Some Dallas Cowboys seemed fully prepared for the trip to New York, like Dez Bryant, who brought with him not one but two fashionably fuzzy caps. Others were not, like Lucky Whitehead, who was so fuzzy himself that when he finally showed up at The Star in Frisco on Saturday 10 a.m. -- after a three-hour search for him that included welfare calls to the police -- he was told to take two aspirin and to call Coach on Monday morning.
And then came the game, a 10-7 loss, and the suggestion that lots of people weren't quite ready for The Big Stage.
Now comes another decision as the 11-2 Cowboys prepare for a visit and a test from Tampa. Today marks the deadline for the "Three-Week What-If Window'' regarding the activation of Jaylon Smith and Darren McFadden.
McFadden, despite an elbow that is healed but might always be a little wonky, is absolutely IN. And in what we'd call a surprise, Darius Jackson is out. So ... Let's walk through the options facing coach Jason Garrett and staff as they shuffled the deck at 3 p.m. Tuesday:
1) DUMP LUCKY? The Cowboys couldn't run Lucky's play package without Lucky. You can insert' understudies, but if they haven't practiced, say, the Jet Sweep, you almost have to throw that out of the game plan. That was an issue, at some level, in New York.
Cole Beasley can handle punt returns, if indeed Lucky is the odd-man-out. It's worth noting here, though, that Whitehead is a part of this team's chemistry. The other players like him. In our report on his night out, we note that he went to that steak dinner with teammates. Some of them were receivers, some defensive linemen.
Crime and punishment is important. Bonding and chemistry is important, too. He's staying.
2) DUMP DUNBAR? He's playing a role he cannot play. The Cowboys used Dunbar as Lucky's replacement on kick returns. No problem there. They also use Dunbar as their third-down back and their 2-minute drill back.
With rookie Dak Prescott at QB, teams are starting to bring big pressure on him on third down, and they are doing it with a smallish blocker in Dunbar trying to pick up the rush. It's not working.
We can easily argue that a) Ezekiel Elliott should maybe stay on the field in these spots or at least that b) McFadden -- a sturdier player than Dunbar and a better blocker while also being a speedster -- should take these jobs.
It's worth noting that McFadden can also return kicks. He "brings the wood'' on special teams, owner Jerry Jones said on Monday.
Oh, and also meriting a mention: Dunbar, like Lucky, is well-liked in the locker room. He's staying ... but maybe losing snaps.
3) GET SOMEBODY HURT: Who's got a hangnail? You could gain a roster spot with an "injury'' that somehow crops up today. That "injury'' would have to be sustained by a non-essential person, of course. Dunbar, for example, could experience some soreness (or whatever) that doesn't impact his paychecks or his friendships ... just his 53-man spot. But no ...
4) WAIT. ISN'T CHAZ GREEN ACTUALLY HURT? He is. Back and foot. So Green goes down, McFadden comes up. The running backs room is way too full ... but at least all you've lost is an offensive lineman who isn't playing, anyway.
Now, it means Emmett Cleary is your swing tackle, and that might not be great. But somewhere in this equation could be the coming health of La'el Collins, in which case at least you've got true depth in the O-line with some position flex. (No, La'el is not viewed as a tackle by trade. But you're scrambling a bit here. So you deal with the cards you're dealt.)
In the end, hope for Chaz remains.
5) WHAT ABOUT JAYLON: The Cowboys, coming into Sunday, had played 779 defensive snaps. The defensive captain Lee had played 778 of them. Virtually every play. Virtually all of them at a Pro Bowl level. Then he did it again in a Sunday night game in which he had 22 tackles and played all 67 defensive snaps.
"Remarkable,'' Garrett said.
In Lee, you've got yourself an NFL Defensive MVP candidate. And in Jaylon Smith, you've got the perfect running mate for Sean ... as soon as Jaylon can run without drop foot. That didn't happen during the "Three-Week Window'' and it wasn't going to happen. But the dream of Jaylon in 2017 is real, a "medical hope'' that could greatly bolster this defense.
A "cornerstone for the future,'' Jerry Jones called him on Tuesday.
6) DUMP ANOTHER RUNNER? Alfred Morris didn't even play in New York - and Darius Jackson never plays. We don't think that was an ominous sign for Alfred. It's not Morris who is getting dumped. But he might lose snaps to McFadden ... and if he keeps his job, that's five tailbacks on the 53-man. We asked Garrett about how excessive that seems. He did not disagree.
No, the card to be played in this department is rookie running back Darius Jackson. Dallas is cutting Jackson, the sixth-rounder who the team views as very promising — but maybe expendable in these circumstances. Jackson, who hasn’t been activated to the 46-man game-day roster all season, will be exposed to waivers and might be snapped up by somebody else. Dallas will take that risk, sacrificing Jackson's future for McFadden's present.