The Dallas Cowboys face a meaningless game in Philadelphia … and a host of meaningful decisions in three position groups. They’ve discussed options in-house as of Tuesday ("rest vs. rust vs. records vs. risk'') and will unveil some of those options starting at Wednesday’s practice session at The Star in Frisco.
On the to-do list:
1. The Thin Blue (D) Line
*Terrell McClain likely won't go this week; he's not participating in the Wednesday workout
*DeMarcus Lawrence (amid "serious concerns'' about his back, as we write exclusively here) may not be right the rest of the year; he's not participating in the Wednesday workout
*Cedric Thornton was scratched on Monday; he's not participating in the Wednesday workout
*Tyrone Crawford was scratched on Monday; he's not participating in the Wednesday workout
*Ryan Davis is not healthy; he's being moved to IR in favor of newcomer Richard Ash (see below)
*Randy Gregory, with all his drug-suspension issues, may not be allowed by the NFL to play in the playoffs.
That’s six D-line problems for a team that carries nine D-linemen.
Solutions? They hoped to have one by bringing Zach Moore back from waivers. But the former Dallas practice-squadder got claimed by the Niners. So the Cowboys are giving tryouts to street free agents this week (Jags practice-squadder Richard Ash, a 6-3, 333-pound defensive tackle, is the new guy, with Davis out), are considering giving more defensive end snaps to Kyle Wilber (a linebacker by trade) and might just gameplan the Eagles in a way that causes them to play lots of three-man fronts … because “three men’’ might be about all Dallas has.
2. The Tyron Shuffle
The Cowboys got lucky in the Detroit game when All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith — maybe the team’s least replaceable star — sustained a knee injury that is “only’’ a sprain. He tells me he’ll be OK for the playoffs but he sits now.
So how does Dallas shuffle?
It’s too bad Chaz Green got hurt and is on IR; this would be a fine spot for him to play left tackle in a meaningless game, thus leaving the other four spots in place. But instead, Emmett Cleary is the swing tackle, and while he survived his stint against the Lions, he’s shaky.
So, do you insert Cleary and hope for the best? (Oh, and if so, does that domino down to Decision 3, noted below?)
Do you move Doug Free to left tackle, have Zack Martin slide over to right tackle, and play Joe Looney at guard?
Do you make those two moves and see if La’el Collins’ toe is healed up so he can be that right guard? Or even that right tackle?
All of this doesn’t matter nearly as much for Philly as it does for the playoffs. If Tyron goes down again, Dallas needs to firm up its contingency plan … because having three contingency plans kinda means you don’t have one good one.
3. Romo Rainy-Day Plus
Somehow, coach Jason Garrett’s Tuesday walk-off responses to my questions about activating all three QBs for the Philly game, or even about just activating Mark Sanchez and not Tony Romo — my logic being that if Romo isn’t going to be wasted doing normal backup QB stuff this week then he shouldn’t be this week’s backup — have gotten twisted into “breaking news.’’
As of Tuesday night, contrary to reports, Dallas has NOT firmed up its plans to dress Sanchez. That is a viable guess given Garrett’s comments, and I think it’ll come true. But it’s clumsy attempt at news-gathering and it’s premature to suggest that it’s a done deal.
The playoff-bound Cowboys are considering all options at QB, which include Dak Prescott starting and finishing, Dak starting but being replaced by ex-Eagle Sanchez, and even Romo getting some snaps — though again, it can definitively said that that third idea conflicts with the one stated concept, “The Romo Rainy-Day Plan.’’ (Read that scoop here - and why you shouldn't hate the plan.) But know this: Garrett's answers to my questions were also about the D-line problems and other injury issues that might lead to three QBs on the 46 because Dallas doesn't have enough other-position players to fill out that 46!
As practice unfolds today and this week, we’ll know more, as the Cowboys have so many meaningful decisions to make for this meaningless game.null