It didn’t make national news but as Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com reported DeMarcus Ware’s neck issues raised their head again during the Cowboys recent Organized Team Activities (OTAs). He was held out of some of the practices and went to get a CT scan and an MRI on his neck. The results were negative and DeMarcus is downplaying the whole thing, but that is not good news for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys roster is loaded with stars at a lot of positions. DeMarcus Ware is clearly one of the brightest – recording a double digit number of sacks every year except his rookie season in 2005 (where he had 8 sacks). While losing any of the key players to injury would be a blow, losing Ware could arguably be the worst possible scenario. If Romo goes down, we have Kyle Orton as a capable backup. If DeMarco Murray gets dinged, Felix Jones has already shown he can step in and carry much of the load. If either Dez Bryant or Miles Austin get injured, we’ve been able to find a Laurent Robinson or a Jesse Holley to step in and make a play – hopefully those type of receivers are on the roster and will emerge. On defense, we have capable linebackers and defensive backs that could step in if required and keep the team’s head above water. But, losing Ware for any amount of significant time would be devestating. According to last year’s depth chart, Alex Albright is Ware’s backup. Not to demean Albright who is a talented young player, but he’s no DWare (not many players are).
And, there is the domino effect that creates for our defense. Without Ware, teams don’t have to double team his side and our already at times sketchy pass rush becomes even less effective. No pass rush means NFL caliber quarterbacks have enough time to wait for receivers to get open. Even the best defensive backs (Brandon Carr and rookie Mo Claiborne, for example) will get burned repeatedly if the quarterback can stand like a statue in the pocket for minutes at a time.
Ware is turning 30 this July and the neck issue is chronic – it won’t likely ever go away since he was carted off the field in a 2009 game against the Chargers. He has learned to play through it and has yet to miss an entire game in his career. But, he has missed time in games due to the injury and each time he feels the “stinger”, he loses strength in his arms. An armless outside linebacker – even if he is DeMarcus Ware – is pretty easy to control. This an issue we will have to be worried about all year – now through training camp, preseason, and every play of every regular season game. It can happen on any play he is in the game if he gets hit just the right way. If he goes down, we will need Albright or another player to step up or all our work to upgrade the secondary will have been wasted. If I were the Cowboys, I’d keep him wrapped in bubble wrap all season and take him out just for the games. He’s that important.
1. Mike Jenkins reported to the Cowboys this week as required. That’s a very good thing. He’s not getting a trade and the Cowboys would be smart to keep him on the roster versus trading him for a 4th or 5th round draft pick. He may no longer be the starter, but he is a talented cornerback and will be a critical player to plug in if Carr, Claiborne, or Scandrick get injured. And, he should be very motivated to earn time on the field or show up on special teams as this is a contract year.
2. He wasn’t likely to play in 2012 anyway but looks like Marty B has one less player to compete with for playing time on the Giants. TE Jake Ballard was put on waivers by the G-Men with the intent of moving him to IR once he cleared waivers. But, the Patriots grabbed him off waivers and got another young (24), talented tight end that could pay big dividends once he heals from microfracture surgery. Ironically, Ballard was injured in the Super Bowl against the Patriots – a chance to get a good player cheap or is this Belichick taking a little revenge on the team that has beaten him with a miraculous play the last two times they faced each other in the Super Bowl? If Bennett becomes a force for the Giants like he should have been for the Cowboys, I’m going to throw up all over myself!
3. The Cowboys would like to think they can find quality beyond Dez and Miles among the 10 other receivers on the current roster, but my gut tells me they sign another veteran receiver before the start of the season – maybe bring back Patrick Crayton or sign someone like T.J. Houshmandzadeh (anyone but Terrell Owens).
4. There is still a chance Mat McBriar will remain a Cowboy. When healthy, he’s one of the best punters in the league and better than anyone on the roster right now. I’d like to see him return and I hope he doesn’t slip to another team before the Cowboys can re-sign him. Some fans would say, “it’s a punter, who cares?” But, field position can win ball games and a good punter can get you out of trouble or pin an opponent deep.
It is 12 weeks and essentially 12.5 hours until the opening kickoff of the season opener against the Giants. I can’t wait!! Go Cowboys!
Tags: Cowboys Dallas Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray DeMarcus Ware Dez Bryant Felix Jones Giants Jason Witten Laurent Robinson Martellus Bennett Mike Jenkins Miles Austin NFL Orlando Scandrick Patrick Crayton Tony Romo