Dak Prescott will shoulder a heavy load. Tim Warner/Getty Images
Thursday night’s preseason finale was not much of a game for most teams. The Cowboys and Texans were no exception. They rested their starters, which led to the Cowboys taking another loss. The 14-6 result left the Cowboys winless (0-4) before starting the regular season.
Backup quarterbacks Cooper Rush and Mike White split halves and once again White looked like the better option as QB2 on the depth chart. He went 13 of 21 for 118 yards and no turnovers. Rush was 14 of 25 for 83 yards and two interceptions although one was a Hail Mary at the end of the first half so that shouldn’t really count. Head Coach Jason Garrett and staff need to make a decision on who will back up starting QB Dak Prescott and it looks like rookie White is the right choice.
In a surprise move the Cowboys cut longtime kicker Dan Bailey. He had been a cornerstone at the position for the last eight years and is the second most accurate kicker in NFL history with 88.2% accuracy. They are going forward with Brett Maher, a kicker who is coming over from the Canadian Football League. Maher has never kicked in an NFL regular season game but has shown promise going 4 for 5 with a long 57-yard field goal against the Texans. The decision seems to be purely financial as Bailey was set to make over $3 million dollars this season while Maher is set to make a little under $500,000. I am curious to see how well this decision works out through the course of the season.
3 Players to Watch
Allen Hurns (wide receiver): Signed a two year, $12 million dollar contract this offseason to come over from Jacksonville. He is slated to be the replacement to former Cowboys great Dez Bryant and hasn’t had much opportunity to show off his skills so far. With Week 1 approaching let’s see if he can develop a good rapport with Prescott.
Geoff Swaim (tight end): In the absence of Cowboy legend Jason Witten, Swaim is now the starting tight rnd. It will be intriguing to see if this fouth year player can help the Cowboys reclaim an above average passing attack. He has never scored a touchdown and has only nine career receptions.
Tyree Robinson (free safety): The 6’3 slender defensive back from University of Oregon made the 53-man roster and is the backup free safety. With starter Xavier Woods listed as questionable for Sunday’s regular season start due to a hamstring injury, Robinson could be in line for his first start.
It is finally here, the start of the 2018 NFL Regular Season! The Cowboys start off on the road against the Carolina Panthers and former NFL MVP Cam Newton on Sunday Sept. 9 at 3:25pm Central Time. The Cowboys are still dealing with offensive line injuries (Travis Frederick and Zack Martin).
If the Cowboys struggle with the running game, it is going to up to Prescott to get the ball downfield to his unproven pass catchers. On the defensive side of the ball, the main threats are going to be Newton’s ability to escape the pressure and run for first downs as well as containing versatile second year running back Christian McCaffrey. Luckily for the Cowboys, the Panthers don’t seem to have many playmaking wide receivers.
For you gamblers out there, the current line is Dallas +3. If you are going to bet on the Cowboys, bet them early because they are a very public team and the line usually goes lower on their side closer to game time. Meaning, it will probably end up less than 3. I would only bet them if you can a number more than 3.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.