The Dallas Cowboys have to be careful how they go about closing out the 2018 season against the New York Giants this week. They want to finish the season out strong, but also need to get their team as healthy as possible with the playoffs just around the corner.
This is a fine line to walk for Head Coach Jason Garrett, who is known as someone who has chosen not to sit players this late in the season even with a playoff spot already secured. He has to decide how much he wants to play his starters and if there are any particular players who should sit out this contest altogether. Whatever he decides could have huge implications on the playoffs.
If I was in Jason Garrett’s shoes, there are five players I would personally sit this week against the Giants. There is nothing to gain from having them on the field, but losing them could end any chance they had in the playoffs before it even got underway.
Let’s take a look…
RG, Zack Martin
Again, if I was making decisions I would shut down Right Guard Zack Martin this week. I wouldn’t even suit him up in a uniform. He has been battling a knee injury all season and missed the game against the Indianapolis Colts because he reaggravated it. He did return last week against the Buccaneers, but I’d still give me a week off in order to get as healthy as possible for the Wild Card round.
I’d insert the Dallas Cowboys second-round pick Connor Williams into the starting lineup at RG to get him some more playing time. I just don’t want to run the risk of Martin further injuring himself and not being available to the Cowboys in the playoffs. He’s still playing at a high level this year despite doing it on a bum knee and I want to keep it that way. Let him rest up.
DE, Tyrone Crawford
Tyrone Crawford exited the game on the first series last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a neck injury and went directly to the hospital to be checked out. Thankfully he avoided any kind of serious injury and could possibly return to the lineup as early as this week. But, with nothing to gain from this game the Cowboys should consider resting him for the playoffs.
To me, this is a no-brainer. He was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field last week for a reason, even though it was mostly precautionary. There is no reason at all to have him suit up this week. Get Taco Charlton and Dorrance Armstrong in there and let them play in his place. As young players, they could use the work.
LT, Tyron Smith
You may be starting to notice a trend here. Left Tackle Tyron Smith is another one of the Dallas Cowboys players who has been banged up this season and has missed some time because of those injuries. He could definitely benefit from some rest.
Luckily, the Cowboys have a solid replacement to insert into the lineup as Smith’s replacement. Cameron Fleming replaced him adequately earlier this season at LT and should do so once again this week against the Giants. Let him get out there and knock off some rust just in case he’s needed.
RB, Ezekiel Elliott
For me, sitting Running Back Ezekiel Elliott this week in the season finale is another no-brainer. He’s a competitor and it will take some convincing to keep him off the field, but the rewards far outweigh the risk of him becoming more banged up than he already is.
Even if Elliott doesn’t play against the Giants this week, he should finish the 2018 season as the leading rusher in the NFL. He currently has 1,434 rushing yards this season, which is 183 more than Todd Gurley and 236 more than Shaquon Barkley. Neither will likely catch him, especially since Gurley might sit again this week with an injury and with Barkley set to go up against the Cowboys top run defense.
DE, DeMarcus Lawrence
Last, but definitely not least, I would personally sit Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. Unlike everybody else on this list, he’s not banged up as far as I know. But, he has been playing a high volume of snaps and could use the rest as a kind of reboot heading into the all-important playoff season.
Again, I would let Taco Charlton and Dorrance Armstrong take over the majority of the snaps at DE for the Cowboys. Jason Garrett should treat this game more like a preseason match and get some of his young players as much playing time as possible. That’s why I would make D-Law a healthy scratch this week.