Penalties and the Dallas Cowboys have become synonymous. In the 2021 season, Dallas led the league with 127 penalties which cost them 1,103 yards. The first preseason game against the Denver Broncos didn’t give fans much hope. The ‘Boys committed 17 penalties in that contest, and that doesn’t include times where there were multiple penalties on one play or a call was declined.
Last night, the team as a whole has ten penalties for 73 yards. That is an improvement for sure. The problem? One man had four of those five penalties: right tackle Terence Steele.
On the night, Steele had three false starts and one holding penalty. By the time he committed his fourth penalty, he had more than Tampa Bay’s three (Bucs eventually ended the night with 5 flags for 25 yards). To make matters worse, three of his four flags came on one drive.
Steele shook his head in disappointment, and the crowd let him hear it. After his second false start of the drive, AT&T Stadium erupted in boos.
Cowboys right tackle Terence Steele has penalty riddled performance against Bucs in Week 1
Here’s the crazy part. In both 2020 and 2021, Steele played in 16 games. According to NFLPenalties.com, the third-year tackle had four total penalties in 2020 and eight in 2021. That means he had the same amount of penalties in Week 1 as he did in his entire rookie season. Ouch.
The offense certainly didn’t need any more frustrations in the contest vs. Tampa Bay. Left guard Connor McGovern went down very early with an ankle injury. Dak Prescott and his inexperienced (aside from CeeDee Lamb) wide receivers could not seem to gel. Dallas did not score a single touchdown. And, the night ended with their QB getting X-rays on his hand.
In theory, you see something like this and you say to yourself, “bench him!” Well. You really can’t. This offensive line could not be more depleted if it tried. Jerry Jones let Connor Williams and La’el Collins go in the offseason and only brought in a rookie offensive lineman to cover the mess, leaving Prescott more vulnerable than ever, as we clearly saw last night.
So, what can Mike McCarthy do? Josh Ball and Matt Waletzko are the swing tackle options and neither is good. Waletzko is dealing with a lingering shoulder injury, and Ball was consistently bad during this preseason.
It’s arguably irresponsible to throw either of those guys in there even with this egregious performance from Steele. This offensive line needs help, but it also needed help months ago. Now, it’s too late for Jerry Jones to try and help. He brought Jason Peters, but the 40-year-old still won’t be ready to play for a few weeks given he was not part of training camp with any NFL team.
So, how do you discipline a guy when you have no viable options to replace him with? Where do the Cowboys go from here?