You’ve all heard of armchair quarterbacks and the Cowboys have many that are always ready to weigh in after each game. But the Cowboys have taken the concept to a whole new level with their sofa safeties, linebacker and guard. The armchair quarterback watches the game from his armchair and comments on how he thinks it should have been played. The sofa safeties, however, watch the game from their sofa and then get a phone call asking them to be ready to play for the Cowboys in the next game.
When a team depends on guys that were prepared to watch the season on TV, you know they have problems. The Cowboys started the season loaded with talent and ready to compete for the division title and perhaps even a run in the playoffs, but injuries have decimated this team. There are very few positions on this team that have not been affected by this season’s rash of injuries. Let’s take a look at the impact of these injuries.
Defensive line: Kenyon Coleman was having a very good year, but now he’s out after a season ending injury that required surgery. Jay Ratliff has missed more games than he’s played in and Sean Lissemore has been out for the last few weeks. The Cowboys have done a good job creating depth on the defensive line, but until these young guys perfect some NFL type moves to get them past the offensive line, the results will be nowhere near what we came to expect from the starters. This lack of performance from the down lineman allows the opposing offense more flexibility in double teaming DeMarcus Ware.
Linebacker: Sean Lee was having a pro bowl year, until he had season ending surgery on his toe and now Bruce Carter appears to be out for the rest of the season with expected surgery for a dislocated elbow. This has caused the team to depend on Ernie Sims, signed off his couch, and free agent signing Dan Connor, a definite drop off from these two elite starters.
Defensive backfield: Brandon Carr has been solid at corner and, for the most part, rookie Morris Claiborne has been good. But Mike Jenkins has been in and out of the lineup with injuries and now Orlando Scandrick, who has struggled some in recent games, is likely out for the rest of the season after surgery for a broken hand. Barry Church was solid at safety, until injury ended his season early on, and Danny McCray has filled in well. But this has caused the Cowboys to depend on two safeties, Eric Frampton and Charlie Peprah, paid to leave the safety of their couch. The confusion on defense this has caused has resulted in more than a few big plays by opposing teams.
Offensive line: Due to cutting higher paid older lineman and signing bargain basement replacements, this area was already a mess. But back problems caused Phil Costa to miss all but one game and injury to Ryan Cook has caused the team to depend on their third center. In addition to that, their best lineman, left tackle Tyron Smith is out with a high ankle sprain. Derrick Dockery, they are now depending on to fill in at guard, was also signed off his sofa. It seems like the Cowboys are going to great lengths to keep David Arkin off the field. Why not just cut him? Kevin Kowalski has also missed most of the season due to injury.
Running backs: if you have a dynamic running back, you can overcome weaknesses on the offensive line. DeMarco Murray is all that, but he has missed the last half dozen games with a foot sprain that’s taking forever to heal. To his credit, Felix Jones has fought through injuries of his own to be there for the team, but he is an average back at best and no longer has the zip he entered the league with. Lance Dunbar has that zip, but can’t get anywhere with a line that can’t run block and Phillip Tanner is the forgotten man in this offense.
Wide receiver: Kevin Ogletree was inconsistent as the third receiver and is out with a concussion. Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley have been more than adequate as replacements and I would prefer to see Harris as that third receiver, once Ogletree is healthy again. But now Miles Austin, their most consistent receiver, might miss some time with a hip injury.
Quarterback: No injuries to report here and Kyle Orton is a nice option if you have to depend on a backup quarterback. But injuries elsewhere have definitely affected Tony Romo’s play.
Tight end: Jason Witten played, but was ineffective, the first couple of games after injuring his spleen in pre-season.
We still have five games to play, so where do we go from here? This is not the first time I have said it and I’m sure it won’t be the last. We have seen time and time again the Cowboys fall behind early in the game and come roaring back by using the no huddle offense. If they were to start the game that way they could build a lead and then slow the game down, if they choose to do so.
The no huddle is a great way to negate the weaknesses of an offensive line that is destined to lose any battles of strength against strength. The fast pace tires and sometimes confuses the defense, taking away any advantage they have. Maybe they can somehow salvage this season by just being a bit more innovative. What do they have to lose?
Yeah, I know, that’s just me being an armchair quarterback.