IRVING, Texas – Wade Phillips has watched the tape and wonders what all the fuss is about.
He realizes the Dallas Cowboys aren't scoring touchdowns because of problems running, throwing or both. And the defense he coordinates was quite unimpressive in the latest game, a loss at Houston.
But Phillips maintained Monday that things aren't as bad as they seem. He acknowledged "some mistakes on just our base stuff and that bothered me," yet insisted the bigger obstacle for Dallas is that opponents are digging deeper into their playbooks than he's willing to do for games that don't count.
"I thought the last two games we pretty much had the short stick by what we did offensively and defensively," he said. "When they put four and five (receivers) out there and you don't come after them, they've got a big advantage."
Phillips said that during the Houston game, he told coaches he realized there were certain plays they should be running at certain times — he just didn't want to until the regular season.
"That's what we believe in," he said, "and I still believe in that."
He also believes players need to show a certain proficiency to build confidence for the opener, which is why he's considering using his starters in the final preseason game Thursday night, at home against Miami. He threw that out as a possibility after the Houston game and said Monday it is still up for debate.
Phillips hasn't used starters in the finale his three previous seasons with Dallas. So even considering it indicates at least some displeasure in how the preseason has gone.
"We didn't play (the Texans) like we were ready for the regular season," Phillips said. "That doesn't mean we won't be ready in two weeks."
A mitigating factor in Phillips' decision could be what Miami plans to do.
If the Dolphins play backups, the Cowboys would be in a no-win situation. Success would be dimmed by the caliber of competition; failure would be magnified.
Phillips further downplayed the importance of preseason results by noting the Colts are usually terrible in the preseason and terrific in the regular season. He also described the mind-set in Buffalo when he was defensive coordinator.
"Marv Levy didn't want to play anybody anytime in the preseason," Phillips said. "He would say, 'We're going to play them a half,' and then after the first series he would say, 'Are we going to get them out of there?'"
Dallas didn't practice Monday, giving players consecutive days off the field as they begin moving toward regular-season mode. They'll practice in pads Tuesday, then be off Wednesday. Thus, there's little time to really emphasize much.
The running game needs the most work.
Part of the problem for Marion Barber (23 yards, 12 carries) and Felix Jones (21 yards, nine carries) is running behind a line missing two starters with injuries. Phillips also brought up play-calling again.
"We've got a lot of plays we haven't used," he said. "I mean, our base plays, our strongest plays from last year, we probably haven't run as much."
Rookie receiver Dez Bryant, linebacker Keith Brooking, defensive end Marcus Spears and safety Gerald Sensabaugh have been cleared to practice but may not play Thursday. They're expected to be ready for the opener Sept. 12 at Washington.
Right tackle Marc Colombo is expected to practice next week and could play against the Redskins.
The prognosis isn't clear for left tackle Kyle Kosier. He's about two weeks into a recovery from a sprained knee ligament that's supposed to take 4 to 6 weeks.
"He's going to start some of his rehab this week and we'll see where he is," Phillips said.
The Cowboys released receiver Terrell Hudgins and tight end Scott Sicko, both rookie free agents. They're also going to cut safety Pat Watkins; tight end Martellus Bennett already tweeted it.
Bryant, meanwhile, tweeted that he'll be playing Thursday, even though Phillips said no decision has been made.
What do you think of all the locker-room news coming out via Twitter, (at)sonofbum?
"I've got to follow more people," he said.