There's no shortage of story lines with the Dallas Cowboys this season.
For starters, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett turned down other head coaching opportunities, and is pretty much guaranteed to replace Wade Phillips in the near future.
Meanwhile, the team won 13 games last year, but hasn't been victorious in the playoffs in 12 seasons.
As if the team didn't have enough characters, it added Adam "Pacman" Jones in the offseason.
And of course, there's always T.O., Tony Romo and Jerry Jones.
Thankfully, we get to watch all the subplots unfold since they are being documented on HBO's Hard Knocks.
To get a better idea of what to expect from the Cowboys this season, we'll continue our "Five questions" team previews today. The answer-man gracious enough to help us out is Tim MacMahon of The Dallas Morning News.
Q: How is Wade Phillips handling the return of Jason Garrett? What are the chances that Garrett takes over if the Cowboys don’t meet expectations?
A: Phillips is publicly handling the situation well, as is Jerry Jones. During the welcome-to-training-camp press conference, Jerry sat next to Wade at the ridiculously oversized podium in Oxnard, Calif. and gushed about the head coach. Jerry also made points to mention that Phillips lobbied to keep Jason Garrett and that the move was made, first and foremost, with this season in mind. Believe the latter at your own risk. Garrett is the Cowboys’ next head coach; it’s just a matter of when. It’d be a safe bet that it would happen after this season if the Cowboys don’t at least advance to the NFC championship game.
Q: What kind of contributions do you anticipate from first-round picks Mike Jenkins and Felix Jones?
A: Jenkins will play left corner in the nickel and dime packages, when Anthony Henry moves inside to replace Roy Williams and Terence Newman shifts to the slot. With Newman locked up to a long-term deal, Jenkins probably won’t start for several years, if Adam “Pacman” Jones stays out of trouble. Felix Jones will probably get between 10-15 touches per game on offense and might return kicks, too. He’ll be a change of pace for Marion Barber, and they’ll be on the field together some, too. Jones brings a big-play element to the Cowboys’ backfield. The coaches are excited about his receiving ability, although Arkansas didn’t throw the ball very effectively. He’ll line up in the slot sometimes and motion out of the backfield. They’ll try to get him the ball in space a bunch, where he can put his impressive burst and elusiveness to use.
Q: How has the Adam Jones situation played out in training camp? Is he eligible to play this season? What kind of role will he have if reinstated?
A: Pacman hasn’t run into any problems since the Cowboys traded for him on draft weekend. He’s fit in well on a team full of characters, and his battles with Philly favorite Terrell Owens have been a ton of fun to watch at training camp. He’s partially reinstated right now -- meaning he can practice and play in preseason games -- and it’d be surprising if he isn’t cleared for the season opener in Cleveland if he continues to keep his nose clean. He’ll play right corner in the nickel and dime packages and might push Anthony Henry for a starting job as the season progresses. He’ll return punts and is a kick return candidate, too.
Q: What is the team’s biggest strength and weakness going into the 2008 season?
A: The biggest strength is an amazing abundance of talent. This team had 13 Pro Bowlers last season and added seven-time Pro Bowl LB Zach Thomas, Pacman and two first-round picks. They’re loaded. Their biggest weakness is the fact that this franchise hasn’t won a playoff game in 12 years, and this team has faded down the stretch the last two seasons. The Cowboys can’t really prove anything until the winter.
Q: When did the HBO film crews start taping for Hard Knocks? What do you expect the major story lines of the series to be?
A: The NFL Films crews have been filming for Hard Knocks for a while. Matter of fact, a cameraman was the first guy to get off the team’s charter plane when it arrived in Oxnard. Not sure what the major storylines will be, but count on FB Deon “Cricket” Anderson getting some airtime. That dude is a character.
Click here for the Giants five-questions team preview.