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Online Cowboys Lines & Predictions - Dallas Future Odds - Free NFL Betting Previews

2006 Dallas Cowboys Season Preview

2006 Cowboys NFL News - August 22nd, 2006
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2006 NFL Previews - By: Tony Moss For

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The story of the NFL summer revolves around a 32-year-old player out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a guy that wasn't even on the field for the final nine games of 2005,

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has never won a Super Bowl, and whose behavior over the course of his 10-year pro career has been, let's just say, questionable.

The fascination that hovers like a mushroom cloud around Terrell Eldorado Owens has as much to do with his troubled alter-ego persona, T.O., as it does with his five Pro Bowl citations, his six 1,000-yard seasons, or his 101 career touchdown catches.

But there's no doubt which part of Owens' makeup Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells cares most about, and it's the part that stands 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, and possesses cotton-soft hands and a game-changing presence.

Parcells is rolling the dice that Owens will provide the final piece to a puzzle that has seen his Cowboys knock on the door of emergence in the NFC East, but never quite kick it open. Last year saw Dallas begin the year 7-3 before fading down the stretch and missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. The franchise's streak of seasons without a postseason victory now stands at nine.

Enter Owens, and enter major expectations.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2006 edition of the Dallas Cowboys, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2005 RECORD: 9-7 (3rd, NFC East)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2003, lost to Carolina, 29-10, in NFC Wild Card Game

COACH (RECORD): Bill Parcells (25-23 in three seasons with Cowboys, 163-123-1 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Terrell Owens, WR (47 receptions, 763 yards, 7 TD with Eagles)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Roy Williams, SS (81 tackles, 3 INT, 2.5 sacks)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 13th rushing, 15th passing, 15th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 15th rushing, 11th passing, 12th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: Washington (9/17), at Philadelphia (10/8), N.Y. Giants (10/23), at Washington (11/5), Philadelphia (12/25)

KEY ADDITIONS: WR Terrell Owens (from Eagles), TE Anthony Fasano (2nd Round, Notre Dame), TE Ryan Hannam (from Seahawks), T Jason Fabini (from Jets), OL Kyle Kosier (from Lions), DE Jason Hatcher (3rd Round, Grambling State), LB Rocky Boiman (from Titans), LB Akin Ayodele (from Jaguars), LB Bobby Carpenter (1st Round, Ohio State), K Mike Vanderjagt (from Colts)

KEY DEPARTURES: WR Keyshawn Johnson (released), TE Dan Campbell (to Lions), G Larry Allen (released), T Torrin Tucker (to Buccaneers), T Jacob Rogers (released), DT La'Roi Glover (released), OLB Scott Fujita (to Saints), LB Dat Nguyen (retired)

QB: Drew Bledsoe (3639 passing yards, 23 TD, 17 INT) begins his second season as the Cowboys' starter, and with Owens now in tow, will be expected to lead the team into the playoffs. Bledsoe was an upgrade over former starter Vinny Testaverde, though his mobility was only marginally better, and at 34 years of age and playing behind a sketchy line, Dallas needs to come up with a solid plan B. Tony Romo and Drew Henson, who have combined to throw 18 NFL passes (all by Henson in 2004), are expected to round out the QB depth chart once again. There are some that believe that the younger and slightly-more-mobile Romo will get a chance to start if Bledsoe struggles, but that likely represents a worst-case scenario.

RB: Dallas enters 2006 with the solid one-two punch of Julius Jones (993 rushing yards, 5 TD, 35 receptions) and Marion Barber (538 rushing yards, 5 TD, 18 receptions) operating behind Bledsoe in the backfield. Jones has missed chunks of both of his first two NFL seasons due to ankle and shoulder injuries, and the Cowboys will be looking for him to stay healthy and produce his first 1,000-yard season. Barber, who started a couple of games in Jones' absence last season, will be pegged for 8-12 carries per game if all goes well. Holdover Tyson Thompson (182 rushing yards) has a slight edge over first-year player Keylon Kincade for the third running back job, though Kincade could close that gap with a strong conclusion to the preseason. Fullback Lousaka Polite (9 receptions, 1 TD) returns after appearing in 14 games last season.

WR/TE: The Cowboys are banking on Terrell Owens (47 receptions, 6 TD with Philadelphia) becoming the pass-catching presence they have lacked since Michael Irvin's retirement, and are also hoping the 32-year-old problem child keeps his mouth shut as he was unable to do while with the 49ers and Eagles. The signing of Owens made Keyshawn Johnson (71 receptions, 6 TD) expendable, and Parcells will now be looking for Terry Glenn (62 receptions, 7 TD) to accept his role as the No. 2 wideout. Glenn quietly put together an outstanding season in 2005, posting the second-best receiving total of his 10- year career and hitting the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since 1999. Owens and Glenn should help open things up for tight end Jason Witten (66 receptions, 6 TD), whose numbers were slightly down in '05 but still represents a matchup problem over the middle. Witten could appear in frequent two-tight end sets with second-round draft choice Anthony Fasano (Notre Dame) and/or former Seahawk Ryan Hannam (13 receptions, 1 TD with Seattle). Backups at the receiver slots should include Patrick Crayton (22 receptions, 2 TD) and Terrance Copper (1 reception), with fourth-round draft choice Skyler Green (LSU) and undrafted free agent Sam Hurd (Northern Illinois) among the prime competitors for the fifth receiving job.

