Dallas Cowboys improve to 2 and oh no; What’s next?
By Tyrone Starr
Two games into the 2015 NFL season and it appears that this year will be defined in terms of weeks, not wins.
The Dallas Cowboys win, yet every time they do, they lose.
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A thrilling Week One victory over the New York Giants resulted in the losses of star wide receiver Dez Bryant and rookie pass rusher Randy Gregory. Week Two provided a dominating road performance over the Philadelphia Eagles… and the loss of the one guy they cannot afford to lose.
Unless you live under a rock, by now you know that quarterback Tony Romo will miss significant time with a clavicle injury. The severity of the injury as well as the time he will miss is all conjecture. Early reports indicate it is fractured and that he could be gone for eight weeks.
Unfortunately, it seems that anyone with a press pass, Twitter handle or football addiction is also suddenly a medical expert.
Case in point, earlier Sunday morning it was being reported that Bryant’s original time frame of return has switched from 4-6 weeks to now 10-12. Of course, this report was refuted by the only guy who actually owns the injured foot.
It took me less than a day, once Bryant’s injury occurred, to decide that I’m sticking with reports from the man most affected, unless there is some HIPAA breach and his doctor releases information contradicting what Bryant says.
Now we have another high-profile injury for everyone to play doctor with.
Here’s a good summary of what Romo and the Cowboys will be dealing with from an actual doctor. Given that both he and coach Jason Garrett are saying around eight weeks, it seems fair to assume that Romo will miss about eight games. With the bye week also in that span, it could be just seven.
That’s seven or eight games where this team will be lead by none other than Brandon Weeden.
Remember this scenario last year? Romo gets hurt versus a divisional opponent, Weeden comes in, looks respectable, even throws a touchdown. Everyone preaches the positive regarding the loss of Romo and drinks the juice that Weeden will be okay as a short-term option.
18 for 33, 183 yards passing, one touchdown and two interceptions.
More importantly, a 28-17 loss at home.
That was with DeMarco Murray behind him, as well as a healthy Dez Bryant and Jason Witten (another story for another day). None of that will be the case for who knows how long.
Yes, this team has an improved defense in which to lean on. A defense that suffocated the Eagles rushing attack and made quarterback Sam Bradford look a lot like… Brandon Weeden. A defense that has been responsible for 19 points in eight quarters so far.
A defense that not only has a healthy Sean Lee, but will be getting reinforcements like Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain and eventually, Gregory, back during the absence of Romo and Bryant.
Those are all good signs, but to expect that defense to become the 1985 Bears or 2000 Ravens is a little… pie in the sky, so to speak. A historically dominant defense may, in fact, be exactly what Dallas needs to stay afloat until November rolls around.
The thought that Dallas will just need to run the ball more and all will be fine is absurd. With Weeden behind center, defenses will load the box and dare him to beat them. Even during times that does not happen, what about this current backfield makes you think that Dallas can ground teams into submission?
Last year, the Eagles had an average run defense, finishing 15th overall in yards allowed while the Giants were better than only two other teams. The duo of Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden were only able to muster 82 yards against Philadelphia and 81 against New York.
The current 3.3 yards per carry that this offense is putting up isn’t scaring anyone. Maybe the offensive line is underperforming slightly, but it’s much more realistic to pin the early season failures on those responsible for toting the rock.
Factor in the change in quarterback from a borderline Hall of Famer to a guy who has just four 300+ yard games and one game with a passer rating over 100 in his career and you can do the math at how opposing teams will play Dallas in the next two months.
Eight games. Home versus Atlanta, New England, Philadelphia and Seattle. On the road at New Orleans, New York, Tampa Bay and possibly Miami. Can the Cowboys manage to go 4-4 in that stretch?
Just like the true time missed by both Romo and Bryant, only time will tell. One thing is for certain, the Cowboys are running out of “next men” to be up in place of their superstars.