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Cowboys Cautiously Monitoring Offensive Line Injuries

Matthew Lenix



Cowboys Cautiously Monitoring Offensive Line Injuries

For the last half-decade, the Dallas Cowboys have built their team through running the football with a dominant offensive line. All-Pro Left Tackle Tyron Smith is the elder statesman of the group, causing long Sundays for right-side defensive ends since 2011. All-Pro Center Travis Frederick came in 2013, All-Pro Right Guard Zack Martin in 2014 and Right Tackle La'el Collins in 2015 as an undrafted free agent. They have built a reputation as being one of the NFL's best offensive lines but in the last few years, that reputation has faded slightly due to injuries. Something they're currently monitoring as they look to regain the best offensive line title in 2019.

Cowboys Cautiously Monitoring Offensive Line Injuries 1

La'el Collins is the least heralded of the veteran starters but his importance can't be undervalued simply because he's the best right tackle on the roster and responsible for keeping left-side defensive ends out of the face of Quarterback Dak Prescott. He's currently nursing a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice on Tuesday but is expected to be ready for week one against the New York Giants according to Head Coach Jason Garrett. 2019 is also a contract year for Collins so being healthy and performing at a high level is not only vital to the Cowboys but to his bank account. He's set to make 6.5 million in the final year of his current deal.

Cowboys Cautiously Monitoring Offensive Line Injuries 2

Tyron Smith is entering year nine of a stellar career. Six consecutive pro bowls along with five all-pro selections since 2013 have made him if not the best one of the top 3 left tackles in the NFL. He only missed one game in his first five seasons but has missed exactly three each season since 2015 with neck, knee, and back injuries. The back has been the constant nagging ailment for him over the last several years but coming into this offseason he was excited to be injury-free. “Every year you always have little nicks here and there, but it feels good coming into this year with no injuries,” Smith told Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News back in the spring. “I’m coming back faster and stronger.”

Now it seems as if the back has reared it's ugly head once again as the Cowboys are being smart with their most important offensive lineman who has the responsibility of protecting Dak Prescott's blindside. Not a major concern but something to monitor even though he is expected to be on the field when the real games count in September.

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Zack Martin has been as consistent as any offensive lineman in the league since 2014. He's been a pro bowler every year as well as an all-pro, making him the only player in Cowboys history that can say that in their first five seasons. Earlier this month he left practice with a back injury that required an MRI. However, the results were much to the Cowboys delight as no ailment was found and the team has been cautiously keeping an eye on it since. He plans on continuing his ironman status in 2019, though, as he explained at the final training camp practice at The Star in Frisco. “My goal is to be out there for every game this season,” Martin said following Tuesday’s practice at Ford Center. “Knowing that my teammates can count on me week in and week out, I take great pride in that. That’s something that I’m working to get back to.”

Having him healthy is critical to the success of the Cowboys running game as he lines up alongside Travis Frederick to form the most formidable interior offensive line in football.

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Travis Frederick has established himself as the league's top center with four pro bowl selections and three all-pro honors in his first five seasons. Unfortunately, in 2018 he was diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome and missed the entire season. After a year off the Cowboys have carefully monitored his health and things are looking great going into 2019. He finally got his first game reps a few weeks back since the preseason a year ago against the 49ers and looked good in albeit nine snaps. This was a very encouraging sign considering the last step for him was actual physical contact.

"It's sort of a reuniting feeling with the guys," Frederick said. "When you're injured or you're out, you kind of get separated. That's not on purpose, but it is just what it is. This was an opportunity to kind of rejoin that fraternity. And then personally just getting a chance to prove myself that I can do it, and that I can still play at a high level and be able to contribute this season. I think it was a good step for me." Frederick is on track to be ready for the season opener.

The Cowboys go as this offensive line and All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott take them. Their identity is to physically dominate at the line of scrimmage and control the clock while keeping their defensive teammates fresh and the opposing offense out of rhythm. The health of these four veterans is essential if the Cowboys want to make a deep playoff run in 2019.


Dallas Cowboys

Loss to Minnesota Could be the Final Nail in Jason Garrett’s Coffin

Brian Martin



Vikings Loss Could be the Final Nail in Jason Garrett's Coffin

The 2019 NFL season kind of seemed like a do or die situation for the Dallas Cowboys current Head Coach Jason Garrett. He is currently in the last year of his contract and his future with the Cowboys organization could be hanging in the balance, especially after the devastating loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

If Jason Garrett isn't extended beyond this season, this loss to Minnesota could possibly be where his career with the Dallas Cowboys started to circle the drain. There are still several games left on the Cowboys schedule this season, but this one loss could be the one that ends up knocking them out of the playoffs. If that's true, it's hard to believe JG will be retained.

Jerry Jones, and son Stephen, have both fully supported Jason Garrett since he became the Cowboys full-time head coach back in 2011 after serving as the interim HC for Wade Phillips in 2010. That's nearly a decade of the Jones' sticking by JG through all of the thick and thin over years. That unwavering support however could be coming to an end though.

The proof is in the pudding as they say. As a head coach Jason Garrett is slightly above average according to his all-time win/loss record. His regular-season record as the HC with the Cowboys is 82-62 (.569) and he's 2-3 (.400) in the postseason. Add all of that up and he's 84-65 (.564) in his career… slightly above average.

Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys HC Jason Garrett (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

If I know anything about the Jones', I know getting the Dallas Cowboys back to the promised land as one of the best teams in the NFL is at the top of their list. That's why we've seen them over the years take chances on players other teams wouldn't in order to put together the most competitive roster they possibly could. Now that attention might need to be shifted from the players to the head coach.

