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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Cowboys are putting on quite a show

October 19, 2008|Sam Farmer

The folks at "Hard Knocks" blew it. They should have kept the cameras rolling.

A few more episodes of the summer TV series and we would have gotten a first-hand look at Dallas Cowboys cornerback Pacman Jones slugging it out with his team-appointed bodyguard/baby sitter.

Then the show could have been billed as a sockumentary, a rope-a-dope opera, instead of just a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a typical NFL team during training camp.

Because the Dallas Cowboys are anything but typical.

This is some great TV: Tony Romo is trying to come back to play today at St. Louis after having the pinkie on his throwing hand snapped during last Sunday's 30-24 overtime loss at Arizona. Waiting in the wings is 40-year-old backup Brad Johnson, who hasn't started a game in two years.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Romo will be active today but won't start after limited participation in practice. And Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says Romo hasn't lost much zip on his passes. Jones made that determination himself because he -- the owner! -- stood on the sideline and caught fastballs from Romo this week.

Whether Romo rushes back and grits through the pain, or sits out a month as was originally predicted, there's no denying the Cowboys were decimated in the desert. Also a casualty of that Arizona loss was punter Mat McBriar, who suffered a fractured foot, and sensational rookie running back Felix Jones, whose bum hamstring has him hamstrung at least for a couple of weeks.

And then there's Pacman. After his most recent alcohol-related scuffle -- the latest in a long list of misdeeds -- the NFL suspended him for a month, probably spelling the end of his brief stint with Dallas. If it's over, he didn't have a cup of coffee with the Cowboys, he had a shot of espresso.

So now the team that was many people's NFC favorite and burst out of the gates with three consecutive victories has lost twice in the past three weeks and looks in disarray.

Not only that, but the pushover Rams are coming off a stunning victory at Washington. Maybe they aren't so toothless after all.

"Am I optimistic that we can win without Tony? Yes, I truly am," Cowboys linebacker Greg Ellis said. "I'm just disappointed in this organization right now, from the whole deal of it. Things just aren't going really good."

Jerry Jones isn't sitting on his hands. Making a crazy week even crazier, he traded for Detroit receiver Roy Williams, shipping the Lions three draft picks for the former Texas standout.

On the surface, bringing in another receiver to compete for catches with the historically moody Terrell Owens seems like the most unstable pairing since nitro met glycerin. The theory is, having Williams on the field will mean fewer double teams on Owens, who has struggled lately to get off the line of scrimmage.

"I'm looking forward to it," Owens said.

Owens said teams have studied the way Green Bay double-teamed him, limiting him to two catches for 17 yards, and used it as "a blueprint for how they're playing me."

"They're putting two or three guys on me, and it's really tough to get open," he said. "But with [Williams] on the other side, and the other guys making plays, they're going to have some things to contend with."

The Cowboys have their own list of burdens. Their vaunted defensive front isn't generating the pressure it should, and there has been some significant reshuffling in the secondary.

With Jones suspended and Terence Newman out with a sports hernia, rookie Mike Jenkins will start at corner, and fifth-rounder Orlando Scandrick will play nickel back. That's a very inexperienced lineup.

The special teams are taking some heat too. Last Sunday, the Cowboys opened the game by giving up a kickoff return for a touchdown, and the game ended with a walk-off blocked punt for a touchdown, both firsts for the franchise.

A sign of bad things to come? Williams, for one, doesn't think so. He made his arrival at the team's headquarters wearing a black hat and black cowboy boots, and saying all the right things.

"I'm more happy to be a Dallas Cowboy than when I got my first bike," he said.

But when you got that bike, Roy, you probably got to pedal it around on some gentle streets for a while. With these Cowboys, we've grown accustomed to something different.

Caution: Turn ahead.

--

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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