Cowboys just fine with two backups blocking for Romo

OXNARD, Calif. -- On the opening drive of its preseason game last week, the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line missed enough blocks to have Tony Romo sacked three times by the Oakland Raiders.

Now the Cowboys are about to face a San Diego Chargers defense that just blitzed so often and so well that the Chicago Bears pulled starter Jay Cutler earlier than they'd planned. And the Cowboys will play the Chargers on Saturday night with two backups starting on the offensive line.

"I stayed up all night and worried about Romo," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "But I think he'll be all right playing behind a makeshift offensive line."

Phillips was being sarcastic. Very.

He said Friday that he expects to use his starters for "pretty close to a half" against the Chargers. That includes Montrae Holland at left guard and newbie Robert Brewster at right tackle.

And Romo at quarterback.

"Romo needs to get ready to play," Phillips said. "He doesn't need to sit out the whole preseason. Neither one of those (starting linemen) is going to be back in the preseason, so the theory of don't put him in there because those two guys are gone, well, then he doesn't play. He just sits out. That's the silly part to me."

Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo were lost to knee injuries this week. Colombo had arthroscopic surgery and is expected back within two weeks, certainly by the season opener. Kosier doesn't need surgery but could miss up to the first three games.

With neither starter back this preseason, Dallas has little choice but to plug in the replacements and hope for the best. The Cowboys certainly need the work. They haven't scored a touchdown in either of their preseason games. The starters have played just 32 snaps, mounting several good drives but failing to finish them.

Of course, there's a fine line between the benefit of live action and the risk of losing Romo to injury, so the Cowboys will take precautions. Romo will have fewer seven-step drops, more handoffs and an extra tight end or fullback helping Brewster on the right side when they do pass. Sure, that means they won't have a true test of their offense, but they weren't planning to dig deep into the playbook anyway.

Phillips said how long the starters play will depend on how they're doing. The better they play, the quicker they can have the night off. Romo's health will be considered, too, if the Chargers are easily finding their way to him.

The Cowboys have allowed 11 sacks this preseason. Holland hasn't played because of a hamstring, but he should be OK, considering he has made 48 career starts and played 74 games. Brewster essentially is a rookie after missing last season, his first, because of injury.

Rookie linebacker Sean Lee and rookie safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah are expected to make their preseason debuts. Owusu-Ansah also will be the primary returner on punts and kickoffs.

"I think it'll be important to see both of them," Phillips said.

Tight end Martellus Bennett also is expected to play for the first time this summer.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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