Missing defensive tackle David Irving could be the final nail in the coffin that is the 2017 regular season for the Dallas Cowboys.
When the 2017 NFL regular season began, my biggest concern for the Dallas Cowboys was a four-game suspension that had been imposed on defensive tackle David Irving. That 2-2 start for the Cowboys without their best defensive lineman wasn’t exactly a surprise.
Since his return, Irving has made the same impact he did a year ago, but the results in the win column haven’t exactly reflected that fact.
When Irving isn’t sacking a quarterback he’s almost certainly getting pressure on him. When he’s not getting credit for a pressure, his insane wingspan is still capable of batting passes into the opposing backfield or even tipping one that gets intercepted in the secondary – ask Jeff Heath and Anthony Brown how that goes.
David Irving was held out of last week’s game against the New York Giants due to a concussion he suffered the week before against the Washington Redskins. The hope was that he’d be able to help out against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night.
But that won’t be happening.
Since that potential season-saving win against the Redskins on Week 13, the playoffs essentially began for the Cowboys. To this point, the team is doing everything it can do in winning two-straight games following a three-game wreck that probably ends up fatal to this season’s postseason hopes.
Missing Irving for two games in the month of December while still missing Ezekiel Elliott is not what the doctor ordered. This is especially true when you’re playing a second-straight road game, but this time against a team that has something to play for, as the Oakland Raiders do Sunday night.
Some contend that the Cowboys have the upper hand in this game, which they might. Dallas is just a week away from getting Elliott back and finishing the season at 10-6 makes the postseason a far greater possibility than it seems right now.
But I don’t see it.
I get that Amari Cooper will also miss this game for Oakland and that the Raiders ’17 campaign has been just as disappointing as that of the Cowboys. Derek Carr hasn’t exactly lit up the passing game the way he’s capable of and his team is hanging by a thread – or make that a rope.
The difference here is that Oakland can still win their division, while Dallas can only qualify as probably the sixth seed in the NFC playoff bracket.
You need playmakers on the defensive front and David Irving is the best there is for the Cowboys. DeMarcus Lawrence has had a fantastic season, but where things get complicated for him is the fact that teams can now put their entire focus on him and there’s nobody else along the Dallas line that’s likely to make them pay.
Having Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens on the field together certainly gives the Cowboys a chance, because Marshawn Lynch must be contained in this football game or there’s literally no tomorrow for the Cowboys – their season hangs by only a thread, to be clear.
If the Cowboys find themselves 7-7 early Monday morning, my bet is that the sixth game missed by Irving is the reason why. It’s not the number of sacks he has this season that matters so much. On the contrary, it’s the number of ways in which he’s capable of affecting any given play.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will bring everything he’s got against a suspect Oakland team that was just embarrassed last week against the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that was just as meaningful as their home affair against Dallas. But missing his most athletic and unblockable stallion along a thin defensive line isn’t going to help matters at all.