERS, PLEASE: The Cowboys better hope starting wide receiver Terrell Owens can be effective Sunday, because without him Dallas' passing game suffers. In the four quarters the Cowboys' starting offense has played since Owens suffered a high ankle sprain against the Panthers in Week 16, starting quarterback Tony Romo has only gone 22-for-38 for 231 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. During that same span, the Cowboys' leading receiver has been Sam Hurd, who caught four passes for 86 yards.

The Giants are a run-first team, and the numbers confirm it. With only one exception, every time the Giants have mustered up more than 115 yards rushing, starting quarterback Eli Manning has thrown for less than 200 yards, seven instances in total.

ONE-ON-ONE: The Giants are hobbled at the center position, with starting center Shaun O'Hara having only limited participation in practice all week until Friday with a knee injury. O'Hara, who is nonetheless listed as probable, with face Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who should be well-rested and recuperated from the sprained knee he suffered against the Panthers three weeks ago. Ratliff is known for his speed and quickness, and with O'Hara's mobility at less than 100 percent, Ratliff will have to use those assets in order to get to Manning and stuff any inside runs by Giants running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

The supposed knock on Romo is his loss of composure after getting knocked down a lot. To prevent that from happening, Cowboys Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams will have to continue his domination of Giants defensive end and pass-rusher extraordinaire Osi Umenyiora. In his only full game against Dallas this year (he left early in the season opener with an injury), Umenyiora was limited to only three tackles and no sacks, and unusual stat line for a player who finished the season with 13 sacks total.

SUPPORTING ROLE: Friday, Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said Owens likely will play, but regardless if he does or not, wide receiver Terry Glenn will have to be effective. Glenn, who missed the first 15 games of the season recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, did get some limited playing time in the season finale against the Redskins but was held without a catch. On Sunday, Glenn could take a larger role, and the Cowboys will need his speed to pose a deep threat and roll coverage away from Owens and tight end Jason Witten.

Giants starting tight end Jeremy Shockey wasn't having a banner season before he broke his leg in Week 15, but his backup, Kevin Boss, has begun to make a name for himself in his absence. Boss, a 6-6, 253-pound rookie out of Western Oregon, had a touchdown against the Patriots in the season finale and will be a key target for Manning in the middle of the field. He'll line up against Cowboys Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams, who has the reputation for being suspect in coverage.

HEADSET GAMES: The Cowboys, finally with a healthy offensive line, should show more commitment to the run against the Giants. With two receivers, Owens and Glenn, less than fully healthy and others unproven in man coverage, the Cowboys will likely use the combo rushing attack of Pro Bowler Marion Barber and Julius Jones to free up the passing game. If Dallas can force the Giants to play the run first and move a safety into the box, there will be more open routes for receivers.

Despite Manning's recent success, the Giants aren't going to just hand him the football and say throw. They'll run first, and much like the Cowboys will, try to open up the passing attack that way. With three Pro Bowlers in the Cowboys secondary, the Giants aren't likely to attempt many deep, risky passes, but rather check down to backs and tight ends if the longer routes aren't open.



Three players are listed as probable for the Giants: Starting center Shaun O'Hara (knee), starting rookie tight end Kevin Boss (illness), and starting right tackle Kareem McKenzie (ankle). Starting wide receiver Plaxico Burress (ankle) had limited participation all week and is listed as questionable, but this has been a common situation with Burress, who has managed to play in every game this season despite the injury. Starting corner Sam Madison (stomach) did not practice Friday and is doubtful to play Sunday. Backup corner Kevin Dockery (hip flexor) also did not practice and is listed as out.


There is only one real question mark for the Cowboys and it's a big one: Starting wide receiver Terrell Owens (ankle) is listed as questionable, although Phillips thinks he'll probably play in some capacity despite missing Wednesday's practice and practicing only on a limited basis Thursday and Friday. Starting center Andre Gurode (knee), who practiced fully Friday, is listed as probable and expected to start. Wide receiver Terry Glenn (knee) is also listed as probable, and although he probably won't start, could have a prominent role in the offense on Sunday.

It's time for the Dallas Cowboys to end playoff droughtTim Co

by Tim Cowlishaw

No franchise in the NFL has a playoff history as decorated as the Cowboys. The time has come to add to it.

With a 13-3 record, the Cowboys can match any team in the conference talent for talent.

They have a favorable matchup today against a team that has suffered some injuries.

The Cowboys have everything they need to win except a fully healed ankle for Terrell Owens, and that is not insignificant. If his presence in the game isn't as huge as it was the first 14 weeks of the season, then the Cowboys have a real chance of adding to their playoff drought.
They haven't won a postseason game the last 10 seasons. That's the longest drought in club history.

They have lost five straight playoff games. That, too, is the longest for the franchise.

In the '70s and '90s, the Cowboys went to eight Super Bowls, winning five. Playing deep into January was an expectation.

Over the last decade, they have done the impossible by losing playoff games to the Arizona Cardinals and to Jeff George. They have done the improbable, trying to win with Quincy Carter and losing on a botched field goal hold by Tony Romo.

(Note: Let's not forget the Cowboys' defense stood a good chance of spitting up that lead over Seattle had the field goal been executed).

The Cowboys are playing a team they know they can beat because they have done it twice. In a sense, that helps New York because the Giants come to Texas Stadium knowing that what they have done against Dallas thus far has not been enough.

But despite a 2-2 December in which their best game was a seven-point win over a Carolina team starting its fourth quarterback, the Cowboys should be brimming with confidence against New York.

They scored 76 points against this team in the regular season, so it would be surprising if they come out this afternoon and look anything like the offense that scored only 32 points in the final three games of the season.

