By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
IRVING -- And on the third Sunday of the season, the Cowboys rested.
If Bill Parcells ruled the world that is the NFL, it probably wouldn't have worked out this way.
It's called a bye. And the Cowboys (1-1) are one of four teams sitting at home watching football this weekend.
Three weeks into the season, especially after two up-and-down performances, is never a good time to take time off.
"I'd rather be playing," Parcells said. "But it's a little deceptive, because if it's a 23-week season [including the preseason], you have to understand that we're already eight weeks into the season.
"So we're one-third into it from a time standpoint. Probably another month would be about midseason and [an off-week] might be a little bit more beneficial. Somewhere around mid-October to November 7, if you're asking me what I like. Most coaches would say, 'Hey, that's where we'd like it.'"
Parcells doesn't like having a bye now because it prevents the Cowboys from getting into a groove. Two games into a season, they are still developing an identity and trying to find out who they are.
"I think it's the same thing a team teaches itself, what it is, and it takes awhile to do that," Parcells said. "I don't think you can look at your season from that perspective this early. If you get nine or eight games down there and you're not doing anything, then you have a right to be worried."
The early bye means the Cowboys have to play 14 consecutive weeks until the end of the season, leaving no time to heal injuries or recharge for a possible playoff run.
The long haul
The Cowboys feel good about their postseason chances because of the way they bounced back from the season-opening loss to Jacksonville with a victory against Washington last Sunday.
"I'm sure if we had been 0-2 here, the town would have been draped in black and the hearses would have been out," Parcells said.
If there is any positive to having the bye at this time it's that receiver Terrell Owens, who underwent surgery Monday to repair a fractured bone in his right hand, might not miss any games.
Owens had a plate and three screws inserted into his hand. He began doing conditioning work Thursday, and the Cowboys are not ruling him out of next Sunday's game at Tennessee. Owens said Friday that he'll "be ready" to play at Philadelphia on Oct. 8.
Given how big a role he has in the offense, the Cowboys need him on the field as soon as possible. Owens is still developing a rapport with quarterback Drew Bledsoe after missing 21 practices and three preseason games because of a strained groin, but his impact has been felt.
With teams doubling Owens, speedy receiver Terry Glenn has proved to be a tough cover one-on-one. Glenn leads the Cowboys with 10 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown. Three catches have been for 20 or more yards, including receptions of 40 and 51 yards.
Running back Julius Jones' strong effort against the Redskins can partly be attributed to Owens. Jones rushed 20 times for 94 yards against a Redskins defense that proved to be more concerned with doubling Owens and preventing the big play downfield than loading up against the run.
"It wasn't exclusively that way, because they do blitz a lot and they pressure," Parcells said. "But they obviously were a little concerned with both receivers."
Owens' injury history is also a concern. He has not played a full season since 2001. Considering his age and the hamstring injury in the preseason, there's concern whether the fractured bone in his hand is a fluke or the continuation of T.O. injury drama.
Lining up answers
The Cowboys' offensive line continues to be a work in progress. It might not be as bad as some thought it would be, but no one is comparing this unit to the Pro Bowl-filled group of the 1990s.
Aside from left tackle Flozell Adams' struggles in the season opener, the line has pretty much held its own the first two games.
Tests certainly remain.
While the Cowboys believe Adams will return to his Pro Bowl form, they are very excited about the early play of left guard Kyle Kosier and center Andre Gurode.
Kosier might not be the second coming of Larry Allen, but he has been solid. Gurode is simply playing the best football of his career, and right tackle Marc Colombo hasn't performed poorly.
Defensively, the Cowboys have not looked like an updated version of Doomsday. The poor play of cornerbacks Terence Newman, Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn in the season opener was shocking. But the Cowboys aren't concerned about the three, who could be among the league's best.
The Cowboys are excited about what they have seen so far from the front seven.
Greg Ellis' transition from defensive end to linebacker has been so smooth that there is talk that he might make a run at the Pro Bowl. He has simply been a terror off the edge. But what Parcells likes the most is that several players are getting in on the act. Six players have sacks, led by Jay Ratliff with two. Ellis has 1 1/2 . Kenyon Coleman, Marcus Spears and DeMarcus Ware have one. Jason Hatcher has 1/2 .
The scary part is that fans haven't yet seen the best from Ware.
More work to be done
The first two games have not been all positive. The Cowboys need more takeaways and they allowed a 100-yard kickoff return to Redskins running back Rock Cartwright.
Parcells must also decide who will handle kickoff duties. He prefers to take one kicker to the game, namely Mike Vanderjagt and his $2.5 million signing bonus. But Vanderjagt's kickoffs are so short that it could cost the Cowboys 12 to 14 yards in field position per kick. Parcells knows that's unacceptable. But will he be too stubborn to take two kickers to every game?
Another area Parcells addressed during the bye week is the team's penchant for penalties. The Cowboys have committed 18 this season and lead the league in penalty yards with 183. It's a situation that must be corrected, because the Cowboys are not good enough to overcome that many mistakes each game.
But that's what byes are for.
The last two times the Cowboys had a bye in Week 3, in 1999 and 2003, they made the playoffs.