Cowboys Reinforcements on the Way, How Should Dallas Deploy Them?

    The have a lot going right for them at the perfect time, entering December on a four game win streak that's put them in the driver's seat. The 7-5 Cowboys will host their third straight game next Sunday against the Eagles. Having already won in Philadelphia for their first of these four in a row, the Cowboys will have the added benefit of facing the Eagles off just six days rest.

    The 5-6 Eagles will play the 6-5 on . Both teams currently sit behind Dallas, which is expecting some key players back on the field as early as next week.

    , Defensive , and are the three most likely candidates to rejoin the Cowboys lineup in week 14. All three have been important starters at their respective positions, while also seeing their replacements perform well.

    Just how the Cowboys handle this late-season infusion of talent will go a long way in determining if they're primed for a playoff run or not. While some returning players have an obvious fit on the field, others will force difficult decisions for a Cowboys and staff that's been proven right at every turn so far.

    - Advertisement -

    Here is my perspective on how the Cowboys should handle having Lee, Irving, and Smith available on game day.

    Cowboys Place LT Tyron Smith On IR Before Week 17
    Dallas Cowboys LT Tyron Smith

    Left Tackle Tyron Smith

    Smith has missed the shortest amount of time out of this trio of players, and also faces the least resistance to regain his starting job at left tackle. Elsewhere on the Cowboys offensive line, backups like Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo have done their absolute best in rescuing this season, but this won't remain the case with Cam Fleming at LT.

    - Advertisement -

    Though the standard set from a year ago for Fleming to live up to was low, the Cowboys veteran swing tackle has kept upright in wins over the Redskins and Saints.

    Amazingly, the Cowboys pulled off their upset over the Saints despite allowing seven . The time is now for the OL to return to full strength – or as close as possible. Using the extra days off to clear Smith of his shoulder stinger is a great way for Dallas to do just this, with Fleming returning to an all-important backup position once Smith is ready.

    aside, the Cowboys didn't stand a chance in 2017 without Smith and Sean Lee. Passing their first test without Smith has been much easier than winning consistently without Lee, though the reason for the latter is much more remarkable.

    Linebacker Sean Lee

    Does the “hot hand” debate apply to off-ball linebackers? Is Sean Lee a potential victim of surplus wolf hunting, and more importantly why is this a question that makes sense?

    is the answer to all these inquiries and then some for a Cowboys team that absolutely nailed their first round pick. Vander Esch is so much more than a fill-in for Lee, playing at an All-Pro level in just his first season.

    The Cowboys drafted the raw defender out of Boise State for his potential, watching in awe with the rest of us as Leighton reaches this potential rapidly. Every week, Vander Esch does something new and impressive, Thursday night being no exception.

    - Advertisement -

    If there ever was going to be a game for the Cowboys defense to need a long look in the mirror afterwards, this week's against the Saints should have been it. Vander Esch's body of work would still stand as one of the best for a rookie defender in Dallas in years, opening the door for Lee to overtake his starting job.

    Instead, the legend of the wolf hunter grew even more as LVE and Jaylon Smith led a Cowboys defense that allowed just one touchdown to New Orleans.

    Simply experimenting with a lineup that features Lee and Vander Esch together is problematic for the Cowboys, as the two have played just 19 such snaps this season. Lee was last seen in the Cowboys most recent loss to the Titans, and the team's need for him much earlier than that thanks to Vander Esch.

    Lee has always served as a coach on the field when healthy, and one without the title when unfortunately reduced to street clothes on the Cowboys sideline. The Cowboys don't have to keep things exactly as they are in regards to Lee almost superstitiously ending this elite stretch of play on defense, but any extended time off the field for Leighton Vander Esch would be malpractice.

    Perhaps this dilemma is best left to , credited for moving to cornerback before this season and changing the entire complexion of the Cowboys defense. What is certain is that Lee will be all for whatever conclusion is reached by the Cowboys to keep their surplus of linebacker talent happy.

    David Irving Ready to "Be Put Through Ringer" in First Action with Cowboys
    Dallas Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford, DT David Irving (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

    Defensive Tackle David Irving

    For as much as Sean Lee's teammates rave about playing with “The General”, the same is said of David Irving by the Cowboys front four. Irving has become something of an afterthought for a Cowboys defense that can reach new heights should he make his season debut against the Eagles.

