Each Saturday (now that it’s the regular season) I provide 10 quick hits on the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones has a new toy. The Cowboys aren’t exactly honest brokers when it comes to injuries. And my three keys to victory for the Cowboys against the Giants in this edition of First and 10.
1. Jerry Jones’ newest toy? A helicopter that has been christened “JerForceOne (even though he’s not totally thrilled about it).”
Our Mike Fisher was one of several media to go for a ride in the helicopter.
Jones’ logic for getting the copter is sound. He can get from his home in Frisco to the Ford Center in nine minutes and from his home to AT&T Stadium on gameday in 13 minutes. The helicopter can seat up to nine.
So remember that when you’re stuck in traffic on I-30 on gameday. He’s up there, somewhere, getting home a lot sooner than you.
2. My candidate for breakout player of the year? I think wide receiver Brice Butler takes the next step and challenges for serious playing time, perhaps becoming the No. 2 option ahead of Terrance Williams. Even if he doesn’t, the fact that Butler appears good enough to push Williams for touches may not be a bad thing in the long run. It might make both players better. Plus, both are in a contract year and it behooves them both to bring it if they’re looking for long-term deals in 2017.
3. I think the Cowboys have lost the benefit of the doubt when it comes to injuries. I’m not talking about Tony Romo. I get that. Everyone in the organization, including Romo, thought he was OK when he got on the plane in Seattle to come home. They needed an MRI to rediagnose him. I’m talking about Charles Tapper.
For most of training camp and preseason the Cowboys talked about Tapper’s back injury as a strain. Earlier this week it was revealed that the injury was actually a broken bone in his back, or a Pars Defect. He’s had it since he was a child and it only reared itself during training camp when Tapper woke up one morning and couldn’t move one of his legs.
I imagine this scared the bejeezus out of Tapper and the Cowboys probably felt inclined to protect him. But it’s a long way from a back strain to a broken bone in the back (as Romo can attest) and it highlights a trend in the way the Cowboys are communicating information on injuries. Or, perhaps more to the point, not communicating them.
So that’s why you saw a lot of skepticism around linebacker Sean Lee and his knee injury last week, which at the moment seems like much ado about nothing, as Lee told our Mike Fisher.
By the way, Lee isn’t on this week’s injury report.
But it underscores the games teams try to play with injuries, in spite of the structure the NFL has for injury reports during the season. The New England Patriots took this game to a new level about a decade ago. When I was covering the Buccaneers and prepping for a game with the Patriots I received New England’s injury report and it had 20 players on it. Ridiculous. So the NFL restructured the injury report, but now teams are simply being as tight-lipped as they can about injuries during the week, which fits perfectly into Jason Garrett’s vague approach to dealing with just about anything.
And now this season? The NFL has done away with the one part of the injury report that I actually understood — probable.
So when the Cowboys start talking about injuries, well, buyer beware.
4. Ezekiel Elliott will not face domestic violence charges. The Columbus City Attorney’s office announced that earlier this week. The reason? “Conflicting and inconsistent information across all incidents,” according to the statement. The Columbus police noted the inconsistency the night the reports were filed, which is part of the reason the information was referred to the city attorney for review.
The NFL can still take action and that is pending. Boy wouldn’t that be a kick in the head at this point? The minimum suspension for domestic violence is six games (unless you’re a kicker, apparently).
5. Getting ready for Sunday’s game with the Giants? Let us help. Here are all of our stories previewing this week’s game, which starts at 3:25 at AT&T Stadium, with TV coverage on FOX and Fish and the 105.3 The Fan guys starting at noon:
And, my appearance on Fox Sports Radio Arkansas’ Game On previewing Sunday’s game.
6. My three keys to Sunday’s game with the Giants?
Protect Dak Prescott. I’m not just talking about the offensive line. I’m talking about the entire game plan. Use the run game effectively. Put Prescott in sets that allow him to do the things he does well. Put some pressure on Eli Manning and create some turnovers. Everything needs to work together to support him. Jerry Jones is right — you don’t have to put limits on Prescott. But you do have to cater to the things he does well.
Establish the run early. The Giants are going to want to stack the box and compel the Cowboys to either try and run the ball or put the game in Prescott’s hands to win. Given how the Cowboys ran the ball against Seattle in that one quarter where the starting line and Ezekiel Elliott played together, this group can handle an eight-man front. It may be tough sledding early, but the Cowboys need to stick with it. And they shouldn’t be afraid to spell Elliott with Alfred Morris, either.
Create some turnovers. Earlier this week I wrote a piece on how the Cowboys, historically, make the playoffs with a positive turnover ratio. If the Cowboys can’t get a consistent pass rush — and I’m not counting on it — at least create a couple of turnovers and give the offense a couple of extra opportunities to score points.
7. It’s our Tweet of the Week:
Does this come in poster size?
8. This week’s great moments in headline porn: “Bart Scott says Cowboys are better off with Dak Prescott over Tony Romo” from cbssports.com
Special thanks to Scott for bringing the absurd and ridiculous before kickoff. C’mon, Prescott hasn’t even taken a regular-season snap yet. Scott’s comparison was to Seattle’s Russell Wilson. You think the fans in Seattle felt good about Wilson as the starter his rookie season? Nope.
If that’s what Scott believes, that’s fine. But the click-bait is undeniable.
9. My prediction for the season? The Tony Romo injury really makes predicting the entire season difficult. When will Romo come back? How healthy will he be when he returns? What if, for some reason, he doesn’t return, heaven forbid? There are so many x-factors to deal with related to Romo. Plus, there’s the pass rush. The tackles are solid. But the ends? There are too many unknowns to project what these ends might do, even when DeMarcus Lawrence returns (I’m not counting on Randy Gregory returning after four games). The rest of this team I feel pretty good about, especially the depth in the secondary and the additions to the running game on offense. Still, with no Romo for perhaps half the season and no trust in the edge rush right now the best I can legitimately predict is 8-8. Sound familiar?
10. My prediction for Sunday’s game? I have reservations about putting my faith in a rookie quarterback and rookie running back, but I have this odd feeling the Cowboys will win. They’re going to have to possess the ball, cash in with long scoring drives and put a vise grip on Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But I see them squeezing out a win. Cowboys 27, Giants 21.
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