OL: Though much of the focus in Dallas camp is on Owens, as the offensive line goes, so go the Cowboys' fortunes in 2006. The unit struggled at times last season, resulting in a bloated 49 sacks of the lead-footed Bledsoe, and little was done to upgrade the line in the offseason. Left tackle Flozell Adams, who started six games before missing the rest of the season with a torn ACL, is back to protect Bledsoe's blind side. Rob Pettiti, a sixth-round draft choice in 2005 who ended up starting all 16 games, will again anchor the right side. Penciled in at left guard is Kyle Kosier, who started 11 games along the Lions' woeful front last season, while 34-year-old former Packer Marco Rivera should fill the right guard slot. Al Johnson probably has a slight edge over fellow holdover Andre Gurode at center. Dallas has little o-line depth, with one-time Jets bust Jason Fabini, oft-injured former Bear Marc Colombo, and deep '05 backup Cory Procter representing some of the top candidates for reserve roles.

DL: Dallas' transition from a four- to a three-man defensive front has been completed, as former trench staple La'Roi Glover (28 tackles, 3 sacks) bolted via free agency and lead pass rusher Greg Ellis effectively relocated to an outside linebacker role. The Cowboys' new-look line is a formidable one, however, with young ends Chris Canty (35 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Marcus Spears (31 tackles, 1.5 sacks) and nose tackle Jason Ferguson (37 tackles, 1 sack) all counted on to stop the run and make life easier for the linebackers. Health will be an issue among this group, since career backup Kenyon Coleman (14 tackles) is the most experienced d-line reserve and rookies Jason Hatcher (3rd Round, Grambling) and Montavious Stanley (6th Round, Louisville) are as green as the Texas Stadium turf. Jay Ratliff (4 tackles, 1 sack), who appeared in four games last season, also has a good shot of making the roster.

LB: One of Parcells' chief offseason priorities was finding a couple more of the big linebackers he so covets, drafting Ohio State's Bobby Carpenter in the first round and signing Akin Ayodele (70 tackles, 2.5 sacks with Jacksonville) away from the Jaguars. Carpenter and Ayodele should eventually be the starters on the inside, though holdover Bradie James (93 tackles, 2.5 sacks), the team's leading tackler a year ago, will probably see more time than Carpenter early-on. The pass rush will be led by Greg Ellis (35 tackles, 8 sacks), who is expected to stand up for the first time in his career after playing eight years in the end role, and DeMarcus Ware (58 tackles, 8 sacks), who showed flashes of greatness as a rookie last season. Top candidates for reserve roles at linebacker include injury-prone veteran Al Singleton (18 tackles, 1 INT), second-year pro Kevin Burnett (17 tackles, 1 sack), holdovers Ryan Fowler (24 tackles) and Scott Shanle (45 tackles, 1.5 sacks) and ex-Titan Rocky Boiman (28 tackles with Tennessee).

DB: Not much has changed in the Dallas secondary, where Terence Newman (59 tackles, 3 INT) and Anthony Henry (48 tackles, 3 INT) are again expected to line up at the corners, while Roy Williams (81 tackles, 3 INT, 2.5 sacks) mans the strong safety slot and Keith Davis (66 tackles) fills the free safety position. If there is a player among the group whose job is in jeopardy, it is probably Davis, who was shot in an offseason incident (the second time in his career he has been shot) and will be pushed by holdover Willie Pile (22 tackles) and newcomer Marcus Coleman (52 tackles, 1 INT with the Texans). Aaron Glenn (32 tackles, 4 INT), though now 34 years of age, is the odds-on favorite to serve as the nickel corner, and Jacques Reeves (15 tackles) figures to join Glenn as a corner reserve.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Cowboys went through three kickers last season, none of whom met with their satisfaction, so they went out and got Mike Vanderjagt (23-25 FG) and his legendary accuracy in the offseason. Vanderjagt will probably even kick off for Dallas, something the Colts hadn't allowed him to do full-time since 2003. The team was happy with the punting of Mat McBriar (42.5 avg.), who will retain his job in '06. Neither Patrick Crayton (7.2 punt return avg.) nor Tyson Thompson (24.5 kickoff return avg.) was lights-out in the return game last season, and rookie Skyler Green will have a chance to contribute there.

PROGNOSIS: The buzz in NFL circles is that Parcells would like to make one more serious Super Bowl run before bowing out of Big D, and that the Cowboys are closer to realizing that pinnacle this season than they have been during the head coach's four-year tenure. In spite of the hype, however, the playoffs are not even a foregone conclusion for this team. The division is very good, first of all, and finishing a combined 4-2 against the likes of the Giants, Redskins, and Eagles would be an achievement. And while Dallas has the talent to compete for the division title, America's Team is going to need a whole lot to go right in the personnel department, particularly on offense. The o-line projects to be one of the worst five units in the league, which means protecting the statue-like Bledsoe could be a shaky proposition indeed. If Bledsoe remains upright, there's a chance he won't have time to throw downfield to Owens. If he gets hurt, there's no one with anything resembling experience behind him. All of which should have Cowboys fans holding their breath. There is great hope, but there are also some major potential flies in Parcells' championship ointment.

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