The Dallas Cowboys go on the road to start the 2006 season, facing the Jacksonville Jaguars at AllTel Stadium. The Cowboys enter the game as healthy as they've been since the start of training camp. Flozell Adams practiced all week and will start at LT. Terrell Owens hasn't had a setback from his hamstring injury and will be good to go at WR. Bradie James has practiced over the last few days and will start at SILB. The only injury to alter the Cowboys regular lineup is K Mike Vanderjagt's groin injury, which has opened the door for Shaun Suisham to handle the kicking duties on Sunday.
Jacksonville looks like they will get MLB Mike Peterson back from a knee injury for the game, but they took a major blow when all-world DT Marcus Stroud rolled his ankle in practice this week and will most likely be unavailable for the game.
Dallas Offense vs. Jacksonville Defense
Running game: The loss of Marcus Stroud on the Jax defense could lead to a change in philosophy for Dallas. With Stroud in the game, Dallas would've resorted to attacking the edges of the Jax defense, meaning a heavy dose of Julius Jones. But with Stroud out, the Cowboys will probe the middle to see if center Andre Gurode and guards Marco Rivera and Kyle Kosier can control DT John Henderson and Stroud's likely replacement Rob Meier. The Cowboys will try to handle Meier one-one-one, freeing up Andre Gurode to help double-team John Henderson, with the hope of opening running lanes in the middle of the line. That could lead to more of Marion Barber who is the better between-the-tackles runner. The Cowboys philosophy under Bill Parcells has always been to control the clock, and in the heat in Jax they'll use their 1-2 punch backfield to wear the Jax defense down.
If the Cowboys want get wide on Jax, RT Marc Colombo will have to prove he can handle DE Reggie Hayward and Rivera will need to get to the 2nd level on MLB Mike Peterson. Going the other way may be more to Dallas' advantage, where Flozell Adams should matchup favorably with Paul Spicer and Kyle Kosier has better mobility to get to the 2nd level. But the real key to the outside running game will be TE's Anthony Fasano and Jason Witten, who need to turn in better performances than the uneven blocking effort we saw in the preseason.
Look for Dallas to test the middle of the Jax defense early. With Stroud out and MLB Peterson nicked up, Dallas will find out right away if they can run straight at the defense. If they find success, they'll stay with it until Jax starts stacking the line with SS Donovin Darius. If the middle holds, Dallas will be forced to go outside and they'll want to run to the left side behind Flozell Adams and away from LB Daryl Smith.
Passing game: Jacksonville would like to do what every defense wants to do against Dallas, pressure the QB right up the A-gap. But with Stroud out, they may not have the ability to do that with their base defense or by just sending one blitzer against Dallas' 2-TE set. Dallas shouldn't be forced to squeeze their protection toward the middle, allowing them to stay even across the line and try to contain the pass rush with 5 or 6 blockers. RT Marc Colombo will have his hands full with DE Reggie Hayward, and this could be the key matchup in the passing game. If Colombo can handle Hayward without a lot of help, Dallas can send more men into the pattern. LT Flozell Adams has a tough matchup with Paul Spicer, but should be able to get the job done.
The pressure will be on Jags CB Brian Williams, as the Cowboys will likely target his side, choosing to stay way from CB Rashean Mathis. The big key will be whether Donovin Darius will be forced to help in the running game, leaving either Terrell Owens or Terry Glenn in single coverage. This is a matchup Dallas believes it can win, so creating a threat in the running game is vital. The Cowboys will also target LB Nick Griesen with Anthony Fasano and Jason Witten, and with backs coming out of the backfield. LB Daryl Smith is fast and talented, making Griesen the more appealing target.
Look for Dallas to go after the Jax CB's, especially Brian Williams, if they can get them singled up in coverage. Jax likes to sit back and let their front line pressure the QB, but if they are forced to play SS Darius in the box and run blitzes to create pressure, Dallas will burn them deep. Otherwise, the Dallas TE duo of Witten and Fasano will be the key ingredient in moving the chains.
Dallas defense vs. Jacksonville offense preview will be up later today.