IRVING, Texas - While kicker remains a question mark and head coach Bill Parcells still has his own worries, many of the Cowboys' training camp issues have worked themselves out. Receiver worries and mild quarterback controversies are not unique to Dallas, however, as Jacksonville has had its own set of similar training-camp uncertainties.
Jacksonville was 12-4 in 2005, but not good enough to unseat a tough Indianapolis team for the AFC South title. Playing in a tough division, the Jaguars were still rock solid and return most of their key contributors from a season ago. Byron Leftwich is healthy again after missing five starts down the stretch last season, though he will be without favorite target Jimmy Smith, a one-time Cowboy who had been the most prolific player in Jacksonville's 11-year history before deciding to retire following the 2005 season.
Both clubs posted three wins in the preseason, Jacksonville finishing its exhibitions at 3-1 following a win over Atlanta on Thursday. The same night the Cowboys fought to a tie with Minnesota. Sunday's 3:15 p.m. (CDT) game at Alltell Stadium features the two best teams in NFL history on kickoff weekend. Jacksonville is 8-3 in openers since its inaugural season in 1995, while Dallas is 31-14-1 (.689) in season openers.
- Leftwich had his best pro season in 2005 despite missing a few games. The former Marshall quarterback threw for 15 touchdowns while having just five passes intercepted, going a long ways toward constructing a career-high 89.3 passer rating. He was 23 of 36 for 319 yards and two scores this preseason.
- Jacksonville scored 90 points this preseason, fourth-most among AFC teams. Against Miami in the preseason opener, the Jaguars scored four touchdowns on receptions of 50 yards or more, a club record.
- In their 11 seasons, the Jaguars hold a 22-18 record in the month of September. They are 13-7 at home in the month and have won five of their last six games in the opening month.
- In games at home against NFC teams the Jaguars are 17-4 and 6-0 under head coach Jack Del Rio. They have won five of their last six games against the National Conference, and started last season with a home win against eventual NFC champ Seattle.
While Smith's retirement hurts, the Jaguars hope to have plenty of playmakers at receiver to make up for the loss. Matt Jones and Reggie Williams were first-round picks, while Ernest Wilford showed consistency last season, replacing Williams as the starter opposite Smith. The real test will be whether Leftwich can find a new safety blanket to replace his favorite target. Losing bruising running back Greg Jones to an ACL injury during the preseason hurts as well since starter Fred Taylor has never been the most durable of backs. But rookie second-rounder Maurice Jones-Drew has shown flashes of brilliance during the preseason.
Jones-Drew led the Jags with 355 all-purpose yards during the preseason with 28 carries for 130 yards and four receptions for 72 yards. He opened the preseason with a 55-yard TD catch against Miami. Defensively the Jaguars ranked sixth in the NFL last year and didn't lose much, save linebacker Akin Ayodele's defection to Dallas in free agency. The team won with efficiency, throwing an NFL-low six interceptions.
- Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio - Spent three seasons playing linebacker for the Cowboys, 1989-91. Del Rio was a starter during those years, first at strong-side linebacker and then in the middle. Del Rio led the Cowboys during the 1991 season with 130 tackles.
- Jaguars assistant head coach/secondary Dave Campo - Spent 14 seasons with the Cowboys, arriving with Jimmy Johnson in 1989 and winning three Super Bowls as an assistant coach. Was named defensive coordinator in 1995 and oversaw a defense ranked in the NFL's top 10 in four of his five years leading the unit. Campo had three lackluster 5-11 seasons after being named head coach in 2000.
- Cowboys linebacker Akin Ayodele - Jacksonville's third-round pick in the 2002 draft, Ayodele played in all 64 games for the Jaguars over his four seasons with the team, starting 47. He 489 tackles, 8.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and three interceptions.
- Jaguars defensive end Marcellus Wiley - Played one season in Dallas, starting at defensive end in 2004 opposite Greg Ellis. After recording just three sacks, Wiley was released and signed with the Jaguars last season, when he started just one of 11 games played and did not have a sack for the first time since his rookie season in 1997.
- Jaguars tight end coach Alfredo Roberts - Played three seasons with the Cowboys from 1991-93, earning two Super Bowl rings as a blocking tight end. Roberts enters his fourth season coaching the Jaguars' tight ends.
- Cowboys assistant head coach/offensive line/running game coordinator Tony Sparano - Spent the 2002 season coaching the Jaguars' tight ends.
- Cowboys running backs coach Anthony Lynn - Coached Jacksonville's running backs in 2003 and 2004, helping Jaguars running back Fred Taylor record two of the top four single-season rushing performances in franchise history, including a 1,572-yard season in 2003.
- Cowboys quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer - Served as Jacksonville's offensive coordinator in 1997 and 1998, helping the team reach the playoffs twice and a pair of top 10 rankings among NFL offenses.
Dallas holds a 2-1 edge over Jacksonville in regular-season play, though all three meetings were at Texas Stadium . . . The teams last played in 2002, with the Cowboys winning 21-19 on the strength of two Chad Hutchinson TD passes to Joey Galloway . . . If Dallas wins, it will overtake Jacksonville for the league's best winning percentage on the opening weekend.