In just three years the Texans have developed quite a history with the Dallas Cowboys. The two teams have seen each other four times – two scrimmages, one preseason game and one inaugural victory.
The rivalry rekindles Saturday night at Reliant Stadium in the first 2004 preseason game for both teams.
While it means nothing on paper, the Texas Showdown has become a highlight for the entire NFL preseason.
"I don't think you have to mention it to these guys in terms of playing the Cowboys," Texans head coach Dom Capers said. "That's always special, but yet we know it's our first preseason game and we've got a lot to get accomplished in the first preseason game. There's no question in my mind our guys will go out and play hard. I think every time they go out there they play hard. They know there will be a lot of excitement. They know the fans will be in the game. Our guys will feed off that."
Saturday will be the first look at many Texans and Cowboys. Both teams were active in free agency. Both teams also have more steps to climb in 2004. The Cowboys want to win in the playoffs under Bill Parcells. The Texans want to make a run to the postseason.
HOW THEY'RE DIFFERENT:The Dallas Cowboys didn't have much to change from last year's 10-6 team. But that didn't stop Parcells from tinkering with his offense and defense.
Running back Eddie George will make his first appearance in Reliant Stadium since being released from the Tennessee Titans and signing with the Cowboys. Dallas also signed quarterback Vinny Testaverde, wide receiver Dedric Ward and defensive end Marcellus Wiley.
George rushed for 1,031 yards last season, reaching the 10,000-yard career mark. He is looking to prove he's still an every-down back in his 10 th NFL season,
Notable for Texans fans, the Cowboys will play quarterback Drew Henson, who the team traded to Dallas a few months ago. Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson has also been reunited with his old coach.
"I'd love to play in that first game," Henson said late last month. "I owe a lot to their organization, especially to Mr. (Charley) Casserly for going out on a limb and taking me, because I ended up with Dallas, which is where I wanted to go all along. Luckily, I got that chance."
The additions of Henson and Testaverde are looking more valuable with the release of last year's starter Quincy Carter.
Testaverde filled in for Chad Pennington last season in New York, throwing for 1,385 yards and seven touchdowns. Now he is the undisputed starter while Henson learns the game.
Ward and Johnson add a punch to the receiving corps, which did little last season
with Joey Galloway. Troy Hambrick is gone from a lackluster running game, replaced
by George and running back Julius Jones.
Dallas was one of only three teams (Seattle and Buffalo) to have three receivers with at least 550 yards. Terry Glenn led the group (754). Leading receiver fullback Richie Anderson also returns.
Wiley replaces Ebenezer Ekuban on the defensive line. Dallas returns 10 of 11 starters on defense. Wiley had three sacks last season in San Diego, 41 in his career.
Look for Jones to get plenty of playing time early while George learns the offense and takes the normal veteran preseason schedule.
HOW THEY'RE THE SAME:Same coach, same dedication.
The Cowboys may bring a few new offensive starters to the field Saturday, but the Parcells brand of football remains very much the same.
Statistically, the defense continues to run the show. The Cowboys were number one in the league in total defense last season. Starting strong safety Darren Woodson is on the physically unable to perform list, but the rest of the defense, including standout free safety Roy Williams remains intact.
The Cowboys were number one in the league against the pass in 2003, giving up
197 yards per game. Whether the starters play or not, it will be another good
test for the Texan offense, which did well against a good Miami Dolphins defense
The team held six opponents to fewer than 215 yards last season. Only four teams rushed for 100 yards.
The Cowboys have no rookies listed as first or second string across the defensive depth chart.
TEXANS OVERVIEW:Capers said earlier in training camp the team would not spend much time preparing for the first preseason game. The Texans will begin scouting the Cowboys Thursday afternoon.
The team will plan more for preseason games as training camp progresses.
Rookies will get the majority of action Saturday, with plenty of questions popping up from the scrimmage against the Dolphins. Running back Tony Hollings looked good with the first and second team offense.
Rookies cornerback Dunta Robinson and linebacker Jason Babin were not attacked much during the scrimmage.
"We'll play the rookies more than the vets," Capers said. "We'll sit down in the latter stages of the week and have everything scripted out in terms of the number of repetitions we'd like to get each player. I think you can anticipate seeing the rookies playing significantly more than what the veterans play."