- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

Bill Parcells should be feeling pretty good.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a notorious meddler, has left the coach alone. That has allowed Parcells to reshape the roster to his liking; only seven players are left who predate his hiring in January 2003.

The Cowboys opened the season last week by upsetting San Diego on the road for their biggest victory since November 2003. And on Monday, Joe Gibbs and the Washington Redskins, neither of whom have had much success of late against Parcells or the Cowboys, come to town.

But Parcells wouldn’t be his 64-year-old, acerbic self if something didn’t cause him to frown.

“Our team wasn’t very good last year, and I didn’t do a very good job,” Parcells said. “We’ve made a lot of changes. We’re very inexperienced in a lot of areas. We’re more athletic, but we’re going to have some growing pains. Those were evident last week. We’re just giving away field position. Our kickoff coverage was very poor.”

That after the Cowboys came from behind three times and kept the defending AFC West champion Chargers out of the end zone in four shots from the 7-yard line in the final minute.

“Bill can be more of a pain when you’re winning because he wants to make sure that no one gets too full of themselves,” said Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe, the NFC’s offensive player of the week in his first game reunited with his old coach from New England. “He throws in little remarks all the time wondering if I’m a one-week wonder, if that was all I have left in me.”

The Cowboys had gone 5-11 in each of the three seasons before Parcells took over. But the NFL’s maestro of turnarounds delivered a 10-6 season and a wild-card berth thanks to the league’s top defense. However, when the defense slumped last season as Parcells could never fix a glaring gap at right cornerback, Dallas slipped back to 6-10.

Nine starters from 2004 are gone. While Bledsoe, right guard Marco Rivera and right corner Anthony Henry are experienced, five of the new regulars never had started before the opener. That includes rookie outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, the first-round draft pick who has been compared to Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.

“The bus station is full of guys who were going to be the next him,” Parcells said. “Ware is a pretty athletic guy. He’s doing OK with the transition [from end] to linebacker. But [Ware and first-round end Marcus Spears] look like dogs chasing cars once in a while. They’ll just tear around and be in the wrong place.”

Parcells felt out of place using the 4-3 defense the past two seasons, so now he’s relatively happy to be back to his preferred 3-4 scheme.

“If you’re just wholesale switching things and you don’t have the personnel to do it, you can wind up getting in trouble,” Parcells said. “So it’s taken a little longer to get things in place, but I feel a little bit better about the situation. That doesn’t mean we’ll win any more [games], but I feel a little bit better about where we are philosophically and in terms of having young athletes.”

Among those young athletes are second-year running back Julius Jones, who packs 211 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame. Jones has averaged 112 yards in his eight starts, so if the defense, which held San Diego to 291 yards, matures and Bledsoe doesn’t beat his team with mistakes, the Cowboys could be a contender in a weak NFC in which five of last season’s six playoff teams lost their openers.

And it should be noted that Parcells followed each of his four previous losing seasons with a winning record the next season.


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