If you haven't liked the sight of Byron Bell, Chaz Green, or Joe Looney playing offensive line for the Cowboys this year, then yesterday's practice report might make you sick. Dallas was without starters Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins at Sunday's practice, which is a little scary with a Thursday night game against Washington on the horizon.
The Cowboys are without three offensive line starters at practice with Tyron Smith (groin, back), Zack Martin (concussion) and La'el Collins (back) not on the field. Linebackers Sean Lee (hamstring), Anthony Hitchens (groin) and Justin Durant… https://t.co/sa4pxto51u
While there are no indications yet that any of these offensive linemen will miss the game, their health issues are still a point of concern. Dak Prescott has been sacked 14 times during the Cowboys three-game losing streak. When he's not getting hit, Dak has little time for plays to develop and has been either throwing it away or throwing interceptions far more than we're used to.
This is a time when the Cowboys should be able to lean on that offensive line and running game, with or without Ezekiel Elliott, to help their young QB stay settled. Instead, it seems like everything has been dumped on Dak for this offense and he doesn't have the blocking or the receiving options to get it done.
It's not that the run game has been totally stagnant, either. Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have combined for 246 yards on 57 carries; a respectable 4.3 average. Unfortunately, respectable isn't enough in 2017.
Dallas' recipe for success last year was run-game dominance, not only for moving the ball and scoring touchdowns but also for helping a weak defense. While the defense got better in some ways from 2016, the absence of Sean Lee has crippled it over the last few weeks.
If the Cowboys have a prayer of salvaging this season, the offensive line has to give Dak Prescott a chance. That means keeping him upright and also keeping defenses honest with some real fear of the rushing attack. Unfortunately, even if all of the o-line starters play, their collective health may be too bad for the level of play that Dallas needs.