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Evidence For The Defense

there is another thing he's figuring: He's got something to prove Thursday night. And don't even bother to tell him this is only a preseason game, or ask what's he worried about, or remind him he's a first-round pick. 

"I have to go out and prove myself and show my worth," Spears said. "That's big to me." 

Seriously? Even in preseason? 

"Definitely, because Coach needs to see some things," Spears said. "I need to go out and make myself known so he can find something he can depend on come Sundays. It is what it is." 

That must be music to Parcells' ears. And it surely must be music to your ears. Because just think what an impact these two guys can make. Remember, the idea of bringing in Ferguson was to keep Glover fresh, not use him up on run downs. Huh. Glover played 48 plays this past game, and to think the first-team defense only played into the third quarter. 

Spears was projected to be the starter at left defensive end, the strong side of the offensive line. But in his absence, Kenyon Coleman has proved to be tailor-made to play this 3-4, especially against the run. And with Spears returning, the Cowboys get that much stronger, not only having two guys capable of playing left defensive end, but think about this when they go with a four-man front on nickel downs: 

Greg Ellis, Glover, Spears and Ware lining up to rush the passer. Maybe blitzing Roy Williams or even Terence Newman off the slot. 

OK, quit your drooling. 

This, though, might not be a luxury as much as it will be a necessity if the Cowboys offense doesn't get untracked. Parcells just might need to lean on this unit if the Cowboys are to be better than 6-10 this season. 

"I would like to be able to feel like that, very much," Parcells said. "I think any coach would like to be able to feel like that. I'd like to be able to punt the ball without worrying about it. But I don't know enough about the defense right now to say that I feel like I can lean on 'em. 

"I do think they are improving in preseason, I do think that." 

Well, it's been a while since the Cowboys have been able to lean on their defense for a full four quarters. It's been a while since the Cowboys had a "catalytic" defense, meaning with the ability to create turnovers, make big plays, help win games on its own. Only twice since 1996, the last season the Cowboys won a playoff game, has this defense produced more than 26 turnovers in a season. And just know that last year in the NFL, 28 turnovers was the average. 

The Cowboys had 22 - their lowest total since the 19 of 1997, and the second lowest total since 17 in the 1-15 1989 season. 

In the immortal words of Jimmy Johnson, "Who's going to make the play?" That is what defense is all about, and what Parcells is looking for from "the best group of athletes" he's had on defense since arriving here in 2003. 

And that's exactly what we might be talking about over the next couple of months if . . . .  

This preseason so far has not been a mirage.     

!   Parcells insists Thursday night is the "worst night of the year in football for any head coach - the last preseason game is the worst - the worst nightmare you can have." That's because he mostly has his mind made up on certain things, and then injury or a performance could alter his plans. In light of that, this will be a key night for the likes of Eric Ogbogu, Kalen Thornton, Tyson Walter, Lousaka Polite, Torrin Tucker, Quincy Morgan, Terrance Copper and Tom Crowder. Probably can throw Keith O'Neil, Jay Ratliff and Brett Pierce in that group, too. 
!   While Parcells has started Rob Petitti at right tackle the past three preseason games, when asked if he already knows who his starting right tackle will be Sept. 11 at San Diego, he succinctly said, "No, I don't already know." Door wide open. 

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