Are The Dallas Cowboys Relying Too Heavily On Injury-Prone Players?


There is a saying in sports: “Injury-prone players tend to get injured.” While this way of thinking makes logical sense, the Dallas Cowboys are counting on a number of injury-prone players to be key contributors in 2015.

The first area of concern is at the running back position where the Cowboys seem determined to enter the season with four backs to choose from. However, two of the four candidates come with significant injury questions.

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In his seven years in the NFL, running back Darren McFadden has played a full 16 game schedule only once (2014). In addition to chronic hamstring injuries, the former 1st round draft pick has struggled with sprained ankles, a ligament strain in his foot, a torn meniscus, shoulder surgery, turf toe, a concussion and a broken foot.

Meanwhile, another option at running back is Ryan Williams who has seen his natural talent neutralized by injuries. Williams missed the entire 2011 season (his rookie year) with a torn patella tendon, was placed on injured reserve for 10 weeks in 2012 due to a fractured left shoulder and missed all of 2013 with a dislocated patella tendon.

Both running backs have already missed time with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. McFadden again strained his hamstring in offseason organized team activities (OTA’s) and Williams missed significant time in the offseason due to soreness in his previously injured knee.

Another position group built around injury-prone players in the linebacking corps. Two of the most important players in the Cowboys’ front seven (linebackers and defensive line) Sean Lee and Rolando McCLain have seen their share of time on the sidelines due to injury.

Though he has been labeled the leader of the defense, Lee has missed 36 of the 80 games played during his 5-year career. While Lee has been prolifically productive when on the field, Lee had a major injury to both knees in college, missed 10 games in 2012 due to turf toe, missed 5 games in 2013 with assorted ailments and did not play at all in 2014 after tearing a knee ligament during OTA’s.

Meanwhile, McCLain has been an even more complicated case. In addition to missing multiple games throughout his career for disciplinary reasons, McCLain missed three games in 2014 due to a groin injury, a sore knee and a concussion and he played only sparingly in the Cowboys’ two playoff games; the talented linebacker has not played a full 16 games in his career.

The loss of veteran linebacker Justin Durant to free-agency means that Dallas is inexperienced and thin at linebacker, especially in weeks 1-4 of the upcoming season as McCLain serves a four game suspension for substance abuse. The signing of veteran linebacker Jasper Brinkley will help fill the gap but should McCLain or Lee miss significant time due to injury, the Cowboys’ defense will be put in yet another difficult situation.

Finally, the defensive line is littered with players that have struggled with injuries in their career. With the potential 10-game suspension of defensive end Greg Hardy, the Cowboys plan to rely on a rotation on the defensive line thus keeping key players fresh for the end of the game but this plan could be shattered by an injury.

Starting defensive end, Jeremy Mincey was solid last year in his first season with Dallas recording five sacks. However, in 2007 and 2008 Mincey played only 9 total games for the Jacksonville Jaguars, he missed all of 2009 due to injury and played in only 8 games for Jacksonville in 2013.

Fellow defensive end Tyrone Crawford missed all of 2013 with a torn Achilles tendon (but he has missed only one other game in his three years in the NFL). Yet another of the Cowboys’ defensive ends, DeMarcus Lawrence missed ten games in his rookie year last season due to a foot he broke in training camp.

Injuries are inevitable in professional football and every team will deal with them to some degree. Though fans may feel like Dallas has been hit with an inordinate number of injuries in recent years, they have ranked 14th, 17th and 19th in man games lost in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The concern is that the 2015 team is relying on a number of oft-injured players to man key roles. Hope is not a strong strategy but the Cowboys are hoping that the players mentioned above, as well as Tony Romo, their 35-year-old quarterback who has had two back operations in the recent past, will defy the odds and remain healthy enough to be key contributors this season.

If these players remain on the field, Dallas will be one of the best teams in the league. But if a handful of these players go down during the season, 2015 could be a tremendous disappointment.

Next: The Dallas Cowboys Finally Have An Identity: Their Offensive Line