Hyperextended knees were like the plague at the Dallas Cowboys’ Wednesday practice. Right tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Mike Jenkins, both starters, were helped off the practice field at Valley Ranch just three days before the Cowboys travel to New York to take on the Jets in the 9-11 Special. That means the Cowboys could be without both starting cornerbacks for the opener. That’s not even the worst part; Dallas could be starting three first-time starters on the offensive line against the Jets.
First-round draft pick Smith is a rookie, but the Cowboys are confident in him to start at right tackle right out of the gate. If he’s unable to go in Week 1, second-year pro Jeremy Parnell would get the start at right tackle.
That’s scary for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who already has a rookie at left guard in Bill Nagy and a first-time starter at center in Phil Costa. If Parnell is forced into a starting role at right tackle, Romo could be in for a long day against a tough Jets defense.
New York’s passing attack isn’t an aerial onslaught, but going against two backup corners will make things easier for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. With Dallas cornerback Terence Newman already ruled out of the contest with a groin injury, Alan Ball and Orlando Scandrick could be the Cowboys’ starting corners for Week 1.
That means Dallas will rely heavily on safeties Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam to make absolutely sure Jets receivers Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes don’t get open deep. That also means more playing time for second-year corner Bryan McCann and second-year safeties Barry Church and Danny McCray.
It really all depends on Sanchez. He’s extremely inconsistent, but is very good when he’s hot. If he gets in a rhythm on Sunday, it could be a long day for the Cowboys’ defense. It will be vital that Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan gets his pass rush to put pressure on Sanchez to keep the New York passer off balance. With all the 9-11 festivities, Rob Ryan vs. Rex Ryan and their cancer-plagued father, Sunday is sure to be at least entertaining.