As far as homecomings go, you couldn’t have scripted Sunday’s game with the Kansas City Chiefs better for Dallas Cowboys guard Brian Waters.
He spent the first 11 years of his career with Kansas City before playing one season in New England and sitting out last season all together.
After a lengthy contract negotiation, Waters finally came to terms with the Cowboys on Sept. 3 to return to the game he loves.
It was not enough time for him to play in Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants but, fittingly, Waters seems on track to make his return this Sunday against his former team in Kansas City.
The Cowboys have not made a final decision on his status, although Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said, “I think he will get a significant amount of playing time” against the Chiefs. He has gotten snaps with the first team in practice this week and could play in a rotation with Mackenzy Bernadeau.
The 13-year veteran said he wants no part of the homecoming angle.
“I played 11 years there,” Waters said. “I’m going to always have great affection for that area, for Kansas City, Arrrowhead Stadium, for that organization. But I’m a pro. My job is to be prepared for those guys and represent the Cowboys as best as possible. I don’t want to make it about it. It’s not about me. It’s been a few years since I have been there. The familiarity with the guys is not as much.”
The story might not be about Waters, but it will be about the offensive line that Waters was brought in to strengthen.
The Chiefs have an athletic and aggressive 3-4 front led by emerging nose guard Dontari Poe, ends Tamba Hali and Tyson Jackson and rush linebacker Justin Houston.
In a 28-2 victory over Jacksonville, the Chiefs held the Jaguars to 178 total yards on 70 plays, and registered six sacks and two interceptions.
“They have some athletic guys up front,” Waters said. “This is one of the most underrated groups in the NFL. Coming off a two-win season a lot of people are not going to give them a lot of respect, but they have two or three Pro Bowlers in the group, and the Poe kid is coming on big time.
“Tyson Jackson has really turned the corner and the guys on the outside, Tamba and Justin Houston, are as good as they get, especially as pass rushers.”
By all accounts, the Cowboys’ offensive line did a good job of protecting quarterback Tony Romo and opening holes for running back DeMarco Murray against the Giants.
They did it without Waters and after an injury-riddled preseason that prevented them from getting any chemistry, as well as with two first-year starters in the lineup in left guard Ron Leary and rookie center Travis Frederick.
However, coach Jason Garrett said the line must be at its best against the Chiefs.
“I just think they play well on defense,” Garrett said. “A variety of looks. On base defense, they played fairly straight, but when you get into third-down defense there are a lot of looks that you see, and it’s hard to recognize it all and get it all blocked up the way you want to block it up. It certainly challenges you in a lot of different ways.”
It’s likely no one will be challenged more than Frederick, who must not only make all the line calls in his first road game in one of the loudest stadiums in the league, but he will have to deal with the massive, 6-foot-3, 346-pound Poe lined up in front of him.
Poe had six tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, two quarterbacks hits and batted down a pass against Jacksonville. He had only 38 tackles and no sacks as a rookie first-round pick last season.
“It’s a good matchup,” Garrett said. “Poe is a very good player. We studied him a lot coming out of school. He’s a big, explosive guy, a very good athlete for his size. When he plays hard, plays the right way, he can be disruptive in there. But we like what Travis has done so far for us.”
Frederick said he is ready for Poe and the crowd at Arrowhead Stadium.
“He is not just a one-type guy who is going to push into you,” Frederick said. “He is quick.
“It’s going to be louder than places I have been before. It’s about us working together and making sure we have our calls down.”
Having the experienced Waters, who knows the Chiefs crowd well, next to him for at least some of the time Sunday will help.