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The VRR: These Aren't the Same Bucs the Cowboys Beat Last Year

When Tampa Bay visited Texas Stadium last season, the Romo-less Cowboys managed a defensive 13-9 victory over Jeff Garcia and the Buccaneers' version of the West Coast offense. Though the Bucs will still run the same style of offense this season, the sidelines and faces on the field have seen substantial turnover.

Having played the Bucs twice a year with the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas linebacker Keith Brooking may not have much inside information to offer Wade Phillips as the Cowboys' defense prepares for Sunday's road opener in Tampa.

"Man, I don't recognize anybody over there pretty much offensively," said Brooking, whom the Cowboys signed in free agency. "... Totally different offense, totally different personnel." With new faces at head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterback, running back and tight end, Tampa Bay's offense is a mystery to Dallas.

Alot more VRR after the jump.

"You are watching basically three preseason games where their offensive coordinator's not even there, and then the last game, they kind of treated it like we did and didn't play their starters," Brooking said. "So we don't have a lot to go off of."

While the Bucs continue to employ the West Coast offense, Leftwich's strong arm gives it a different dimension than the one Garcia directed last season. "He makes more down-the-field throws than a lot of the West Coast people," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said of Leftwich. "Garcia was the West Coast quarterback — a lot of short, quick routes, which they still do. But Leftwich throws it down the field — deep out, deep in — because he's got such a strong arm."

Here's what Raheem Morris said about his new offensive coordinator, Greg Olson.

"He brings some more dynamic routes,'' Bucs coach Raheem Morris said, according to the St. Petersburg Times. "You'll see different routes, you'll see routes down the field... You see more of the down field, double-move hitches. You'll see things of that nature. You'll see the timing game there as well. But if we're going to be a good team, we're going to have to use our play-action passing. We want to use it as a weapon. You'll get a chance to see some of that stuff from Oly (Olson)."

The Bucs say Olson has already expanded the playbook. Wade Phillips said earlier this week Tampa had modified its running game dramatically after letting go of head coach/offensive coordinator Jon Gruden this off-season.

With all the rotation-at-right-cornerback talk, it seems only fitting that Mike Jenkins gets the start in his old college stadium. Let's just hope he is not too bitter when Orlando Scandrick gets the nod for the home opener against the Giants.

"I never really understood it," Jenkins said from Dallas, about alternating games. "Because if I go out this week and get like three interceptions, just to say, or have a great game _ how could you not start me the week after?"

Jenkins has bought 25 tickets for friends and family from Bradenton to attend the game, including some football players from Southeast High. "That broke me for this week," Jenkins joked. "I don’t think I’m getting a check this week. It’s all going towards tickets."

It will be his first appearance as a professional in the stadium where he played his entire college career for the University of South Florida.

On the other side of the ball, Dallas' offensive linemen need to be ready. The Buccaneers defense plans to bring a ton of pressure on Romo.

"Every quarterback you want to get pressure on, but when you're talking about a guy like Romo who can attack you downfield, attack you with precision, it just brings up the importance even more. That's what you have to talk to your D-line about – relentless rush," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.

"When you get a chance to rush him, you can't stop, you can't give up, because he's going to hold on to the football, he's going to throw it. You may have an opportunity [to sack him], but he may have an opportunity [to burn you] if you get lazy. It's a game for the opportunistic one. May the best man win."

For those Cowboys fans in the Tampa area, it looks like Sunday's game will not be blacked out.

Here is the Cowboys @ Buccaneers game preview from CBSSports.

We can't chalk up a "W" just yet, but SportingNews predicts Cowboys 23, Bucs 13.

It's good to see Byron Leftwich get another shot at leading a team, but it won't be too much fun for him this week with DeMarcus Ware coming after him. Both teams plan to rely heavily on three-man running games and passing to tight ends. It's just that the 'Boys, with Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Jason Witten, are in much better shape to do so.

Here is the updated list of injured players for the Cowboys and Bucs.

An offseason of dieting and working with Romo has Roy Williams excited to see what this offense can do come Sunday.

"Losing weight was a big plus. I lost 10 pounds," he said. "I didn't eat after 5 except for Monday nights. I've got to have my Pizza Hut for Monday night football.

"Me and Tony are in our second year together, and I think we can do a little bit better. Every time he throws the ball in the dirt or throws me the ball and I drop it, it's understood that it's unacceptable. If he puts it in the vicinity, 99 percent of the time I'll get it."

