Dallas Cowboys: Breaking down the Week 9 load management debate

Dallas Cowboys (Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys (Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports) /

123. 1 PM ET. 4-4. 45. FOX. Sunday, Nov 7. 6-1. Cowboys -10.0

The Dallas Cowboys continued their winning ways last weekend by pulling out a momentum-building win over the Vikings, led by Cooper Rush, and a stellar defensive performance. They moved to 6-1 overall, good enough for a sizable lead in the NFC East and a place in the conversation for the first-round bye in the NFC. That said, there remain questions about the health of some key guys.

As we know, Dak Prescott is working to heal his calf strain. Despite going through a full pre-game workout last Sunday, the training staff held him out in an effort to ensure this doesn’t linger all season. That decision is one I was on board with. Give me Dak for the stretch run.

Sunday night also saw some players get a bit dinged up. Left tackle Tyron Smith left the game with an ankle injury. He is nursing a bone spur that will be monitored in practice this week. The game also saw cornerback Trevon Diggs leave late after his ankle getting caught up in a tackle. Luckily, Diggs appears to have a standard ankle sprain.

The “load management” situation is more commonly seen in the NBA and MLB with longer seasons and good teams giving some guys time off to rest up and nurse minor injuries. I think you will see it become more commonplace in the NFL with the longer season and it could affect the Cowboys this week.

So, should the Dallas Cowboys sit some guys against the Denver Broncos? Let me come out now and say who I would play and who I would sit then get into why. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on the “load management” debate.

Dallas Cowboys Play: Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys Sit: Tyron Smith and Trevon Diggs

Cowboys owner and general manager, Jerry Jones, said that Dak is recovering nicely and there is optimism that he suits up come Sunday. I play Dak for two big reasons. The first simply is his talent level. Dak is a top-5 quarterback in the NFL right now and if he is healthy, he should play. It is that simple.

Second, I don’t want to sit Dak too long. I am a big believer in keeping things going if you have a rhythm and Dak has his rhythm in this offense. Let him go Sunday. Ideally, he plays Sunday and gets the Cowboys out front early. Cooper Rush comes in for some second-half snaps and Prescott finds his favorite ballcap on the sidelines.

On the flip side, I do see some value in sitting players in situations that call for it. Tyron Smith has battled injuries the last few years. As Dak’s left tackle, I want him healthy for the stretch run and the playoffs. It also helps to have La’el Collins back. I would slide Terence Steele to left tackle and plug Collins into his original right tackle spot.

The Broncos traded away their perennial Pro Bowl defensive end, Von Miller, earlier this week, which takes a lot of air out of their pass rush. A trade that may have been kickstarted by a locker room money disagreement. I’m serious. The Broncos may have traded away one of their all-time greats over a disagreement of paying for a Halloween party. That feels like a mid-2000s Dallas Cowboys headline.

With the worry of Miller gone, I am more comfortable letting Smith rest that ankle while also allowing Collins to get back into the action. Head coach Mike McCarthy also stated this morning it may be tough for Smith to play. Let him rest up, get Collins in the mix, and trust Steele.

Trevon Diggs needs to be healthy for the playoffs and back half of the season. He is going to be direly important and I give him the week off. Rookie cornerback Kelvin Joseph was activated for the first time last week and saw snaps along with fellow rookie Nahshon Wright. I let the rookies go opposite of Anthony Brown, who played fantastic last weekend, this Sunday. Get them game experience a passing offense that is a bit lackluster.

The Broncos are middle-of-the-pack at best in most passing categories. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is your typical “game manager” that is tasked with not losing the game. Bridgewater has a tendency to hold the ball as he has taken the third-most sacks in the league this year. He is also bottom-10 in yards per completion. In other words, the Broncos rely on a short passing game and it could allow Wright and Joseph the opportunity to get some valuable reps.

In an ideal world, the Cowboys get up big in the first half on Sunday and are able to work some depth guys into the rotation for valuable reps. But, we all know the NFL is rarely ideal. Every Sunday is a challenge no matter who you are playing against.

Hot. The good, the bad, and the ugly from Week 8 victory. light

The Dallas Cowboys have the luxury of a 6-1 record and some quality depth to rely on that is paired with a newfound confidence that they can win with whoever suits up and fills out the 11 men on the field at any given time. I am not opposed to giving a few key guys some rest to get back to 100% and give this team the best shot in the long run. The NFL season is a long one and a little TLC never hurt anyone.