"Divisional games are usually the toughest because the players know each other," coach Wade Phillips said. "We had three losses this year, and two of those were divisional games."

But they weren't against the Giants, and while Owens' health is clearly the key to the game, it's not a valid excuse for a failure to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

The Giants are without tight end Jeremy Shockey, who is almost as valuable a weapon to New York as Owens is to Dallas. And wide receiver Plaxico Burress also has an ankle injury and did not practice this week.

Playing at home means the Cowboys' pass rush is the one that benefits from crowd noise, not the Giants' highly praised rush.

Besides, Romo was sacked a combined three times in the two New York games. His ability to avoid the first rusher and make plays mitigates the need to be concerned about Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, the Giants' speed-rushing defensive ends.

The Giants are the ones who have to show they have done something to solve the Cowboys' offense, which scored 10 touchdowns in two games.

Coach Tom Coughlin said making the Cowboys' offense be more patient "is a nice thought, and that is what you are trying to do, but everyone they have played has done that and they have made a lot of big plays. And they made big plays against us."

Cowboys fans are being overly optimistic if they expect wide receiver Terry Glenn to make a lot of those big plays, since his next reception will be his first of the season. But he could play, and Owens should play, and Patrick Crayton has been a big contributor. Also, tight end Jason Witten is going to the Pro Bowl and so is running back Marion Barber.

And, of course, so is the much-talked-about Romo, whose first playoff experience was not a good one.

That has been pretty much erased by a record-setting season, even if it wound down poorly (one touchdown, five interceptions).

When the games mattered most, Romo delivered.

This game matters more than any he has ever played, because last year no one around here was really thinking a win over Seattle was going to launch the Cowboys into the Super Bowl.
Thinking has changed. Results should, too.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Giants defense: 2 sacks in 2 games vs. Romo; 51 in other 14 games

IRVING, Texas (AP) -Protected by a line dotted with Pro Bowlers, Tony Romo found time to pull off all sorts of impressive feats this season.

There were club records for touchdown throws and yards passing. There was the highlight-reel scramble of a ball snapped over his head that he somehow turned into a first down.

And, in the fine print of his game-by-game stats, there's this gem: getting sacked a total of twice in two games against the New York Giants.

Petty as it may seem, Romo's avoidance of Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck was quite an accomplishment considering the Giants led the NFL with 53 sacks. Take out the games against Romo and their ratio is even better, 51 in 14 games.

Sure, New York's total was boosted by 12 sacks in one game against Philadelphia, but that actually enhances the point. The Giants got to Donovan McNabb so often in part because they see him twice a year. Ditto for Romo, yet they still haven't figured out how to get him down, despite facing him more than any other team has.

Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe at halftime of the first Dallas-New York game last season, then was a starter when the teams played again. Add in the two meetings this year and that's plenty of background to help the Giants build a game plan for the first-ever postseason meeting between these NFC East rivals on Sunday.

So, what will it be: New York going all out to try finally getting to Romo? Or will the Giants decide it's not worth it and start backpedaling instead?

``I think the first couple of times we went in with the mentality that we just wanted to pretty much keep him in the pocket,'' said Umenyiora, who led New York with 13 sacks. ``So we weren't really pass rushing. We were just coming up the field and pretty much seeing what it was that he could (do), because we were so afraid of him getting out of the pocket and doing different things. But I think now we are just going to take our shots and whatever happens, happens.''

The Cowboys probably hope the Giants keep coming after Romo.

Not only has Romo avoided sacks, he's used his good blocking, nimble feet and quick release to get the ball into the areas left vulnerable by extra defenders charging at him.

Romo threw 10 passes of at least 20 yards in the two regular-season meetings. That includes touchdowns of 22, 47 and 51 yards in the September game at Texas Stadium, and TDs of 20, 25 and 50 yards in the November rematch at Giants Stadium.

The biggest plays were quite timely, too. The 51-yarder came against a third-down blitz with 3:11 left after New York had gotten within a field goal. Next time around, Romo broke a halftime tie with the 25-yarder to Terrell Owens on the opening drive of the third quarter. They hooked up again for the 50-yarder early in the fourth quarter, a few snaps after the Giants had gotten within four points.

``They are just an aggressive team by nature,'' Romo said. ``They want to get after the quarterback, they want to get to the quarterback. Once they get there, they are going to be successful. If they don't, it puts a lot of pressure on the other people. That's the way they play. Once in a while, it gives you a chance for a big play. If you don't create them, you aren't probably in for a really fun night.''

Romo learned that in his debut half against New York. The Giants sacked him twice and intercepted him three times, turning a tight game into a runaway win.

But since becoming the starter, Romo is 3-0 against them, with only three sacks in those games.

Considering his playboy nature, it makes sense that Romo lights up New York. He went 35-of-52 for 592 yards and eight touchdowns, with only two interceptions over the two meetings this season. His 11.38 yards-per-attempt were more than a yard better than he did against anyone else, and his 129.2 rating was tops, too.

``We simply have not exerted enough pressure,'' Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. ``It's difficult. We know that. The line does a good job and the backs do a good job. And Romo does have the ability to sense where pressure is coming from and get rid of the ball. So it's not an easy task, but it's one we need to address.''

Romo has something to address, too: his slipping performance of late.

He went from throwing 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions over the first 13 games to throwing only one touchdown and five interceptions the last three games. That dragged Dallas from a 12-1 start to a 1-2 finish.

Blame it on Jessica Simpson. Or a bruised thumb. Or Owens missing the last 1 1/2 games. Or maybe a lack of incentive.

