Each weekend I provide 10 quick hits on the Dallas Cowboys. Dez Bryant spends two days dodging an MRI machine, which is harder than it sounds. Charles Tapper and Randy Gregory are going to be gone for a while, and the real value of Ron Leary is apparent this edition of First and 10.
1. OK, so this one is on Dez Bryant. You can’t just skip an MRI because you don’t want bad news. That’s like not going to the doctor because you know you have the flu. The Dallas Cowboys were completely within their rights to fine Bryant for missing meetings and his MRI on Monday.
I get it — Dez wants to play. I totally understand. And he was smart to come clean after the fact and say simply, “I made a poor decision.” But poor decisions like that lead to aggravating injuries that can keep a player out for a longer period of time. And that isn’t worth it.
And let’s be clear about something — a “slight hairline fracture” isn’t a thing. A hairline fracture is a broken bone, no matter how “minor.” The only way to recover from a broken bone is rest. Some parts of the body you can tape up and protect an injury like that, such as a hand (think DeMarco Murray’s hand a couple of years ago). A knee does not fall into that category. The Cowboys are smart to sit Bryant (who Fish says was on the team plane to San Francisco) on Sunday. The way this team is playing the Cowboys can survive a couple of weeks without him. They can’t survive an entire season if he makes it worse and has to sit out longer.
2. Speaking of broken bones, Charles Tapper is now on injured reserve. The pars defect in his L5 vertebrae hasn’t healed yet, so the Cowboys moved him to IR to add depth at offensive line in the form of Emmett Cleary. It’s a stress fracture. Tapper is understandably frustrated. The Cowboys have tried building their pass rush from the draft, but entering this game against San Francisco they’ll be without 2013 second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence (who can return next week), 2015 second-round pick Randy Gregory and Tapper, a fourth-round pick. I mean, I like the direction they’re trying to go. But they have little to show for their investment. And that’s only part of the reason why defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is racking his brain for new pass-rush combination.
3. Speaking of Randy Gregory, it sounds like his life is moving in a positive direction. And that’s even in the wake of the news that Gregory will now miss the season’s first 14 games due to his substance abuse violations. The NFL tacked the 10-game suspension onto his original four-game suspension on Thursday.
No the positive vibes came from a report filed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who wrote that, per sources, Gregory has been clean for four months and is continuing to seek treatment in Dallas. His actions, to this point, have impressed those close to Gregory, Schefter wrote.
Of course, none of this helps Dallas on the football field, but Gregory’s problems are so much bigger than that at the moment. If you need a test case for not getting it right, look at Josh Gordon, who is heading to rehab after missing all of 2015 and the first three games of 2016 due to suspension for violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. The Browns are reportedly set to release him.
The Cowboys surely want their player back, but that shouldn’t happen until Gregory gets his life back.
4. Oh, hey, those of you that wanted to trade Ron Leary this summer? You know who you are. How much do you like Leary now?
I wrote this in the summer and I’ll write it again — if a trade that provided good value for Leary came the Cowboys’ way they would have taken it. But the market they were hoping for never materialized and the worst-case scenario was that they kept Leary as a backup in case they needed him. Well, they need him now that La’el Collins has a torn ligament in one of his toes and will be out six to ten weeks.
This is exactly why you don’t trade someone just to trade him.
5. Getting ready for Sunday’s game with the 49ers? Let us help as we get to the 3:25 kickoff. Here are all of our stories previewing this week’s game through Friday night:
6. My three keys to Sunday’s game with the 49ers?
Get either Brice Butler or Terrance Williams more involved in the pass game. Assume as I write this that Bryant won’t play. That means plenty of attention is going to be directed toward tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Cole Beasley, the latter of which has been the best receiver on the team besides Bryant. To keep the 49ers’ secondary honest, either Butler or Williams needs to be productive early in this one to keep the Niners from doubling Witten or bracketing Beasley. Butler is expected to start for Bryant.
Put pressure on Blaine Gabbert. After an efficient and effective season-opener Gabbert has come back down to earth, completing barely 50 percent of his passes and throwing three interceptions against two touchdowns in the past two games. The belief is that the Niners are biding their time until Colin Kaepernick is ready to go. The upside for Gabbert is that the Niners’ O-Line has protected him well, giving up just two sacks. The Cowboys’ pass rush needs to change that on Sunday.
Keep running the ball effectively. Dallas has found a nice groove on the ground. Only New England (really — New England) has more rushing attempts than the Cowboys’ 101 through three games. The Cowboys are only rushing for about four yards per carry, but you saw last week how Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris grinded away at that Bears defense. San Francisco has given up 4.0 yards per carry so far this season, so there is opportunity there for the Cowboys. But they’ll need to be especially effective close to the end zone, as the Niners have given up just two rushing touchdowns so far.
7. It’s our Tweet of the Week:
I can report back that I haven’t tried this because I’m 44 and I know if I try it something will break.
8. This week’s great moments in headline porn: “Jerry Jones on buying Beyonce a coat from Neiman Marcus his thoughts on Jay-Z ‘I see what she sees in him’” from dallasnews.com
I bought Beyonce a coat once. Then I woke up.
9. Greg Hardy is arrested for cocaine possession, but it’s OK because he says it’s not his. Dude, the frat-guy defense isn’t gonna work. Police found the cocaine in his wallet. Hardy said he was at a party the night before and passed around his wallet and someone must have put it there.
You know, I can count on none of my fingers how many times I’ve passed around my wallet at a party. You know why? Because that’s just, as we say in East Texas, plum dumb. Plus, police pulled Hardy over because he didn’t use his turn signal. That’s the real moral of the story here — use your turn signal.
10. My prediction for Sunday’s game? This should be a Cowboys win, but don’t expect it to be easy. Bryant likely won’t play, the Niners’ defense is pretty solid against the run and road games in the Bay area already seem to be close for Dallas. But I’ll go all in and say the Cowboys make it three in a row. Cowboys 27, 49ers 24.