Johnson to remain the Cowboys' starting QB

IRVING, Texas -- Brad Johnson will make his third straight start at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys when they play the division-leading New York Giants on Sunday.

If he plays like he did the previous two Sundays, he might not finish the game.

Sans Romo, Cowboys struggle


Dallas' explosive offense has been anything but the past two weeks. See how the stats differ with Brad Johnson under center compared to Tony Romo:

With Johnson starting

  » Points per game: 13.5

  » Total yards per game: 256.5

  » Sacks taken per game: 3

With Romo starting

  » Points per game: 29.2

  » Total yards per game: 401.8

  » Sacks taken per game: 1.4

"We think we can go with Brad and see what happens," coach Wade Phillips said Wednesday. "We're not going into the game saying, `This guy is going and we're going to pull him if he doesn't do anything.' We're going in with a more positive attitude than that."

The reality is the Cowboys have to be ready for it. That's why third-stringer Brooks Bollinger got some work with the first team Wednesday. Before practice, star receiver Terrell Owens said the only passes he'd caught from Bollinger were warm-up tosses.

"Obviously, he's here for a reason," Owens said. "We're just going to go with whomever is back there."

Whomever is back there may not have tight end Jason Witten, the NFC's leading receiver.

Witten watched practice in shorts and a sweatshirt, resting his broken rib. Phillips said he is not ruling Witten out just yet. But if he misses the game, it would give him two weeks to heal with the Cowboys' upcoming bye. Rookie Martellus Bennett would be his replacement.

"I think you've got to pad it up and see if you can help with the pain," Phillips said. "It may be a situation where he can't do it this week. We'll just have to see toward the end of the week."

Tony Romo will miss his third straight game with a broken pinkie on his throwing hand. Johnson is 1-1 so far, but his quarterback rating is a meager 60.3. It's an especially sharp drop for the Cowboys considering Romo's rating is 103.5, second-best in the NFL.

Johnson doesn't move as well as Romo, and can't throw as deep or as hard, all of which makes it tough to get into a rhythm with receivers. He threw three interceptions in his first start and missed several open targets while throwing for only 122 yards in the last game, albeit a victory over Tampa Bay.

Yet there's something to be said about the 40-year-old Johnson's experience. He didn't commit any turnovers while nursing a conservative game plan against the Buccaneers.

But now Dallas (5-3) goes on the road against the NFC East-leading Giants (6-1). The Cowboys will need to be more aggressive on offense -- meaning they'll need more from their quarterback. Johnson is 36-of-67 for 356 yards in two games, with two touchdowns, three interceptions and six sacks.

"I felt like I've done a lot of good things, but there's some things to improve on," Johnson said. "I wish I had some throws back, wish we had made a couple of different plays at different times. But at the end of the day, you try to make your reads, make your throws and move one from there. You can't really look back at this point."

The good news for Dallas was that cornerback Anthony Henry practiced Wednesday, as did linebacker Anthony Spencer.

Henry bruised his thigh in the third quarter Sunday and didn't return. Spencer has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.

Romo, running back Felix Jones, cornerback Terence Newman and left guard Kyle Kosier are expected back Nov. 16 at Washington.

"At least, that's what they're saying right now," Phillips said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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