Regardless, Romo has something to prove Sunday, especially considering his only other playoff game ended with a teary apology to teammates for blowing the game. Yes, it was for a botched hold on a field goal, not for what he did at quarterback, but it all goes on his permanent record.

Come to think of it, playing a familiar foe like New York might be exactly what he needs.

``I change my approach a little bit sometimes when I play the Giants,'' Romo said. ``You are going to go with the team's game plan, but you are also going to formulate your own game plan as to how you are going to attack them and what you are going to do in certain situations and things. ... I'll come up with that and our team will, too.

'See You Sunday,' Terrell Owens Says

Cowboys Receiver Says He'll Play Against Giants

IRVING, Texas -- Terrell Owens said he's ready to go for Sunday's playoff game against the New York Giants.

The Dallas Cowboys' All-Pro receiver warmed up for practice Friday and then went to see a trainer about his injured ankle. He felt so good he wanted the protective tape he'd been wearing cut off.

Later, at his locker, Owens told reporters "I'm good," and "See you Sunday."

The team's official report lists T.O.'s participation in practice as limited and his game status as questionable. Head coach Wade Phillips said if Owens can play, he'll start.

Owens suffered a high-ankle sprain on Dec. 22 and missed the team's regular-season finale two weeks ago.

T.O. is a go for Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens is expected to play on Sunday when his team takes the field against the New York Giants in an NFC Divisional Round playoff battle.

Owens suffered a high ankle sprain against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16 and missed the regular-season finale for the Cowboys, who received a first- round bye in the playoffs after earning the top seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record.

"Terrell Owens said he is going to play and I believe him," Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said during Friday's press conference "To what degree and what level remains to be seen. Unless something unforeseen happens, I think he will attempt to play and I think we'll let him play."

Owens returned to practice for the first time on Thursday. He participated on a limited basis and ran a few routes in the brief portion of the session open to the media.

Owens had 81 catches for 1,355 yards and 15 touchdown receptions this season. He lit up the Giants in the two regular-season games, catching nine passes for 212 yards with four touchdowns.

Jeff Flanagan’s NFL playoff picks

The Kansas City Star

Last week’s record straight up: 3-1
Season record straight up: 170-90
Last week’s record against the spread: 3-1
Season record against the spread: 134-122-4

Packers 20, Seahawks 17: Most of the football “experts” see the NFC as the conference that will have at least one upset, and the trendy upset special is Seattle. I wouldn’t be shocked if that’s true but I still don’t know how good the Seahawks really are. Washington truly had them beat last week until a dropped pass near the goal line and a missed chip shot field goal crushed the team’s spirit. The Packers are the youngest team in football and those kids might be a bit shaky for a game of this magnitude. But Brett Favre has been there a few dozen times and should be a calming effect.

The big Xs and Os factor is how will the Packers attack the Seahawks’ speedy defense. If the Packers get a ground game going and slow the Seahawks’ pass rush, this game should go according to plan.

Line: Packers by 8

Patriots 24, Jaguars 23: I love the Jags’ toughness. They simply don’t get intimidated by anyone. The Pats weren’t dominating down the stretch, just good enough to throw in a perfect season so far. This could be the most interesting matchup of the weekend. The way to beat a bully (the Pats) is to smack ’em in the mouth early on, which is just what the Jags will do. The Pats are pretty tough themselves, though, and are likely to bounce back and squeak one out at the end.

Line: Pats by 13½

Cowboys 34, Giants 17: Everyone keeps talking about how Tony Romo’s relationship with Jessica Simpson is a distraction, and how the Cowboys haven’t played well down the stretch, and how the Giants are a hot team. Baloney. The Giants are phony and the Cowboys will smack them for the third time this season. Eli Manning will throw at least three picks.

Line: Cowboys by 7½

Colts 28, Chargers 24: OK, here’s the mystery game to me. The Chargers finally got over the hump and won a big playoff game last week. They should play with more confidence this week. The Colts, even though rested, don’t seem as dynamic offensively as they have been in the past. What if the Chargers come out with a dominant running game? That’ll make this one very interesting.

Line: Colts by 9

DMN Blog: Crayton compliments Giants' young CBs

5:55 PM Fri, Jan 11, 2008 | Permalink
Tim MacMahon

Giants veteran CB Sam Madison is listed as doubtful and hasn't practiced in two weeks. Madison's stomach injury and expected absence puts a lot of pressure on young cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Corey Webster.

Ross and Webster were abused by the Cowboys in the season opener, but they've vastly improved since then, as evidenced by their excellent performances in last week's win at Tampa Bay.

If you don't believe me, take the word of Patrick Crayton, who has never been one to spout P.C. bull about an opponent.

DMN Blog: NFL expects Cowboys to lose

9:56 PM Thu, Jan 10, 2008 | Permalink
Tim MacMahon

I'm not sure Pat Kirwan speaks for the whole league, but he does write for, so the headline isn't too misleading. He's hopping on the Big Blue bandwagon.
New York has the pass rush, the running game and a hot quarterback who can turn the first two losses against Dallas into the experience needed to win a close game. Giants 24, Dallas 21. The deciding factor for me was Dallas' last home game against the Eagles that it lost, 10-6, against a Philadelphia defense built like New York's.
Has a 7.5-point favorite ever been such an underdog?

DMN Blog: Breer: "It's pretty much like nothing's wrong with Owens."

11:26 AM Fri, Jan 11, 2008 | Permalink
Albert Breer

Let's just put it this way: Neither Terrell Owens nor the Cowboys exhibited much caution at all during the portion of practice open to the media.

