No Crystal In This Ball

quarterback on the rise, a content Terrell Owens, a Pro Bowl tight end, a running back itching to prove himself - again - and an offensive line of extreme proportions. 

Then there is this defense, with Ellis, returning 10 of 11 starters from last year and a defensive-minded head coach who seems pretty darn sure his system will cure what ailed the Cowboys down the stretch last year - and there was a lot of ailing going on considering they gave up 34 points a game in the final five last year. Just taking a more aggressive approach should help. 

And on top of all this, let's remember the Cowboys have six Pro Bowlers returning from last year, and every one of them is healthy. 

So confusing. 

This is a legitimate 11-5 team, maybe 12-4, with all hands on deck, although through the course of a season a whole bunch always get left below . . . with the exception of last year's Cowboys, which is why for many around here 9-7 and that first-round playoff loss were so hard to swallow. 

But these injuries. They cloud the crystal ball. 

Look, here is my deal. The Cowboys should be able to better push through the loss of Ellis. Hey, thought that is why they drafted Anthony Spencer? Ellis' loss actually hurt more against the run when you really look at last year than it did against the pass. 

Now, don't like the fact of Glenn being in limbo. Two weeks, OK, that's a doable absence. But longer? The Cowboys need his speed to keep teams from jamming the line of scrimmage, but Jones insists the flexibility of Jason Garrett's offense make adjusting with other players less difficult and less debilitating. 

What I don't like one bit is Newman being in limbo, too, possibly having to play this guessing game for the entire season. Now something tells me he plays on Sunday. He was moving really well during his rehab session on Thursday. Something tells me he plays the following Sunday, too. 

How well, though, because this injury likely will just linger? Well enough for the Cowboys to play their defensive scheme. He might have to go through a season as Deion Sanders did that year his toe became problematic. Very little if any practice during the week but play on Sunday. Punt returns probably are out for Newman, though. 

Ideal, absolutely not. But at least we're not talking the quarterback here. At least we're not talking the wide receiver who led the league with 13 touchdown catches last year. At least we're not talking the first guy to register double-digit sacks since the Tony Tolbert had 12 in 1996. At least we're not talking about the tight end who has grabbed at least 60 catches in each of the past three seasons. At least it's not the Pro Bowl left tackle or center, or the guard paid $16 million to sign in the off-season. 

See what I'm saying? This team still has weapons, and as Jones says, and knows must be the case, "At the end of the day I hope we have a team that can withstand injuries." 

That's your hope, too, and since it does seem senseless to pick a record based solely on who might not play in the first game, not knowing if they are done for the season or not, then telling you this team will go 10-6 this year would also make that my hope, too. 

Hey, it is what it is, right coach?   

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