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A tale of two teams

The Dallas Cowboys are embroiled in the middle of raucous, roller-coaster of a ride training camp/preseason. Maybe other teams are experiencing similar things, but this month-long period for the Cowboys has been very entertaining - to put it mildly.

Terrell Owens - or maybe it was the media writing about Owens - opened things up after his hamstring injury became all the rage. Once dismissed by me as a passing phase, it has labored on until the present-day, where things are getting a little more salty. Yesterday Owens walked up to the Rubicon and almost said some things that really would've created a stir. He has raised the angst among the Cowboy faithful by tight-roping with some comments that sounded like he was blaming the organization for his re-injuring of the hamstring. Only by the thinnest of margins did we avoid a moment where Bill Parcells or Jerry Jones would've had to weigh-in on the situation. Beyond that sideshow, Owens seems no closer to actually stepping on the field and helping this team. The regular season is fast approaching and the situation is far from clear. The injury to Patrick Crayton only adds to the murky scenario at wide receiver.

But when you flip the coin on the Owens situation and the Crayton injury you find Sam Hurd. Because of injuries Hurd has accelerated to the first team for the preseason and has shown the chops to help this team. Additionally, Jamaica Rector has also put in a strong claim to a spot on the roster, something that might not have been possible without the injury problems. On one hand, you have a depleted WR group that is without its star attraction; on the other we have discovered some hidden talents in our own backyard.

Last year's squad was hampered by the lack of a quality kicker. The Cowboys decided to remedy that problem by shelling out big bucks to Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in the NFL. One problem; from the early days of camp Vanderjagt has resembled a drunken Jose Cortez instead of Mr. Reliable. Tack on a groin injury that his own coach seems to dispute and the absence of any chance to watch him kickoff, one would think we are no closer to solving that issue than we were last season.

Waiting in the wings, though, is Shaun Suisham who has shown excellent range on his kickoffs and has been reliable in the preseason kicking field goals. Tyler Fredrickson, a guy who no one even recognized when he showed up in Oxnard the first week, boots a 49-yard FG in wet conditions against the Saints and earns the right to do some punting this weekend.

The Cowboys offensive line was a mess last year and is still unsettled this year. We've yet to determine who our right tackle will be and the running game has been slow to develop in two preseason games. But they've given up only a couple of sacks over those games, and have done an admirable job in protecting the quarterbacks. The right tackle position seems to be a case of a couple of capable candidates instead of none.

Keith Davis went from being a bullet magnet, to a spectacularly fast healer, to having to watch over his shoulder - not for more bullets - but for hard-charging, rangy rookie Pat Watkins. Marcus Coleman is lost at least for four games to substance abuse violations and Justin Beriault was never able to recover from his knee probloems, but Abram Elam has stepped up to ease concerns at the position.

Now, Dallas has dropped its 3rd string QB and has no definite plans for a replacement. There's speculation that we may enter the season with only two QB's on the active roster. From the outside looking in, there may be the temptation to call us Team Turmoil. From the inside looking out, we may say turmoil is too strong of a word, but the past month has certainly been eventful.

Yet, for all that has transpired, on the field where it counts, Dallas has put together two very strong performances. Last week's demolition of the Saints has been downplayed as a win over a down-trodden franchise. But winning teams do that, they don't play down to the level of the competition, they destroy them. Measuring by two preseason games, I say let the mayhem continue. Drop a bombshell on us every few days, do something that leaves the media shaking their collective heads.

It seems to be working so far.

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