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Drew Bledsoe seeks the mountain top

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What a beautiful morning. There's nothing finer than the opening day for the Dallas Cowboys. How did you guys sleep? Did you toss and turn, or perhaps wake up at an unusual hour? Count me in that crowd, my eyes opened up at 5:11 AM and sleep from that point on was hard to come by. Did you dream of giant Lombardi trophies doing a Rockette's dance on the star in the middle of Texas stadium? OK, maybe that was only me.

Whatever the case, the day has finally arrived that we've been waiting for since January. The Dallas Cowboys will begin their 2006 campaign at 4 PM (EST) today with a tilt against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The sense of optimism over this Cowboys team is warranted. This is a team with a ton of talent. Our defense should be able to keep us in any game, putting the onus on the offense to score enough points to get the victory.

That all starts with the offensive line, and they will get a stiff test today to see how much better a unit they are over last year's group. They won't be facing Marcus Stroud, but they still have work to do, and protecting Drew Bledsoe is job #1.

Drew Bledsoe knows his time is running short. He uses the analogy of Dan Marino who got to the Super Bowl early in his career but never got to step on that golden stage again. Bledsoe doesn't want to follow that same path; he's been there once with the New England Patriots when he was young, but he wants one more short with the Cowboys.

Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells have given him the weapons to get it done with JJ and MB3, TNT on the outside, and Jason Witten in the middle.

JJT puts it this way:

Jones and Parcells have given Bledsoe a defense fortified with five No. 1 draft choices since 2002. And the offense has been stocked with receivers Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn and tight end Jason Witten, giving the Cowboys one of the league's finest triumvirates.

So there is pressure on Bledsoe, 34, to prove that he can still lead a team to the Super Bowl.

Drew Bledsoe has accomplished a lot over his career. His personal statistics are good enough for Hall of Fame consideration. But he's missing the one thing that can solidify a QB's legacy, a Super Bowl ring.

For him to get there, he needs help from his offensive line. Bledsoe is a tough customer; he can take a lick and keep on going. He's proven himself among the most durable QB's in the league. That's a quality he needs because of the amount of sacks he takes.

Bledsoe disputes the notion that he holds onto the ball too long, looking downfield for the big play, but he was sacked at least 45 times in five of the last six seasons. Early in his career, Bledsoe had the lateral quickness to slide around the pocket and avoid sacks. He was never sacked more than 30 times in a season until 1998.

Still, he has a toughness that inspires his teammates. He has started 48 consecutive games.

We know he's going to get hit and take a high number of sacks. That's the trade-off with Bledsoe; you just hope his big-play potential will compensate for the negative plays. Surrounded with arguably the best skill players he's ever had, this is his year to show he can make it work. This is the year when he needs to silence his doubters that he's nothing more than a QB with a big arm but doesn't have the intangibles to be a champion.  This is the year when he needs to grab the brass ring. No, make that a Super Bowl ring.