IRVING (AP) — While two preseason victories don’t guarantee success for the Dallas Cowboys in the regular season, winning certainly provides some justification for the high expectations they do have.
“We’ve always thought about the expectations and the things that we want to accomplish, but it manifests throughout the preseason,” linebacker Bradie James said Monday.
After a win over Super Bowl champion Indianapolis in the opener, the Cowboys won 31-20 over Denver on Saturday, when the starters built a 24-6 halftime lead with an effective offense and new coach Wade Phillips’ aggressive defense.
“The biggest thing for us is having our expectations higher and just believing we can win,” tight end Jason Witten said. “It is preseason, and you don’t want to get your expectations up too high and think you're better than you are, but I think that the transitions we had from game one to game two and seeing us get better, I think that shows a lot.”
The first-team offense with Tony Romo, a Pro Bowl quarterback while starting only half last season, went at least 13 plays for field goals on each of its only two drives in the opener. The starters were on the field for seven possessions against the Broncos, gaining 219 yards with three touchdowns and a field goal.
Dallas’ defensive starters haven't allowed a touchdown so far, and Denver’s first-team offense was 0-for-5 on third-down conversions.
“It’s a confidence builder,” James said.
“Our team looks pretty solid right now. I think everybody can see that,” Phillips said Monday. “We’re not weak in an area where we’re, ‘Gosh, our potential starter is not going to be good enough to play in the league.”
Dallas has to play twice on the road before the games really start to count Sept. 9, when the Cowboys play their regular season opener against NFC East rival the New York Giants. The Cowboys play their next preseason game Saturday night at Houston, when Phillips expects the starters to play into the third quarter.
The Cowboys made the playoffs last season, but lost in the opening round against Seattle to extend their postseason losing drought to 10 years.
Despite two playoff losses in four years under Bill Parcells, the former coach left a roster of talented players, primarily on defense that he switched to a 3-4 scheme. Phillips also runs three-man fronts, but with more of an attacking style the players love.
Then on offense, they have Romo, the running duo of Julius Jones and Marion Barber, NFL TD-reception leader Terrell Owens and a solid offensive line.
With all that, Phillips’ primary concern is getting his team ready for the start of the season, not trying to fill deficiencies on the roster.
“We don’t really have that. They could show up. Certainly, I could be misjudging some of it. I don’t think I am,” Phillips said. “It’s based on performance, not just based on what I think of the team. It’s based on what they’ve done so far, and I know the firsts against the other firsts have been limited, but we don’t look deficient.”