Much like the Jones', I've supported and stood by Jason Garrett over the years. That support is dwindling though after each and every loss this season, at least on my part. Personally, I'm ready to find some new blood and move on. What the Jones' end up doing though is completely up in the air.

I want to believe the Dallas Cowboys are ready to move on from JG, but I'm not completely convinced. The fact that his current contract is about to expire after the season suggests they're at least considering parting ways, but that's all it does. I think how the rest of season turns out after the devastating loss to the Vikings will end up determining his fate.

If JG somehow sneaks the Cowboys into the playoffs it could save his job. That unfortunately is no easy thing to do with the teams they have left to play this season. Because of that, the Week 10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings could end up being the final nail in Jason Garrett's coffin.

What do you think? Is it time to part ways with Jason Garrett?

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Game Notes

Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s Status Still Unknown for Cowboys Game

Jess Haynie



Matthew Stafford, Lions

The Dallas Cowboys are headed to Detroit this Sunday for a Week 11 meeting with the Lions. As Dallas tries to get back to winning games, they may get a boost from the absence of Lions' Quarterback Matthew Stafford. After missing last week's game with a back injury, Stafford's status for this week remains unclear.

Stafford was a limited participant in practices all of Week 10 for Detroit and went into their game with the Chicago Bears as a game-time decision. He was ultimately ruled out due to fractures in his back; the first start Stafford's missed for the Lions since the 2010 season.

Jeff Driskel got the start as the Lions fell in Chicago. He is 1-5 as an NFL starter overall, going 1-4 in games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.

The Lions are now 3-5-1 on the year and at the bottom of the NFC North. They are also far behind in the Wild Card race, which leads to speculation that they could shut Stafford down for the season to preserve his long-term health. Based on Matthew's contract, the earliest Detroit can easily get out from his contract is after the 2020 season.

For his part, Matthew Stafford has said he has no plans on staying out this season as long he's medically cleared to play. He certainly would love to be active this Sunday against the Cowboys, the team of his youth, after playing his high school football in Dallas.

Even if Stafford plays, Dallas has done solidly overall against opposing quarterbacks in 2019. They are sixth in passing yards allowed per game and 14th in opponent passer rating.

Detroit is fourth in passing offense right now in the NFL but that was based on eight games with Stafford at QB. Jeff Driskel will not perform at that same level, and the Lions' rushing attack has been very weak since Kerryon Johnson went on injured reserve.

We'll see in the coming days if Matthew Stafford is at practice for Detroit and to what extent. But even if he does practice some, as he did last week, it could once again be a last-minute decision for the Lions if Stafford actually plays on Sunday.

With the Cowboys desperate for a win, they'll take all the help they can get.

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Dallas Cowboys

The Time has Come to See More of Tight End Blake Jarwin

John Williams



Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin Owns the New York Giants, Again

When Jason Witten made his triumphant return from the Monday Night Football booth to the Dallas Cowboys' locker room, the addition was met with a bit of reserved optimism. On the one hand, it was awesome to get one of the best players in the history of the franchise back on the field and in the locker room. On the other hand, it meant that he would eat into the snap counts of Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, or any rookie they potentially drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Though, upon arrival, the Cowboys and Witten stated the future Hall of Famer would only play roughly 25 snaps a game, it didn't take long to figure out that Witten was the starting and full-time player at tight end. In training camp, Witten got a majority of the first-team snaps. In the first nine games of the 2019 season, Witten's played nearly twice as many snaps as Blake Jarwin.

It's an unfortunate turn from the narrative we were being fed in the offseason as Blake Jarwin provides a receiving dynamic that no other tight end for the Dallas Cowboys can. He's quicker, more agile, and has much more athleticism than Jason Witten.

On a per snap basis, Blake Jarwin is offering more in yards per snap and in yards per route run. Jarwin has accrued 0.811 yards per snap to Jason Witten's 0.711. Basically, if you prorate Jarwin's yards per snap total of 0.811 to Jason Witten's snap count of 475, Jarwin would theoretically have nearly 50 more receiving yards than Witten while providing another downfield threat to the passing game.

If we look at yards per route run, Jarwin's outpacing Witten 1.97 to 1.37 per Pro Football Focus. If you were to give Jason Witten's number of routes run to Blake Jarwin and prorated based on Jarwin's production in 2019, he would have roughly 484 receiving yards or 150 more receiving yards than Jason Witten.

Obviously, Jarwin's still got some development that needs to happen as a run blocker to be able to get on the field more. The Cowboys coaching staff, however, has still elected to roll with Jason Witten over Blake Jarwin even in pass-heavy situations as we saw on Sunday Night Football. This is the first game of the year where the Cowboys needed to be in heavy passing mode, but they continue to keep one of their more athletic weapons on the sideline when they need to get chunk plays.

Jarwin's ability to attack up the seam can help open everything up for everyone else in the offense. Just having another vertical threat on the field can create space for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb underneath.

Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff isn't going to flip their snap counts anytime soon, but the time has come for Blake Jarwin to get more of the situational passing work. When the Cowboys get into obvious passing situations -- 3rd and longs or in two-minute situations -- Blake Jarwin needs to be the tight end on the field.

We've seen each of the last two weeks what Jarwin can do once he gets the ball in his hands. Against the New York Giants, he ripped off a game-changing 42-yard touchdown run and catch. On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Jarwin had a big 26-yard reception that helped get the Cowboys going offensively.

Jason Witten will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. It's time he and the coaching staff recognizes that the Dallas Cowboys could be an even more dynamic offensive team by getting the more athletic Blake Jarwin on the field more.

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