With Jenkins better, Cowboys appear to have turned a corner

IRVING -- Mike Jenkins made the Dallas Cowboys feel a lot better Thursday.

He practiced and "did pretty good," secondary coach Dave Campo said.

Which is far different than the day before, when the cornerback suffered a knee injury in practice that threatened to leave the Cowboys with only three healthy cornerbacks heading into the season opener against the New York Jets.

"He did pretty good today, so I feel pretty good about it," Campo said. "We'll see what happens. But we could be at full strength."

Terence Newman missed practice again Thursday and has been ruled out of Sunday night's game by owner Jerry Jones.

A fourth cornerback will make a big difference against the Jets' bombs-away offense, and Jenkins looks more and more likely to play.

"I'm good," he said. "It was just football, a little injury. I got it checked out. I'm ready to move on. I'm good to go."

If Jenkins is ready, he and Orlando Scandrick will be the starting cornerbacks on the outside, with Scandrick moving to a slot corner against three receivers and Alan Ball going to an outside corner.

Without Jenkins, who also has nursed a shoulder stinger, the Cowboys likely would have paired Ball with Scandrick on the outside and used Bryan McCann in the slot against three receivers.

But going against four receivers without Jenkins? That could have been a problem, and still might be. The Jets can not only send out Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Derrick Mason, they might also use former TCU burner Jeremy Kerley to stretch the field.

"We've got to make sure we don't give up the shot," Campo said. "That's the biggest thing."

Even with a healthy Jenkins, the Cowboys will be asking a lot out of Ball, a fourth-year corner out of Illinois who spent last season as the starting free safety.

Ball lost his safety job, but the Cowboys think he's more comfortable at corner, where his 6-foot-2 size gives him a chance to match up against bigger receivers such as the 6-5 Burress.

"I'm really pleased with Alan," Campo said. "Here's a guy that was a corner, goes to safety, comes back to corner. He's been kind of a displaced guy. But he really gives you something. He's long, he can catch the ball, he can run. He's big for a corner."

Ball made his first two career interceptions last year, and he caused two fumbles.

"I definitely feel more comfortable," he said. "There's not a lot of thinking involved. You get a chance to get out there and play ball and react and play football."

Jones is convinced the Cowboys will make it through at cornerback until Jenkins and Newman are completely healthy. Newman suffered a groin injury in training camp five weeks ago and could return next week.

Scandrick became the Cowboys' best and healthiest option at corner. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan took a liking to Scandrick's toughness, and Jones committed to him with a contract extension.

"I think we've got to look at how Scandrick is playing this year, and certainly Ball has been really more than, let's say, Rob had expected," Jones said. "I know that firsthand from our personnel meetings. I'm proud that we've got those guys available to come in here."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

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