FRISCO Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones readily acknowledges his team will open the season facing uncertainty and unanswered questions regarding its defense and a rookie quarterback Sunday against the New York Giants.
Jones, however, is excited about the start of the season, because he believes fourth-round pick Dak Prescott, who will start in place of the injured Tony Romo, is better than everyone thought he was.
Jones feels the same about a Cowboys’ defense that is opening the season without three suspended starters in defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence and middle linebacker Rolando McClain.
“Of course, I’m excited,” Jones said Thursday. “We’ve got a lot of unanswered questions. especially when you look at starting a rookie quarterback. I think we certainly understand that we’ve got to play above expectation on our defense. I think we can. And we’ve got to play to expectation on offense. And then know what our expectations are on our quarterback being a rookie. I think that’s been tempered appropriately, and hopefully he’ll come in and be above expectation.”
Jones said he’s seen enough from Prescott in the preseason that he expects the Cowboys “to play winning football with him as quarterback. I think we’ll win football games with him.
“This is quite a challenge, and make no mistake about it, this is a real challenge. But on the other hand, there is a lot of me that has a good feeling and has real positive expectations.”
Jones said Prescott’s play and development has been a huge surprise to him, so much so that it has eased the disappointment of Romo’s fractured back.
The Cowboys not only found a way to save money under the salary cap by restructuring the contracts of tight end Jason Witten and Orlando Scandrick, but they saved some real cash as well.
Scandrick had $4 million of his $5 million base salary turned into a bonus to create $3 million in cap room. Witten had $5.5 million of his $6.5 million base salary turned into bonus, creating $2.75 million in cap room.
The bonuses were prorated over the 16-game season, so neither player will see a change in their weekly check, according to a source.
Jones flying high
Jones revealed his newest toy at The Star on Thursday afternoon, touching down in a customized Airbus H145 helicopter.
“To me, it kind of says a little bit of the glitz, the glamor, if you will, of the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said.
The tail wing has the Cowboys’ trademark star and it will serve as Jones’ go-to business transportation from his home in Highland Park to The Star, as well as at AT&T Stadium. It’s a 13-minute trip from The Star to AT&T Stadium, and an 8-minute trip from Jones’ home to The Star.
The helicopter can seat eight-to-10 passengers, and is among the quietest helicopter in production.
“If we can just figure out a way to help us make some first downs,” Jones said, laughing. “It is state of the art. We’re excited about it.”
AirBus Helicopters are manufactured in Grand Prairie.
Romo (back), along with linebacker Mark Nzeocha (Achilles), and defensive end Charles Tapper (back) did not practice. Guard Ronald Leary (groin) was limited. In New York, defensive tackle Robert Thomas (illness) did not practice. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas (ribs) and safety Darian Thompson (shoulder) was limited.
Staff writer Drew Davison contributed to this report.