It's possible that this season's Cowboys receivers could be more tight than wide. During the preseason, three of four leaders in receptions were tight ends. Martellus Bennett had 12 catches, sixth-round draft pick John Phillips had eight and Pro Bowler Jason Witten had seven. The wide receivers totaled 37 catches to 31 for the tight ends – and there are almost always more wideouts on the field than tight ends.

Somewhere between all the hoopla in Dallas, Jason Witten quietly goes about his business.

"It’s a good problem to have when you have other people to talk about," Witten said. "I’ve got my priorities together and the things I need to work on to get better. I just try to focus on playing at a high level year in and year out."

Kevin Ogletree's high school coach is happy to see his former player catch on with the Cowboys.

While Ogletree took the news in stride, when word spread back to his alma mater, longtime Holy Cross coach Tom Pugh was absolutely ecstatic. "I felt like I made it," Pugh joked. "Everyone here was on pins and needles. When I saw it come through I called him and he was thrilled."

Ogletree might have opened eyes in Dallas, where he has earned the nickname "KO," a slight variation from the initials of another former Cowboys receiver, but Pugh isn’t surprised at what his former player has done. "He did a lot of things for them that he did here," he said.

As a senior at Holy Cross, Ogletree scored 23 touchdowns, including 19 receptions, falling one shy of the state record, to lead the Knights to the CHSFL ‘AA’ championship. He scored three touchdowns in the title game despite a fractured wrist. He was also a starter on the Knights’ basketball team.

Emmitt Smith's 7-9 prediction for the 2009 Cowboys has certainly gained some infamy. Randy Galloway at the Star-T thinks differently than Smith. He says that there is a realistic chance this team can win10 or 11 games.

Why my optimism? Two things: (1) Totally different team chemistry — which, to me, anyway, is extremely important. (2) The schedule between now and the start of the five-game December-January run.

Look over that schedule. Good chance, don’t you think, to win four of the first five (including all three road games), six of the first seven and, through Thanksgiving, be sitting at 8-3 or 9-2 depending on what happens in the back-to-back November trips to Philly and Green Bay?

Michael Irvin is not backing the manner in which Emmitt made his prediction.

"It makes it look like bitterness or something. Emmitt has no reason to be bitter - all-time leading rusher, great career, made good money - no reason to be bitter at all. So what he said may have some truth to it, but how you say it will ring in people's ears."

Jimmy Johnson made his Super Bowl predicition: Chargers vs. Eagles.

Johnson says the Eagles have too many offensive weapons for their NFC competition to cope with. Johnson also says Andy Reid gives Philadelphia an edge on the competition. He predicts the Eagles will play the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl, with the Eagles bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Philadelphia.

NFL Total Access previews the NFC East.

The Philadelphia Inquirer takes a look at the linebackers in the NFC East. Here's what they say about Dallas' crew:

If the Cowboys still have a Doomsday Defense, it's the pounding delivered by linebackers in the team's 3-4 scheme. Dallas had an NFL-leading 59 sacks last season, and 40 came from linebackers, paced by right-outside LB DeMarcus Ware, who led the NFL with 20; left-inside LB Bradie James, who had 8; and left-outside LB Greg Ellis, also with 8. Ellis is gone, but the Cowboys' brass anticipates big things from his replacement, Anthony Spencer, Dallas' first-round pick (26th overall) in 2007. Spencer had a sack and a team-leading nine tackles (eight solo) in the Cowboys' four preseason games. Keith Brooking, entering his 12th NFL season, comes from Atlanta to add locker-room leadership. He is reunited with Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, who was his defensive coordinator and head coach in Atlanta. But most eyes will be on the tenacious Ware, who besides leading the NFL in sacks last year was tied for first in the NFC in forcing fumbles (6).

Tashard Choice has stepped even further into the blogging world. The second-year tailback will now be the DMN's Cowboys Insider blogger.

Because of the new Cowboys Stadium, average NFL ticket prices have gone up 4%.

Dallas surpassed New England and now has the most expensive tickets in the league. They average $160, an increase of 90% from last season. Twenty-four teams kept their ticket prices stable.

Jerry Jones may be fined for his recent comments about the CBA. If he is, we may not hear about it.

Reading between the lines, it appears that the league office wasn't pleased with Jones' remarks, which serve only to give the union ammunition for driving a wedge between owners. It also appears that any penalty would be administered privately, since a public censuring of Jones would serve only to highlight the fact that his comments were regarded as problematic for the league's bargaining position.

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