The workout was outdoors, and held in sweats. As Barry posted a minute ago, Owens came out late for practice, just as we were coming on to the fields, with associate athletic trainer Britt Brown at his side. After getting some early work in during passing lines, Owens retreated to the sideline, took off his shoe, and had the tape job around his left ankle sliced off.

Owens then jogged around the stretching lines high-fiving all his teammates. And in early group work, the Cowboys were tossing fade routes up to Owens, requiring the receiver to go up for the ball. He worked with the first group most of the time, and kept close to Brown when on the sideline. Also, the limp he showed on Thursday was, for the most part, gone today.

Bottom line: It's pretty much like nothing's wrong with Owens.

DMN Blog: Cowboys pulling out all the tricks

2:09 PM Fri, Jan 11, 2008 | Permalink
Tim MacMahon

I've long been lobbying for the Cowboys to get the ball in Leonard "Bigg" Davis' hands, so I was thrilled to see the Tony Sparano putting the offensive linemen through passing lines during today's practice.

After some investigative reporting, I discovered that Jason Garrett does indeed have a few tackle- and guard-eligible plays in this week's game plan. Please don't let anybody in New York know.

Center Andre Gurode suggested that they put him in motion, but the Cowboys have had enough trouble with shotgun snaps as it is.

Guard Kyle Kosier claims he has the best hands on the offensive line, and he'd love a chance to show it on Sunday. But Bigg will be awfully perturbed if another 300-pounder gets the ball.

"I'm a big playmaker," he said. "I'll turn a slant into a big play. [Kosier] doesn't have the ability to do that. That's a big difference."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ware Does It All For Cowboys Defense
January 10, 2008

It was a quarterback's dream. DeMarcus Ware was nowhere to be found.

The linebacker who had the most sacks in the NFL this season was supposed to be in a hallway behind the Dallas Cowboys' locker room to talk about becoming All-Pro for the first time.

However, Ware had slipped into an office, safe from reporters.

Nothing unusual about that. For someone so visible during games, Ware does his best to avoid attention the rest of the time.

Lately, though he would prefer to be left alone, there can be no hiding what Ware has accomplished -- not when he got votes for NFL defensive player of the year on Monday; become only the second Dallas linebacker to make All-Pro (and first since 1970) on Wednesday; and will be a key figure in a divisional playoff game against the New York Giants on Sunday.

Perhaps Ware avoids the limelight to keep from blowing his cover. The ferocious quarterback hunter fans see on game day, is really a friendly, soft-spoken guy the rest of the time.

"A quiet country boy," teammate Patrick Crayton calls him.

On the field?

"He's a beast," Crayton said.

Speed is what makes Ware so dominating. Whether it's chasing a quarterback or shedding a block to catch a running back, offensive players know they must always be on the lookout for No. 94.

"He makes more plays from that position than most any guy I've seen," said Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, who has seen plenty in his 31 NFL seasons.

Phillips isn't just puffing up his guy. Consider these numbers:

-- Ware had 14 sacks this season, tied for third-most in the NFL. While he would've liked to have led the league, he's proud to have had 1 1/2 more sacks than any other linebacker.

-- He also was in on 84 tackles, far more than any of the top-20 sack leaders.

-- His four forced fumbles tied for ninth among all players.

-- With four passes defended, the former defensive end apparently has figured out the coverage part of his new position.

Something else worth noting: he's only 25 and in his third season, and his tackle and sack stats have gone up every season so far.

"Thanks a lot for bringing that up. I just had my lunch," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said when asked about Ware and his bookend partner at outside linebacker, Greg Ellis.

As division rivals, the Giants are quite familiar with Ware, already having faced him six times in his career. New York defensive end Osi Umenyiora knows Ware even better, having played alongside him in high school and college.

"He has a knack for making plays," Umenyiora said. "He is extremely athletic, very fast, very physical."

Umenyiora has this anecdote from early in Ware's college career at Troy, when the starter in front of him got hurt.

"The very first play they put him in, he went 50 yards and chased somebody down from the other side of the football field and caught him," Umenyiora said. "I just said `Jesus.' That's when I knew he was going to be good."

Bill Parcells could tell, too.

In 2005, he converted Dallas to the 3-4 defensive scheme that helped him win two Super Bowls with the Giants. A crowning achievement was drafting Ware with the 11th overall pick. He said then he expected Ware to blossom into a Lawrence Taylor-like force.

Funny thing is, Ware has come close to that this year now that he's part of Phillips' version of the 3-4, the variation that helped make Shawne Merriman -- the other guy Parcells considered drafting in '05 -- a star for San Diego.

"I think he has the potential to be better than Lawrence Taylor," Crayton said. "I know that's saying a whole lot, (but) go back and look at their styles, the way they play the game. ... Now, he might not have that craziness that Lawrence had, but when he's on the field, you feel for some quarterbacks that are sitting there."

The lack of a mean streak actually has been a knock against Ware, but just because he's laid back doesn't mean he lacks desire.

For instance, Ware challenged himself to be more consistent this year. The result was at least one sack in 11 of the last 14 games, never going consecutive weeks without one.

"That's what I promised myself I was going to do," Ware said, "and I did it."

Ware wound up with the club's single-season record for sacks by a linebacker, breaking the mark he set last season. He holds the first, third and fifth spots on that chart after only three seasons. No wonder he's headed to a second straight Pro Bowl.

"I think DeMarcus' best years are in front of him because he's constantly learning different stuff, different pass-rush moves," Ellis said. "He's able to adapt as games go along."

