The Cowboys Report

Trouble in Big D? Offensive line takes some hits

Trouble in Big D? Offensive line takes some hits
Dak Prescott should see lots of action this week. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With the start of the NFL season only a few weeks away, are the Cowboys already in trouble?  At this point in time they are down two great offensive linemen. Last week Pro Bowl Right Guard Zach Martin left the game vs. Cincinnati with a left knee injury and early Thursday morning it was announced that Pro Bowl Center Travis Frederick is out indefinitely with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.   This is a rare auto immune disorder that attacks the body’s nerves and causes muscle weakness and has to timetable. Along with the departures of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, this only adds to the question of “What is the Cowboys offense going to look like this year?”

Logically Jason Garrett and his staff would look to lean heavily on their young stud running back Ezekiel Elliott.  This will probably mean Elliott getting over 400 touches this season which relies on having a healthy O-Line. Luckily, starting QB Dak Prescott and the first team offense have looked good the first two preseason games.  Prescott has gone 13-of-18 for 125 yards, two touchdowns and NO interceptions. On the four drives he has had, they have scored three times. The most notable was a 30 yard TD pass to rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup.

Even with the Cowboys starting 0-2, things might not be so bad if Prescott can bounce back to his 2016 form where he threw for over 3,000 yards, 23 TDs, and only 4 INTs.  This would be a tremendous benefit to both Elliott and the O-Line by keeping the defense honest and not stacking the line of scrimmage.

3 Players to Watch

  1. Joe Looney, Cowboys starting Center due Frederick’s illness.  Looney is a 2012 4th round pick out of Wake Forest.  He is 6’3 and weighs over 300 lbs. but has only started three games in the last two years.  It will be good to see how he fits in with the first team offense.

  2. Tyree Robinson (Undrafted Free agent), who is fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster but has a great opportunity because the Cowboys also have multiple injuries to their secondary (starting safety Xavier Woods and backup Jameill Showers).  He is a 6’3 slender defensive back who put up decent college stats at the University of Oregon. He has the ability be be a great asset in the defensive backfield as well as contribute to special teams.

  3. Michael Gallup, rookie wide receiver from Colorado State who was drafted in the third round this year. (I will definitely have my eye on this one for fantasy purposes.)  At 6’1 he has favorable size and speed, which he has shown already. The coaches definitely see something there because he has been in on 85% of the first team snaps in the first two preseason games.  Not to mention the Cowboys have a few question marks at the position with Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin not being on the field much with lower body injuries.  

Coming up

On Sunday night, the Cowboys will take on the 2-0 Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX (AKA:  Jerry’s World). This should be a good one not only because it is the third preseason game which is said to be the one that most resembles a real game but the Cowboys haven’t won a game yet and I am sure they are going to push hard to get one in the win column.  Not only are we going to get to see a lot of reps out of Prescott and Elliott, but the Cardinals first team is loaded with a bunch of talent too.  Newly signed free agent QB Sam Bradford will be on the field with All-Pro running back David Johnson and potential future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

For you gamblers out there, you might want to put a small wager on the Cowboys at +1.5.  I know I am going to.




 

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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