Now Introducing . . . The 3-4

and they're not very big when 330-pound guards come pulling at you. 

How do they hold up? 

"You have to emphasize fundamentals, and when you have that down the athletic ability takes over," says Carl Banks, the former outside linebacker in the 3-4 with the Giants during Bill's days. "Just got to build sound fundamentals." 

That's it? Then even some 240-pound outside linebacker can hold up against the run? 

"Footwork," Banks said. "How you set up, how you move. You play that position from the head up and below the waist." 

That, though, must be what Parcells worries about. He knows Demarcus Ware's head must be spinning from all he's trying to grasp making this transition from a down end in a 4-3 to a standup, outside linebacker in a 3-4. 

Physically, he can do this. We've seen evidence in practice. But once the lights come on, will he remember what he's supposed to do and when he's supposed to do it? He needs to recognize when to rush and when to drop into coverage. He needs to know if he's rushing or the end on the opposite side is going. He needs to read which guy is his, the running back or the tight end, in coverage. 

And oh yeah, he still wants to get to the quarterback, too. 

That is why Parcells and Zimmer harp on not making mental mistakes. In fact, Parcells went on and on Thursday here before the team's final full practice for Saturday's game - there's a short walk-through on Friday - about how mental mistakes on defense will sabotage all your efforts. Even if it's one. 

That also is why Parcells said he instructed his assistants to keep the schemes simple for Saturday, so that the mental aspect of the game will not bog down a guy's athletic ability. Because too much thinking will put a lock-down governor on aggression. 

"I'd be watching to see if they are playing aggressive," Banks said when asked what he would be watching for out of the defense lining up in the 3-4 the majority of snaps for the first time Saturday night. "The nature of this defense is to play aggressively. 

"Sometimes in a 3-4, there are good mistakes. I remember my first game, and my mistake caused a fumble in Atlanta because I rushed when I was supposed to cover." 

Parcells imparted the same story earlier in camp about Lawrence Taylor making the same mistake his rookie year with the same result. 

So here the Cowboys go, embarking possibly on a philosophical change that will effect the organization for years to come if they successfully make this transition to the 3-4. Because once you go 3-4, and you start acquiring all these pieces to the puzzle, you don't just go back to the 4-3 two years later. 

Key will be how well guys such as Greg Ellis, La'Roi Glover and Dat Nguyen play. We might get a real good look at Glover playing the nose since Jason Ferguson could be limited or sidelined with that ankle sprain. We should get a good look at Ellis at right defensive end, and of Chris Canty, too. And we'll see just how well the crafty Nguyen holds up in the middle of all this. 

And with Marcus Spears out at least another couple of weeks, Kenyon Coleman will get his chance at left defensive end to make his mark. 

For my money Saturday night, I'll be keeping an eye on the front seven, and then how Roy Williams' presence closer to the box accentuates the team's ability to stop the run. I'll be watching individuals to see if they are winning battles. 

Just remember, this is the first dress rehearsal of the 3-4. Don't expect some Patriots product to suddenly appear. Just watch the guys. 

Anxious? 

You bet. So is the head coach. 

"Yeah, sure," Parcells admitted. We've had 164 scrimmage plays before the first game. I'm just trying to get 'em ready to do something." 

And I'm guessing for him, something more than just making history.     

MICK SHOTS

 
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