Despite 0-2 start, Jones not ready to push panic button

Tuesday, September 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

IRVING – Owner Jerry Jones said Monday that he refuses to panic just because the Cowboys are 0-2.

Parity, he said, means the Cowboys still have time to correct their problems and challenge for a playoff spot.

"Teams are going to be knocking each other off because of the parity," he said. "At the end of the season, when you look back at your schedule, any win is going to be a big win, if you get it.

"I don't see any team that doesn't have an Achilles' heel," Jones said. "They are vulnerable in any given game. Now more than ever, 0-2 doesn't mean you don't have a chance to be in the hunt."

Recent history suggests otherwise.

Of the eight teams that started last season 0-2, none made the playoffs and five lost at least 10 games.

Dallas, one of seven teams that are 0-2, must play NFC East favorite Washington on the road Monday night. Dallas has lost nine consecutive road games.

Still, Jones said he has confidence the Cowboys' leaders will help avert a disastrous season.

"We have quality players and top performers," Jones said. "They're going to keep the young players focused on improving and reaching our goal of getting into the playoffs."

Jones said he hasn't given coach Dave Campo any pep talks because they're too busy trying to fix their flaws.

Making improvements

The Cowboys' run defense has struggled the first two weeks of the season.

It will have to improve without middle linebacker Dat Nguyen, who will miss 2-4 weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Nguyen said Monday that he was injured on a play away from the ball, when an Arizona player hit him low from behind.

"Dat played well. He was around the ball quite a bit. It's definitely a loss for us," Campo said. "Hopefully, it will be a short two weeks."

Nguyen, who finished with five tackles, still held out hope that he could play this week but the Cowboys don't want him to have long-term damage by trying to rush back onto the field.

The Cowboys, who allowed 306 yards rushing in Week 1, limited the Cardinals to 98 yards on 33 carries, a 3.0 average. Thomas Jones led the Cardinals with 23 carries for 70 yards and a long of nine.

"We put a lot of emphasis on the run defense this week and we got better," Campo said. "Are the Cardinals as good a running team as Philadelphia? Probably not, but at the same time we made progress."

Westbrook done for year

Washington receiver Michael Westbrook sustained a torn knee ligament in his left knee on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season.

Westbrook had four catches for 50 yards in the Redskins' 15-10 loss to Detroit. Irving Fryar, a 17-year veteran, is expected to replace him in the starting lineup.

"He's a big part of the offense and, in my opinion, one of the better receivers in the league," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "He's grown each and every year. He had a great training camp and we thought he was going to have a big year this season and now it's not going to happen."

Player tryouts

The Cowboys worked out safety Earl Riley and defensive tackle Ron Moore on Monday afternoon. Both are rookie free agents.

Riley went to training camp with Kansas City and Moore went to training camp with Green Bay.

The Cowboys are expected to sign Moore to the practice squad on Tuesday.