Ware's next big challenge is to dominate a playoff game. He had a sack in a wild-card game against

Crayton: Ware's in LT's neighborhood

Albert Breer

Patrick Crayton could jaw about Brandon Jacobs all day long. He could rip Michael Strahan. He could question Tom Coughlin.

And it still wouldn't touch what he did say today. He compared DeMarcus Ware to -- sit down before reading this -- the Great Lawrence Taylor. Those in the Tri-State area are not going to like this.

"He is a beast, all the time," Crayton said of Ware. "I think he has the potential to be better than Lawrence Taylor. I know that’s saying a whole lot. You go back and look at their styles and how they play they the game, he may not have that craziness that Lawrence had, but when he’s on the field, you feel for some of the quarterbacks who are sitting there.

"Their (pass) drops are like the old-school drops, straight back, so you can look at him."

And why? Because like Taylor, Ware's burst is unbelievable. So good that Crayton said that the way the Cowboys star OLB gets off the line is like how a receiver can.

"Probably faster, because he’s already in a three-point stance," Crayton said. "The way he shoots out, I don’t what they timed him at in his 10, but I think his 10-yard getoff is pretty quick."

Playoff Flo: Lineman's patience wears thin

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Flozell Adams has been around Valley Ranch for what seems like 457 years, give or take 447.

And he has exactly zero playoff victories to show for his time.

"I haven't even really been to that many," he noted wryly, a couple of days ago.

He has been in three, all losses, and if the Cowboys lose Sunday, this may be his last with a star on his helmet. Flo is a free agent. His time in Dallas has been bumpy at times, most notably a perception that he lacked proper fire. But he has settled into a stride lately, anchoring an offensive line that has allowed Tony Romo to be Romolicious, or whatever word the kids are using nowadays.

He also just happens to be a huge key to Sunday's game.

What the Giants do especially well is get after the quarterback. Their front four is especially good at smooshing the pocket from the edges, especially Osi Umenyiora.

Can Flo handle Osi again? He had a good day last go-around.

"I don't look at it as me against him," Flo said. "I look at this is a big game and I am ready to do whatever to win one of these."

Flo has never been much of a talker. He just does not much care for the whole media thing. But do not mistake his quiet for a lack of hunger. He so badly wants to win a playoff game he can practically taste it. Guys like him and Greg Ellis are tired of waiting. They do not have the luxury of patience any longer. They need to win now, with this team, because next year is not guaranteed.

And after seeing quarterback after quarterback come through Valley Ranch, Flo understands Romo gives him his best chance in forever.

And it his job to give Romo time to do his thing.

Adams has been doing it well. The whole line has been good beyond expectations. It was not that long ago the line was viewed as the weak link, the giant question mark. So, does proving everybody wrong bring a smile to his face?

"No," he said. "I was just putting on ChapStick."


"OK, just a little," he said.

That's all right. He earned it. He's been around for 457 years.

Friendly reminder: Prepare to be wowed by Terry Glenn.

My final BcS whine: LSU is no more the national champion than I am the Queen of England. Is anybody positive they'd beat USC? About the only thing we know for sure after watching them defeat Ohio State, is the Buckeyes did not belong in the game.

Of course, everybody except BcS idiots already knew this.

So here's to you Mr. Antiquated Bowl System Backer, thanks for giving us what has to be one of the worst bowl seasons in recent memory.

Just wondering: Why in the world is USC coach Pete Carroll actually thinking about going to Atlanta?

That's an ender: While I normally hate disagreeing with national NFL minds, which seem to be in agreement this Cowboys team is ripe for the picking, mark me down for:

Cowboys 27, Giants 24.

Why? Because I expect Romo to be back to his November self and, if that happens, everything else will be all right.

DMN Blog: Romo lashes out at ESPN star

We'll find out Sunday whether Tony Romo can shake off a late-season slump and get back into Pro Bowl form on the field. But there's no doubt that his wit is as sharp as ever.

ESPN star Ed Werder asked Romo whether it bothered him that he's not given the benefit of the doubt regarding off-field activities after the great season he had. Romo replied that he didn't care and wasn't worried about perception.

"I'm going to be able to sleep at night," Romo said. "I know it's tough on you with that haircut for you to sleep at night."

Ed took the insult like a man, which is a good thing. Would have hated to see tears cause his makeup to run.

RB McFadden may drop in draft

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden was handcuffed by police and then released without charges after being involved in a "pretty rowdy scene" at a piano bar early Thursday.
Arkansas' All-American running back and at least four others were at the downtown bar when a disturbance broke out shortly after midnight, police Lt. Terry Hastings said. A bouncer was hit in the face as he was trying to get the group to leave, Hastings said. A police report did not specify who hit the bouncer.

"There was a whole bunch of people there," Hastings said. "They were inside and it spilled out into the street."

Outside, McFadden was handcuffed by a police officer "because he was agitated and was provoking aggressive behavior inciting the incident," according to the police report.

"We handcuffed him for a few minutes because he was rowdy," Hastings said.

McFadden, who was the only person handcuffed, was released after he calmed down. Hastings said it was routine procedure to handcuff a person to gain control of a situation.

McFadden's mother, Mini Muhammad, said her son was trying to protect his younger brother, Daryl.

"He wasn't the one that was fighting. It was his little brother — someone had jumped on him," Muhammad said. "He was agitated because his brother had a bloody nose."

"Darren was not fighting — please make that be known," she added.

Hastings said bar employee Brant Hankins was advised that he could pursue charges against the person who hit him. The police report classified the incident as misdemeanor battery.

In the summer of 2006 in a fight outside another Little Rock club, McFadden severely injured his toe, but recovered in time to play in the Razorbacks' season opener.

