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News And Notes For Cowboys Home Opener Against Buccaneers

Home at last for the Dallas Cowboys as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Home at last for the Dallas Cowboys as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Dallas Cowboys finally play their home opener at Cowboys Stadium in a noon (local time) game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As you go through your pregame rituals, here is a look at some of the news and previews concerning the game.

It looks like it will be a beautiful but hot day for tailgating outside the stadium, with a high in the lower nineties under sunny skies. It's probably going to be deemed a tad too warm to open the roof at Jerryworld, so the teams will get to play under climate-controlled conditions.

The Cowboys, as we all know, are trying to set a tone for a good season after the up-and-down start.

Following a Jekyll and Hyde number on the road to start the 2012 season, the Dallas Cowboys hope to lay the foundation for consistency Sunday in the home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

We all are hoping that this game serves as a chance to establish themselves as a true contender. The team needs more than just a win.

Dallas' challenge in today's home opener against the Buccaneers is two-fold. Sure, the Cowboys need a bounce-back win. But it's also imperative they make a statement, one that says they won't be pushed around anymore.

On the flip side, the Buccaneers are also trying to sort out their identity.

Tampa Bay is coming off a last-minute loss to the Giants when it allowed 604 yards - a franchise record. Eli Manning passed for 510 yards, a week after the Bucs contained Cam Newton and held Carolina to 10 yards rushing, matching another team record.

More articles of interest after the jump.

While it is undoubtedly good for the team to be back home to play, Cowboys Stadium has not been much better than the road for Dallas so far.

Even though there is no place like Cowboys Stadium, the team has yet to create a home-field advantage in the $1.2 billion stadium. They are only 13-11 at home during the regular season in Arlington.

The teams both have some areas they should have an advantage. The biggest one for Dallas may be when Tony Romo is throwing the ball.

The Cowboys' passing offense struggled against Seattle. But despite its failures, it is still ranked sixth in the league after Week 2. Now it faces a Tampa Bay defense that has shown it can be opportunistic but also vulnerable against a trigger-happy quarterback. In a loss to the New York Giants last Sunday, the Buccaneers intercepted Eli Manning three times but also surrendered 510 passing yards and three long touchdowns.

One player the Cowboys need to corral is rookie running back Doug Martin, who is off to a very strong start this year. But Dallas has a defensive star of its own to throw at him.

Linebacker Sean Lee, who has amassed a team-high 35 tackles, will lead the gang of defenders aiming to stop him. After Lee had 21 stops against Seattle and Marshawn Lynch, it seems Dallas' third-year veteran is up for the challenge.

Edge: Lee

Speaking of Chuck Norris Sean Lee, he is turning out to be a pretty decent player.

Dat Nguyen was good. Bradie James was stellar. But Lee already is the best in decades. He's special. In Cowboys lore, Lee is most often compared with the iconic Lee Roy Jordan, who last trolled the middle of the Doomsday Defense in 1976.

His physical gifts notwithstanding, Lee's trademark is his no-nonsense, dogged determination. At 26 and in his third season, the blond-haired, blue-eyed, baby-faced Lee has emerged as the leader of the Cowboys defense. Think of him as "Bulldog Doogie Howser, MLB."

Yeah, but would you say that to his face?

Meanwhile, the new and improved Cowboys secondary has another threat to worry about.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' receiver visits Cowboys Stadium for the home opener with just nine catches for 175 yards and one touchdown through two games. But in his only appearance against the Cowboys, Dec. 13, 2009, Jackson put on a show as a member of the San Diego Chargers.

He had seven catches for 120 yards. He didn't have any touchdowns, but five of his seven catches were for first downs, and he had two catches of at least 25 yards.

Hopefully Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and company can rise to the challenge. One of the players in the secondary group that will likely be called upon to make some important plays is safety Danny McCray.

McCray, a third-year player who has never made an NFL start, is the Cowboys' top reserve at safety. But he is also Dallas' best special teams player and the Cowboys will have to manage him carefully so he can perform all of his duties adequately.

The biggest defensive worry for the Cowboys is going to be the line, with Jay Ratliff and Kenyon Coleman both out, and Marcus Spears banged up.

But the team has liked what it has seen out of replacement NT Josh Brent, who has stepped up into Ratliff's role. They also have seen a lot to like out of DE Sean Lissemore, who will take Coleman's starting spot.

On special teams, Chris Jones is well aware that he is facing a team with one blocked punt so far the week after he had one blocked for a touchdown.

"I guess I've kind of been warned of that," Jones told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I guess everybody has. I don't think we should have our main focus on that. I think if everybody does their job, everything's going to be fine."

Among the things that the Cowboys need to do to win the game is improve their field position (something I do agree with).

The Cowboys' average launch point has been on the edge of their own 21-yard line. On average, only Oakland has been forced to begin their possessions further back than Dallas has. For the Cowboys to score more frequently they need better field position, which means the kick returns have to improve and the defense has to create more turnovers.

Part of that issue has been the kick return performance, or lack thereof, by Felix Jones. Former Cowboys great Drew Pearson made a very simple point about what he would have done after the game opening fumble by Jones last week.

Here's what I would've done after that first fumble: he shouldn't have trotted out there for another kickoff.

Among some things to watch for, one of the players that always seems to spark a debate here is expected to contribute in a big way.

Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer has been a steady performer for the Cowboys through the first two games, recording seven tackles in the opener and two sacks in Week 2. Look for the trend to continue this week with him going up against Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who sat out the Giants game last week with an ankle injury.

From the Tampa Bay perspective, the local media thinks they see an area of vulnerability.

The Cowboys have at least one glaring weakness, and it's right in the middle of the offensive line. Center Ryan Cook and guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau are not starting-caliber players. They're role players who are adequate at best. The Bucs have a potentially elite-level under tackle in Gerald McCoy and the ability to add extra pop to the middle of the line when end Michael Bennett moves inside.

Given that Livings is looking like the most effective offensive lineman for Dallas so far, hopefully this will not work out for them.

Tampa Bay's head coach Greg Schiano is trying to successfully make the difficult jump from the NCAA to the NFL. And the former Rutgers head coach is looking to one other name you may have heard of as his inspiration.

"I've got to believe there's a lot of Jimmy Johnson in what we do as far as organization and football and all those things."

There are a couple of things that you can count on when the Cowboys are playing. One is a little negativism from Rich Gosselin.

This team is still living off the laurels from the Super Bowl teams of the 90s. This team isn't that team, but they walk around like they think they are.

And the other?

The Dallas Cowboys were given the name "America's Team" in the 1970s but the mystique of the Cowboys still remain to this day.

And don't forget it!

Sit back, get your game face on, and (hopefully) enjoy the show.



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