No Running Wild

Don't bet on the latter, though, but Parcells did say he's done this before and won't hesitate to switch back if he's doesn't feel his team has properly adjusted.  

Fine, that regular-season meeting between the Cowboys and Cardinals is down the road. But as for right now, we know Arizona probably doesn't have the strongest running attack in the league. Even with Smith last year, the Cardinals ranked 22nd running the ball. 

Depending on how you look at this, Saturday night could be a good test for the Cowboys, in terms of gauging the progress of the 3-4.  

Sure, the Cardinals might not have an elite running back just yet, and even though the Cowboys will be without projected starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson and rookie defensive end Marcus Spears, we still should be able to find out just where this team's run defense is a month before the season opener. 

Because if the Cowboys give up a bunch of big runs and fail to get the Cardinals off the field, this could be a telling sign of what's to come. 

Gauging one way or the other will be difficult without Ferguson and Spears on the field. If Arizona runs well, Parcells won't be happy, but he'll be smart enough to point out the absence of his nose tackle and his rookie defensive end, who was penciled in as the starting left end before missing the first day of training camp still trying to get a contract signed. And Spears still hadn't overtaken Kenyon Coleman by the time he suffered the sprained knee and high ankle that likely will sideline him for another 2-3 weeks.  

Then again, if the Cowboys do stop the run, and even generate a pass rush, they could become giddy, knowing two of their top defenders didn't even play. 

That's what preseason and training camp is all about. Every team has optimism this time of year ,and one game, especially the first game, shouldn't spoil anyone's hope. And that's a good thing for the Cowboys, especially under Parcells. During the last two preseason openers, the Cowboys have failed to even score a point, getting shut out 13-0 by the Cardinals in 2003 and then 18-0 in Houston last year.  

Parcells certainly would like to win the game, and wouldn't mind scoring a few points this time, but getting his defense on track has to be his top priority. In fact, following Friday's walk-through in Oxnard, Calif., Parcells said other than the free safety position, he's worried the most about his outside linebackers.  

"We've got some good athletes there, but we're so young," Parcells said, likely referring to first-round pick Demarcus Ware, who will start on the right side.  

Behind Ware is second-year linebacker Kalen Thornton, a converted defensive end from college who fits this 3-4 scheme, but is also inexperienced. On the other side, the Cowboys are starting Al Singleton, who just seems to be undersized (6-2, 236) to play the position. Now he's the most experienced of all the linebackers, heading his ninth season. 

But you just get the sense the Cowboys aren't real comfortable with Singleton trying to rush the quarterback in the 3-4. Behind him is rookie Kevin Burnett, a second-round pick from Tennessee. And even Parcells admitted this week Burnett might end up being more of an inside linebacker, although he plans to keep him on the outside at least this season.  

And size isn't even the biggest dilemma for the linebackers right now.  

Parcells said switching to the 3-4 is tougher on the linebackers, who must be more aware of formations and offensive wrinkles. And apparently it showed in the scrimmage last week, Parcells saying the linebackers had numerous mental mistakes.  

Now this secondary is supposed to be improved with the additions of Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn for depth at cornerback. And if Keith Davis, who will start Saturday night, can play free safety, we all think Roy Williams is going to be better then playing at strong safety.  

But even if the secondary is better, don't expect it to hold up this defense if the front seven falls flat.  

So that's why Saturday's game against the Cardinals will indeed be a surefire test for this defense.  

Will the Cowboys face better running games than this season? Definitely, especially since Shipp

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