McFadden, who also finished second in the 2006 Heisman voting, holds Arkansas' career and single-season rushing records. The junior has yet to decide whether he will forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft.

McFadden was to be honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club's annual banquet Thursday night.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones denies he'd consider removing head coach Wade Phillips and replacing him with Jason Garrett after the season

"There's nothing that can happen in the playoffs that would change my thinking about him being head coach," Jones said of Phillips. "I don't know how you could even have a question as to whether or not he's coaching or not for the Cowboys in the future." Garrett could just get an extension and promotion to assistant head coach if Tony Sparano departs.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Terry Glenn (knee) practiced without restrictions again on Thursday

"I think we've got a chance to have 83 light 'em up," owner Jerry Jones said. "I'm excited about that." It sounds like Glenn is the healthiest he's been all year, though that wouldn't take much. He'll likely be a third receiver this weekend.
Source: Dallas Morning News

Terrell Owens (ankle) said in an NFL Network exclusive with Deion Sanders that he'll play in the Divisional Round "at a high level" against the Giants

Deion offered to tell viewers to get their popcorn ready, but Owens took it upon himself. "Getcha popcorn ready," he said confidently. Owens' practice participation was listed as "limited" on Thursday, but coach Wade Phillips grinned while saying T.O. only took part in "some" team work. It'll be a shock if Owens is inactive.

Per Mickey: TO is practicing and looks good!!!

Thanks to Trickblue

-Owens is out there practicing right now. He went through all of the warm ups and he is very much involved in the skeleton plays and game plan. I did not see any limping but he is not going against anyone. I did see full-throttle cuts and routes. The guys have been saying that he has been rehabbing 18-19 hours a day and spends time in the hyperbaric chamber.

-Last time they played NJFG, Witten stayed in a lot to help Columbo on Strahan. I think you will see more of that, but they will play a lot of two TE sets. They will try to spread the DE's out so they don't have a sharp angle to the QB.

-Glenn is also out their practicing. This is the first time he has participated in full practice all year. Even if he hasn't played this year, the NJFG will have to cover him. If he and TO are both in there it will force the NJFG to account for both which will leave one of the TE's open.

Also from JFE: Friendly reminder: Prepare to be wowed by Terry Glenn.

Pro football: Phillips doesn't feel his job is on the line

Tom Orsborn
Express-News Staff Writer

IRVING — Wade Phillips on Wednesday dismissed speculation he could be fired if the Dallas Cowboys lose this weekend to the New York Giants in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.

“I don't think (owner) Jerry Jones feels that way,” Phillips said. “I think some guy who pulls it out of the air feels that way.”

Questions about Phillips' job security might seem unwarranted considering the Cowboys (13-3) tied a team record for wins and earned the NFC's No. 1 seed, but it's long been rumored Phillips could be just keeping the seat warm for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

Dallas is in danger of losing Garrett after he interviewed last weekend with Atlanta and Baltimore about head-coaching jobs.

Asked if he's worried that the outcome of Sunday's game could impact his future with the Cowboys, Phillips said, “My future? No. I worry about whether we're going to play another game or not. That's the future.

“My record stands for itself. That's all I can say. I mean, we're 13-3, we're No. 1 in the NFC, we're playing a playoff game, which I think we'll win. I don't have any control over anything except how I coach.”

Asked if he's received any assurances from Jones, Phillips joked, “We're going to evaluate after the season. I'm going to evaluate him, he's going to evaluate me.”

Phillips signed a three-year deal last January that includes an option for a fourth.

T.O. update: Terrell Owens' status for Sunday is still uncertain after he missed practice with a high ankle sprain.

“It's day-to-day,” Phillips said. “But we're going through a plan or process that's going to try and get him ready, and he's adhered to that.”

Phillips said it's possible Owens could play even if he doesn't practice.

“If he's ready to go, and I feel like he could play without hurting himself, yeah, I would play him,” Phillips said.

Phillips joked that stamina wouldn't be an issue for Owens.

“He does sit-ups in his driveway,” Phillips said.

On the positive side for Dallas, Terry Glenn went through an entire practice for the first time since returning from two preseason knee operations.

“I'm certainly encouraged there,” Phillips said. “Whatever you get from Terry is a bonus.”

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

No huge concerns, some questions for Cowboys

Anthony Bialy

Is there anything about which the Cowboys should be worried? A well-earned extra week off before hosting a playoff game, two perks of dominating the conference, would indicate that they should be the unambiguous favorite heading into their upcoming matchup versus the Giants. Still, Dallas should be prepared for at least some adversity, namely a few specific issues it will have to overcome to get to the NFL semifinals:

1. The "It's hard to beat a team three times in a season" cliché. This platitude is dragged out in two sports during their respective postseasons, namely the NFL and college basketball. The Giants present a tough challenge, so what can the Cowboys do to ensure they don't suffer their first loss to this particular frequent opponent?

The key is to restrain the Giants from rolling on the ground. Dallas only conceded 94.6 yards per game rushing during the regular season, sixth best in the league, while it gave up a mediocre 213.1 yards on average through the air. The conventional defensive plan will be for the Cowboys to concentrate on stopping the rumbling Brandon Jacobs and rapidly emerging rookie Ahmad Bradshaw from running at will, letting the lesser of the Mannings try to beat them through the air.

Now, that's the strategy Tampa Bay unsuccessfully attempted, but the fact that the Buccaneers got away from their strength (finishing first overall in pass defense in the regular season) paired with Manning's inconsistency together mean that the Cowboys shouldn't modify their game plan just because it didn't work for the previous opponent.

