Injuries piling up for Cowboys

By: From Wire Reports
By: From Wire Reports

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- The Dallas Cowboys aren't concerned. Yet. Still, they are wary about how their revamped defense will handle an injury to standout cornerback Terence Newman since they already are without one of their best pass rushers, Greg Ellis.

Ellis' status remains a mystery, except that he likely won't be around for a while as he recovers from a torn Achilles' tendon. But the Cowboys have been bracing for it since draft day when they made linebacker Anthony Spencer their top pick.

Filling in for Newman is not as simple.

"We definitely need him on the field," Anthony Henry said Tuesday. "He's our top corner."

Henry takes over that title until Newman returns from a slight tear in the tissue that runs across the base of his foot. He's missed the last two preseason games and will skip the preseason finale Thursday night against Minnesota.

While Newman hopes to be back for the opener, Sept. 9 against the New York Giants, he said Monday he can't plant his foot and "it's something that's probably going to be bothering me all year."

Aaron Glenn started for Newman the last two games and gave up a touchdown pass in the most recent game. Entering his 14th season, Glenn is better suited as a third cornerback -- except the Cowboys don't really have anyone else to join Henry in the starting lineup.

Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones are going into their fourth year without having distinguished themselves as anything more than backups. The other candidates are Joey Thomas, a former third-round pick by Green Bay who was out of the NFL last year; seventh-round pick Alan Ball; and Quincy Butler, an undrafted rookie who has hardly played this preseason because of an injury.

"None of them stepped up as far as somebody to come in and play if (Newman) were out," coach Wade Phillips said. "But they're going to play some more this game so they have another opportunity. They're getting ready to play and show what they can do, that's what I challenged them with."

Phillips said he wanted the cornerbacks fighting for jobs to show "I'm ready to play in the NFL" during last Saturday's game at Houston. It didn't happen.

"We're going to look at everybody and see if somebody can come in and play efficiently for us," Phillips said. "That's what we didn't get from anyone last game."

This could be the price the Cowboys pay for not having done much to address the position this past offseason. Another clunker outing by the backups and Dallas may have to turn to the waiver wire for leftovers off other rosters.

"Our guys not only are competing against guys on our team but they're also competing on someone that might be out there, that's why this game is so important, especially for guys that haven't had much playing time," he said.

The bigger issue for Phillips is how this might change his scheme.

Phillips' 3-4 defense is based on putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Doing so effectively requires good pursuit up front and good one-on-one coverage in the secondary.

Missing Newman or Ellis makes it tougher. Being without both really fouls things up.

Newman is considered the caliber of cornerback who takes away an area of the field because quarterbacks see him there and figure they're better off picking on someone else. Ellis has led the team in sacks six times and was tied for the lead when he went down in November, despite having been moved from defensive end to linebacker. He got good news in a second opinion Monday from Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

"The show still goes," Glenn said. "If they're able to play, that's great for everyone. If not, shoot, we've got to continue to go. We've got other players here who have to play. The mind-set of the guy who is playing there has to be, 'I've got to play and I'm going to play well."'


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