August 23, 2012
The Dallas Cowboys haven’t just had a rash of injuries lately. It’s been an epidemic. It’s one thing to lose a few guys here and there, maybe one guy at a key position, and one star. But as they stand, the Cowboys are gearing up to enter 2012 potentially without three offensive starters.
And these are all skill position players – guys quarterback Tony Romo needs to succeed. Miles Austin, who missed several games with hamstring woes in 2011, is back at it again with a sore hammy. He is out for the remainder of the preseason, and isn’t a lock to start in week one. Even worse, is we saw how he handles his hamstring injuries, and the fear that this could be another season-long bout is a very real possibility.
Then you have Romo’s other top starting wide receiver, Dez Bryant, who came into camp in the best physical condition of his career and was primed to leap-frog Austin to be Romo’s number one overall target. He was drawing rave reviews from coaches and teammates, only to succumb to an injury of his own – patellar tendinitis. Bryant and everyone around Dallas are basically guaranteeing he’ll be back for the season opener, but tendinitis isn’t something to be messed with. It can last all season long, and even contribute to a more significant injury. Needless to say, it’s never good when a wide receiver has any kind of soreness in their legs.
Lastly, but certainly not least, star tight end Jason Witten has also been ruled out for the remainder of the preseason with a “slightly” lacerated spleen. While I’m still not sure what that means, I at least know that Witten can’t move for about two weeks, and if he does somehow suit up for the Cowboys’ Wednesday night opener, he’ll be very rusty and possibly out of shape.
The skinny is that three of the Cowboys top receiving targets are done for the count for the rest of the preseason, and all three could potentially miss the first game of the season. On top of that, all three have injuries that could either linger, or worsen by a wide margin over time. Witten’s (spleen) could develop into a very serious issue, while both Austin (hamstring) and Bryant (knee) could struggle to be 100% all season long.
Behind Romo’s top targets are a plethora of average wide receivers and tight ends. The team has some decent slot receivers battling for a spot, but ultimately, they have seen a major talent downgrade ever since last year’s star third receiver Laurent Robinson fled to Jacksonville for more cash. Backup tight end Martellus Bennett did the same and went to the New York Giants, leaving the Cowboys thin behind Witten, as well.
All of these injuries in the passing game could suddenly put more pressure on the Cowboys’ ground game, which ironically consists of second-year back DeMarco Murray and veteran Felix Jones. Murray started strong in his rookie year in 2011, but missed half the season with a broken ankle. Jones has flashed great ability during his Dallas career, but has forever struggled to stay healthy, as well.
So, a banged up passing game is now going to turn to a ground attack led by two guys that don’t know how to stay healthy in the NFL. Well, that certainly has success written all over it, doesn’t it?
But that’s not the worst of it. If you’ve seen the Cowboys’ offensive line so far this preseason, you know it needs work. You also are probably aware that describing them as “needing work” is possibly the understatement of the year.
If the o-line continues to perform this poorly in pass protection, the Cowboys will suddenly have to start thinking about what happens if Tony Romo suffers a devastating injury, as well. After all, it’s not like the franchise hasn’t seen that movie before. Whether it was his pinkie or collarbone in the past or his ribs in 2011, it’s been made known that a banged up Romo means mounting losses for Dallas.
Combine all of this great news, and toss it in a Wednesday night season opener vault. You know, the season opener where the Cowboys take on the division rival and defending champion New York Giants.
With or without their stars, the Cowboys are going up against New York’s deadly pass-rush and overall elite defense. With or without quality pass protection, as well.
If logic prevails, the Cowboys get slapped around on opening night and start the season 0-1. If mercy prevails, they escape without being further decimated on the injury front. But one thing is for certain: the Cowboys already have their backs against the wall, and the season hasn’t even started yet.