2. Jason Garrett has to focus on the present. Believe every rumor, and offensive coordinator Garrett is a candidate for about 27 NFL head coaching jobs, including the top position of his current team, which is not technically currently open. To again make a collegiate comparison, there's the same sort of danger related to a lack of diligence that happens when a coach heads into a bowl game with rumors swirling regarding his departure.

Garrett's calls have been close to flawless as he's leaned on his runners at opportune moments between steady doses of a thoroughly efficient passing assault, and he just has to ensure his thoughts are on the current play and not a fat payday come February.

3. Wade Phillips needs to be sharp. His laid-back style has worked well for this roster this season, but will the designed lack of intensity serve them well in the playoffs? It seems like an eternity ago, but incidents such as his oafish indecision heading into the postseason regarding who was going to play quarterback for his 1999-2000 Buffalo Bills squad irreparably harmed that team and began a downward slide that led to him losing his job.

Of course, there's not exactly a quarterback controversy in Dallas, but the general relaxed atmosphere he's created could lead to questions about whether he is a good coordinator without the chops to captain the ship if things fall apart this postseason. He's naturally assuaged most of those fears after a quite successful regular campaign, and this first playoff game will be an interesting test to observe.

4. Owens must play. Patrick Crayton, while very good this season with 50 catches for almost 700 yards, isn't ready to be the primary guy anymore than Sam Hurd is prepared to be the full-time complementary guy, so the fitness of Terrell Owens' ankle is of supreme importance. It goes without saying that Dallas possesses a unique talent in tight end Jason Witten, but Tony Romo needs genuine downfield threats to achieve absolute success.

These are all mildly irksome concerns, but the Cowboys have adapted well to most of the adversity they have faced this year. There's no reason to stop now, particularly considering that the Giants were relegated to having a merely good regular season thanks in large part to two losses against a team that established itself as great. If they answer questions as well as they generally did during the past 16 games, there's little reason to think they'll fail to defeat obstacles they face in January.

TIDBIT: Cowboys go for three-game sweep over G-Men

AP Football Writer
Wednesday, January 9, 2008 12:33 PM PST

DALLAS (AP) —The only time the Dallas Cowboys had a chance to beat a team three times in one season, they lost.

To the Arizona Cardinals, of all teams.

They get another chance to do it Sunday against the New York Giants, who set up their third meeting of the season by beating Tampa Bay 24-14.

Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, teams have played three games in the same season 53 times, but only 17 of those included teams that won both regular-season matchups, according to STATS Inc. In 11 of those 17 games, the team that won the first two games also won the third, the last time by St. Louis over Seattle in 2004

Dallas’ loss to the Cardinals was in the 1998 playoffs after the Cowboys won the two regular-season meetings. That postseason defeat was at Texas Stadium.

But that shouldn’t bother the Giants (11-6), who won their eighth straight road game in Tampa on Sunday.

In fact, the last time the Giants lost on the road was opening night in Dallas (13-3), when the Cowboys beat them 45-35 in a game in which New York had a shot until the end. That was before the Giants’ defense came together — it gave up 35 points to Green Bay the next week before turning around, leading the NFL in sacks and carrying the team in those games in which Eli Manning played badly.

Dallas also won 31-20 at Giants Stadium in a game in which the Giants stayed with the Cowboys for a half.

The Giants also are playing as well now as they have all year, scaring unbeaten New England in the last regular-season game before dominating the Bucs.

The Cowboys don’t have that momentum.

But they have the rest.

They can only hope that the time off gave T.O.’s ankle time enough to heal.

Hope for T.O. comeback recovery


DALLAS - As the Cowboys practiced this week for the Giants game this weekend, T.O. was there. With an injured ankle, T.O. limped through a walkthrough Tuesday, and came back Thursday for more.

T.O. has been recuperating from a high-ankle sprain ever since the Carolina game before Christmas. Injured or not, however, he's a relentless, focused athlete in training.

"I'm going to do whatever I can to stay on my game," he said early in the season during a News 8 interview at his Deep Ellum home gym.

With unconventional exercises, a personal trainer and a Superbowl in mind, Owens said "I got my eyes on the prize."

According to Baylor orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Quinby, a high-ankle sprain means more pain and more problems for the average patient.

"The high-ankle sprain is definitely one that's more worrisome," Dr. Quinby said.

It occurs higher than a normal ankle sprain and requires up to four months to heal.

"So, someone who has a higher pain threshold theoretically could progress more quickly," he said.

"Oftentimes, if the ligament is unstable, we have to do surgery on it to put two screws into the ankle to hold it in place while the ligaments heal, which is what T.O. had to do several years ago when he played for the Eagles," said Dr. Christian Royer, an orthopedic surgeon.

That was three years ago when the Eagles went to the Superbowl, where Owens had a stellar performance.

Now, his new teammates hope he makes a similar comeback.

"It's a tough injury on a big guy like that and we're all hoping that he can play, but we don't know," said Jason Witten, the Cowboys' tight end.

"He's like me, he's very competitive," said Tony Romo, the Cowboys' quarterback. "When he's out there, he wants to win and he'll do everything he can to win."

And for those Cowboys' fans worried about the so-called "Jessica Jinx". A representative for Simpson revealed the pop star will not be at the game Sunday. Simpson be working on an album and watching the game on television to cheer on her boyfriend, Romo.

Five Dallas Cowboys make AP All-Pro team
From Staff and Wire Reports

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens and tight end Jason Witten, who combined for 177 catches and 22 touchdowns this season, on Wednesday were voted to The Associated Press All-Pro team.

Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware was also voted to the first team.

Two Dallas offensive lineman, tackle Flozell Adams and guard Leonard Davis, were voted to the second team.