    The Cowboys have stuck with Irving for a reason, and they'll be ready to show off these reasons as soon as Irving prioritizes his own return to the field. Starting the season with a four game suspension, Irving has recently dealt with a high ankle sprain, the status of which is unknown as he's been absent from team meetings and practices with a personal issue.

    Defensive tackles like Irving are nearly impossible to find. Those with skill and a high motor to play in 's defense are more common, and fortunately the Cowboys have and Tyrone Crawford fitting this bill right now.

    Crawford is excelling as an interior defender again, but would readily bounce between the 3T position and if the Cowboys feel the need for Randy Gregory or to play reduced snaps.

    Irving's length, quickness, and finishing ability has helped everyone around him when he's on the field. The Cowboys already deploy their in waves, and the impact of these waves would be much more consistent with Irving at DT.

    Collins, Crawford, Caraun Reid, and even rookie are all defenders still deserving of playing time at Irving's position, but David has a 6'7″, 290 pound hole punched out and waiting for him upon return.

    ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

    The Cowboys have been the best team in the East since trading for . Staking their claim as one of the best teams in the conference began with a 13-10 win against the Saints, and likely needs to end with the Cowboys getting fully healthy over the next four weeks.

    An already elite defense's biggest problem over the next ten days before game day is how to use two established, eager-to-contribute talents. On , where the Cowboys must improve the most still, Tyron Smith is on track to join Sean Lee and David Irving as the most important players Dallas can move onto the active 46-man roster next Sunday.

    Sean Martin
    Sean Martin
    Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.


    Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy on Upcoming Bout Against Rams: “We’re Nobody’s Underdog”

    The Dallas Cowboys have been overcoming the odds since...

    Diggs Island – Trevon Diggs Is Entering Elite Status

    It’s hard to find a cornerback that is under...

    Week 5 Preview: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

    The Cowboys head back on the road this weekend...


    Daily Cowboys News in Your Inbox
    Your email address:*
    Please enter all required fields Click to hide
    Correct invalid entries Click to hide

    Don't miss

    Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy on Upcoming Bout Against Rams: “We’re Nobody’s Underdog”

    The Dallas Cowboys have been overcoming the odds since...

    Diggs Island – Trevon Diggs Is Entering Elite Status

    It’s hard to find a cornerback that is under...

    Week 5 Preview: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

    The Cowboys head back on the road this weekend...

    Jerry Jones Speaks About Dak Prescott’s Injury

    Owner Jerry Jones was a guest on 105.3 "The...

    Where Was Micah Parsons in the Giants Game?

    Yes, Linebacker Micah Parsons did play against the New York Giants, yet his stats were very limited to his previous games. What went different...

    Commanders Claim DT John Ridgeway From Cowboys

    The Dallas Cowboys' fifth pick in the 2022 NFL draft was taken by the Washington Commanders the other day. After getting waived by the...

    Is DT Quinton Bohanna a Rising Star on Cowboys Defense?

    While we've yet to see anyone in a real game this season, there are early signs from training camp, preseason, and other sources of...


    Newest Most Voted
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of Lee, Smith, and Irving. The Cowboys will be able to move forward in a positive direction, in reaching its objectives for the 2018-19 season.

    Not your goat

    Irving has already made his season debut. What about Tavon, Williams and Swaim?


    Can Sean Lee play safety in certain situations? He is good at tacking and good in pass coverage.

    Wayne Young

    Tyron needs to come back, period. He’s still the best at his position even though his backup has done a decent job filling in. Might have to start looking for his replacement since he’s been injured a lot the past few years. As great as Sean Lee has been while healthy, don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. I’d rotate him in with Wilson before taking LVE or even Jaylon out. Could you imagine having all 3 playing at the same time? To me that would be every offense’s worst nightmare. Irving is a crap shoot. When he wants to play, he’s dominant. The question is if his heart is in it. If not, they seem to be doing fine without him, but extra bodies are always welcomed.


    I don’t see how they can pull either Jaylon or LVE except to give them a rest. I think Lee will be relagated to backup position. Tyron Smith and David Irving will be very welcome players back.