Young depth gives Cowboys confidence
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The next two months should be fun for these Dallas Cowboys.
They have run off three consecutive victories to move into a first-place tie with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
Dallas' 38-17 trashing of Seattle on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium was another reminder that this team has the potential to be pretty good with nine games remaining in the season.
And when you speak with the players in the locker room, they're not overlooking anybody. Nobody is worried about the Eagles and what they did to the New York Giants on Sunday. Nobody is worried about what happened in Green Bay with the Packers and Vikings.
Nobody is worried about anybody else in the NFC.
"The thing with this success is that we just have to be even harder on each other, expect even more out of each other," nose tackle Jay Ratliff said. "With each win comes great expectations. We're not just talking about from the outside; we're talking about in our own locker room, from ourselves."
What gives the Cowboys so much confidence is their depth.
Backup running back Felix Jones, who missed the last 10 weeks of the 2008 season with toe and hamstring injuries, is healthy now. His 30-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter ended when he jumped into the air and shoved cornerback Ken Lucas into the ground with one arm.
For the day, Jones touched the ball 12 times for 114 yards.
"I think obviously he's capable of giving us some explosive plays. Those are some of the things we didn't have toward the end of the season last year," running backs coach Skip Peete said. "We have the option to go to him for a spark."
Starter Marion Barber rushed 14 times for 53 yards, but Jones started the second half and averaged 4.9 yards per carry when the day was over.
At wide receiver, Miles Austin has caught 21 passes for 482 yards and five touchdowns in the past three weeks. Patrick Crayton, who lost his job to Austin, has returned two punts for scores the past two weeks. Crayton has maintained a positive attitude, and it has showed on the field with his play.
Jerry Jones was raving about another unknown wideout in Kevin Ogletree, who caught a 19-yard pass in the second half. Jones talked about Ogletree's burst as something the team needs to use to its advantage.
On defense, the Cowboys use a defensive line rotation that will see Jason Hatcher, Junior Siavii and Stephen Bowen (one pass breakup) make impact plays. Hatcher knocked down Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and Siavii continues to impress the defensive coaches.
The Cowboys also know if something happens to one of their starting corners, Orlando Scandrick, in his second season, can fill in.
"[You've] got to play these guys to see it," Jones said. "All these players are getting to play, getting reps. Not only are they a part of this win; they are getting ready for whatever is ahead of us down the road."
Calvin Watkins covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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