3 Cowboys Picked For NFL All-Pro Team
January 09, 2008

Jason Witten's record-setting season earned him more than a trip to Hawaii. On Wednesday, the Dallas Cowboys tight end was picked as the best tight end in the entire NFL this season, landing on the All-Pro team for the first time.

DeMarcus Ware made it, too, giving him an interesting distinction: First Cowboys linebacker to make All-Pro since Chuck Howley all the way back in 1970.

Then there's Terrell Owens, who made it for the first time with Dallas, but the fifth time in his career.

With three players on the leaguewide all-star team, the Cowboys have their most honorees since also having three in 1997.

"Any time you can be the best in the entire league, that's always a special moment," said Witten, who set club records for catches (96) and yards (1,145) by a tight end and tied an NFL tight-end record with 15 catches in one game. "There's a lot of great tight ends out there, so to be on the top of that list is nice."

The Ware-Howley connection has another twist. They are the only linebackers in Cowboys history ever to make All-Pro.

Howley made it from 1966-70. Considering Ware is only in his third year -- and just his third year playing linebacker, having always been a defensive end -- he could have a long run ahead of him, too. His 14 sacks were tied for third in the NFL and were tops among linebackers.

"Seeing how over the years I've gotten better and better coverage-wise and stopping the run and rushing the passer, now I feel like I'm a well-rounded linebacker," Ware said. "Now I'm getting put in the realm with those other guys that have been here seven, eight years and have been great players. So you really see how your hard work pays off."

Owens also made All-Pro in 2000, '01 and '02 with San Francisco, and 2004 with Philadelphia. He's the first Cowboys receiver to be selected since Michael Irvin in 1991. Drew Pearson and Bob Hayes are the only others to make it.

The last Cowboys tight end picked was Jay Novacek in 1992. Before that, the only Dallas tight end chosen was Frank Clarke in 1964.

"To be the best in the league regardless, not just the NFC, that's special," Witten said.

Ware led all outside linebackers with 39 of the 50 votes.

Witten received 33, easily beating out Gonzalez's eight.

Owens received 32 -- well behind the unanimous total for Randy Moss, but well ahead of the 11 for the top runner-up, Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne.

Other Cowboys receiving votes:

-- Flozell Adams was the first runner-up at offensive tackle.

-- Leonard Davis was the second runner-up at offensive guard, likewise for center Andre Gurode.

-- Cornerback Terence Newman and safety Ken Hamlin each received a single vote.

Four of the Cowboys' record-setting 12 Pro Bowlers didn't get any votes: quarterback Tony Romo, safety Roy Williams, running back Marion Barber and kicker Nick Folk.

Jessica Simpson To Be A No-Show At Tony Romo's Playoff Game

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Jan 09, 2008 14:09 PM

Sorry Giants fans, but it appears Tony Romo may have one less distraction this weekend when he leads the Cowboys against New York in the playoffs.

It looks like gal pal Jessica Simpson won’t be in attendance at Sunday’s game in Dallas, her rep told the New York Post.

“She is not attending. She’s working on a new album,” the Post quoted rep Cindy Berger as saying. “She will not be there, but she’ll be watching [on TV] and cheering [Romo] on.”

The blonde bombshell came under fire after coming out to support Romo at the team’s Dec. 16 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, which just happened to be the QB’s worst game of his career.

During the game, Jess got more than her fair share of camera time, as she sat in a luxury box wearing a pink No. 9 jersey.

Following the game, fans and even Tony’s teammates made it clear just what they thought about Jess coming out to support her man.

“Right now, Jessica Simpson is not a fan favorite — in this locker room or in Texas Stadium,” Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens jabbed in the media. “With everything that has happened, obviously with the way Tony played and the comparison between her and Carrie Underwood, I think a lot of people feel she has taken his focus away. Other than that, she was high on my list until last week.”

Owens later backed off his comments, saying he was only kidding.

SI: Owens unable to practice

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Terrell Owens still wasn't able to practice Wednesday because of a high ankle sprain, continuing the drama of whether the Dallas Cowboys will have their newest All-Pro receiver for the playoff game Sunday against the New York Giants.

Coach Wade Phillips didn't even see Owens on Wednesday, but knew he was doing all he could to get healthy. And if T.O. says he's ready to go at game time, Phillips will let him play.

"The guy played pretty good in a Super Bowl game that they said he wasn't going to play in," Phillips said. "So I'll be hopeful. But I really don't know."

Phillips does know one thing: The rest of Owens' body will be in game shape.

"I don't think (stamina) would ever be an issue. He does sit-ups in his driveway," Phillips said, laughing.

"It's day to day," Phillips said, "but we're going through a plan or process that's going to try and get him ready, and he's adhered to that. He works out at home, all the time, trying to get better. This is sometimes, a six- to eight-week injury, sometimes it's a four-week injury. So we're trying to get him back in three. That's where we are."

The good news for the Cowboys was that Terry Glenn went through his most rigorous practice since coming back from two knee operations.

Glenn saw limited action in the season finale against Washington, but didn't catch a pass. On Wednesday, he went through an entire team workout for the first time since training camp.

"He wasn't starting and doing every play, but he did quite a few plays and ran quite a few routes," Phillips said. "I'm somewhat encouraged there. ... Whatever you get from Terry is a bonus certainly. He's a very good player that's been hurt and has tried to come back and has made a valiant effort and I think he may be able to play."

The rest of the injury news was good, too.

Center Andre Gurode went through the whole session, and Phillips called banged-up cornerbacks Terence Newman and Anthony Henry "as healthy as they've been in a while."