Sports Outside the Beltway

Newman and Ellis Could Miss Cowboys Season Opener

While the Dallas Cowboys have high hopes for the season with the new Wade Phillips-led defense, they face the strong prospect of opening the season without two of their dominant players on that side of the ball, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News reports.

It’s difficult to imagine the Dallas Cowboys reaching the Super Bowl with Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn as their starting cornerbacks. Make no mistake. Henry and Glenn are solid players. But neither is in Terence Newman’s class.

With Newman hobbled by plantar fasciitis in his right foot, the Cowboys are facing the prospect of beginning the season without a cornerback Pro Football Weekly rates second only to Denver’s Champ Bailey.

Newman’s ailment is the same one that forced rookie receiver Isaiah Stanback to miss much of his senior season at the University of Washington and all of the Cowboys offseason work. “It is something he needs to stay off of, so that’s what we’re going to do,” coach Wade Phillips said of Newman.

But what if Newman still needs to stay off it come September? Phillips says he thinks Newman will be ready for the opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 9, but Phillips is also the same guy who said this of defensive end Greg Ellis’ bursitis the first day of training camp: “We don’t think it’s serious. It was to be expected that he would have some pain (after rupturing his left Achilles’ tendon in November). But I think (Ellis) will bounce back and do more tomorrow and the next day and the next day.”

Of course, it appears more and more likely that Ellis won’t play in the opener or any other game in the season’s first half. But because they drafted Anthony Spencer in the spring and Bobby Carpenter in 2006, the Cowboys can live without Ellis. The same, however, can’t be said of Newman.

And, unlike outside linebacker, the Cowboys have depth problems at cornerback. The plan now is for the 35-year-old Glenn to fill in for Newman on the left side. But what happens if Glenn goes down? Phillips painted a bleak picture when asked Thursday about the state of the team’s corners not named Newman, Glenn or Henry, who opposing offensive coordinators like to pick on so much.

“I like some of the things they are doing certainly, but I don’t have a great feeling that we’ve got four corners or five corners that can really play,” Phillips said, making it clear he sees nothing special in Nate Jones, Jacques Reeves, Joey Thomas, Quincy Butler and rookies Alan Ball and Courtney Brown.

On the bright side, the Cowboys can compensate for Newman’s injury with a strong pass rush. That’s where Spencer comes in. “We have to whip him into shape,” linebacker Bradie James said. “He has to get out of that college mentality where you just go out and make two big plays and you are done. “But I think he has the character to do it. He will be fine.”

James said he and his defensive teammates haven’t given up on Ellis returning. “If he does return, watch out,” James said. “The sky will be the limit for this defense. If he comes back, offenses not only have to worry about another rusher coming off the edge. They have to worry about Greg Ellis.”

But if Ellis doesn’t return, Spencer is just so-so and Newman is hobbled, the defense could be in for another disappointing season.

Indeed. While Demarcus Ware is the defense’s most exciting player, Newman may well be its most critical. While he lacks the flash of a Deion Sanders and the all-around talent of Bailey, he is the proverbial shut-down corner. Opposing quarterbacks seldom throw the ball his way.

And, as Mickey Spagnola remarks on last nights embarrassing pre-season loss to the hapless Houston Texans,

Here is what the Cowboys learned here Saturday night.

They don’t want to play too many games without cornerback Terence Newman.

They don’t want to play too many more games without Greg Ellis.

And they sure as heck don’t want to play too many games without Terry Glenn.


Let’s start with my “Mr. Indispensable,” Terence Newman, and I will rest my case. The Cowboys were playing without their most significant defensive player, who was left behind at The Ranch to rest his strained heal, something the doctors are calling an acute injury to the plantar fascia, but not the more serious plantar fasciitis, which are two bad words to any athlete.


And when you play without Newman, there is a trickle-down effect, because now when you go to your nickel defense, there also is no Newman to move into the slot. Now, with Aaron Glenn already in the game, that means you are bringing Nate Jones in off the bench to man the slot.

Then there is playing without Ellis, which the Cowboys have all preseason and since the first practice of training camp, the veteran outside linebacker still trying to convince himself he’s able to play with the bursitis in his heel. Now maybe the Texans are very right-handed in their running game, but boy did they sure seem to have a bull’s-eye on rookie Anthony Spencer, running to the side where the rookie still is making the transition from defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the NFL.

See, everyone seems preoccupied with just who can rush the quarterback. But again, if you can’t stop the run, you can’t rush the quarterback. And the Cowboys, who gave up only 84 yards rushing in the first two preseason games, were gashed for 142 by the Texans, who made doing a better job running the ball a priority before the game. Now maybe you understand why Phillips said, and just a tad tongue in cheek, that if Ellis makes it back for the walk-through practice the day before the Sept. 9 season opener against the Giants he would start the 10th-year veteran. The Cowboys need Ellis’ ability to play the run.

Yep. Not too many teams can survive the loss of its best players unscathed.

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