IRVING, Texas (AP) — In the only position battle of the Dallas Cowboys' preseason, cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick fought to a draw.
That's right, a tie.
As in, Jenkins is starting the opener against Tampa Bay and Scandrick is starting the following game, against the New York Giants in the home opener. Then it'll be back to Jenkins and so on.
Unorthodox as it may be, the arrangement makes perfect sense to Wade Phillips, Dallas' head coach and defensive coordinator. He considers it the only fair way to resolve a race that was too close to call.
"If one of them had played a lot better than the other one, then it would've been different, or if one of them had played poorly. But both of them played well and we need both of them," Phillips said. "I thought both of them played well enough to start."
Jenkins drummed up interest in their preseason competition by declaring "it's my job to lose" on his blog a few weeks before training camp. Scandrick replied by saying it was up to coaches, not Jenkins, and that he hoped to sway them. Then Scandrick made some of the biggest hits of training camp, although most of them seemed to come against the team's new No. 1 receiver, Roy Williams.
All along, coaches said the race was too close to call. So, they didn't.
"I'm really not here to say if it's right or wrong because it doesn't matter," Scandrick said. "At this point, we're sharing time and that's what it's going to be. It's going to give us both opportunities to be on the field and help this team win."
Jenkins claims this wasn't really a competition — even though there were two of them and one job — and insists his blog post was misinterpreted. He thinks the story should be about the Cowboys' abundance of capable cornerbacks.
"I have a lot of confidence in myself and also in Orlando," he said. "I feel like we both can go anywhere else and start."
Jenkins and Scandrick are both 5-foot-10 guys going into their second season. Jenkins weighs about 5 pounds more, has much longer hair (dreadlocks pulled into a ponytail, as opposed to Scandrick's shaven look) and is two years older.
The biggest difference might be what the Cowboys have invested in them. Jenkins was a first-round pick and Scandrick a fifth-rounder, a distinction that also means a huge difference in salaries. Jenkins' signing bonus alone was bigger than the value of Scandrick's four-year rookie contract.
Still, they've been competing since the day they arrived, both carrying a chip on their shoulders. Jenkins was upset to have lasted until the 25th pick, while Scandrick left school a year early, only to last until the second day of the draft.
They started out stuck behind Terence Newman, Anthony Henry and Adam "Pacman" Jones, then moved up the depth chart quickly because of injuries and a suspension, all the while measuring their progress against each other.
Scandrick started first and became reliable covering slot receivers when Dallas used three cornerbacks. He played all 16 games and had the most tackles among the team's rookies, plus a sack of Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger.
Jenkins ended up starting just as many games and was the first to get an interception and a touchdown. However, the play he's most remembered for was a disinterested attempt at stopping receiver Derrick Ward at the end of a lopsided loss to the Giants.
When the offseason began, the Cowboys thought highly enough of the duo to trade Henry and dump Jones. The only thing coaches weren't sure about was whether Jenkins or Scandrick would emerge as the main man opposite Newman.
They still haven't figured it out.
One key point to this is that both will play a lot every game regardless of who starts. Whenever Dallas goes with three cornerbacks, Scandrick will still cover the slot receiver and Jenkins will line up on the outside guy.
"As long as you have good players, you want them playing," Phillips said.
There's no telling how long this arrangement will last. Maybe one of them pulls ahead or falls behind. Maybe someone gets hurt, perhaps even Newman, who has missed games because of injuries each of the last two years.
"If one guy is intercepting for touchdowns and playing great, that's just the rub of the grain," Phillips said. "I think it keeps them both into it, which they should be."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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