The Dallas Cowboys will be missing three starters today as they host the Miami Dolphins. Of course, given the Dolphins’ clear efforts to tank the 2019 season, it may not even matter. Still, let’s take a moment today to look at the Week 3 injury reports.
Frankly, Miami doesn’t deserve the usual analysis. It’s only been two games and they’re already trading away their best players and swapping out quarterbacks. You can barely trust anything they’re doing right now, which includes who they decide to sit or start based on reported injuries.
The Cowboys are on the other side of the NFL spectrum, trying to win a championship in the present and currently looking like one of the top contenders in the league. They suffered some unfortunate injuries in last week’s victory over the Washington Redskins, so this Miami game is actually coming along at an opportune time.
Given the Dolphins’ lack of effort toward this season, we’re going to break from the usual weekly format and just focus on the Dallas injuries. Sadly, there’s plenty to talk about this week.
The Cowboys have already ruled six players out of today’s game:
- WR Michael Gallup – knee
- WR Tavon Austin – concussion
- DT Antwaun Woods – knee
- DL Tyrone Crawford – hip
- LB Luke Gifford – ankle
- S Xavier Woods – ankle
These six guys, plus either Adam Redmond or Brandon Knight from the offensive line backups, will make up Dallas’ seven inactive players for Week 3. Let’s look at each for a moment and discuss the impact of their absence.
Just a quick note is needed on Luke Gifford; the backup linebacker has yet to play this year as he recovers from a preseason ankle injury. He will likely get in sooner than later, given that the team didn’t place him on injured reserve, but it may still be a few weeks.
Now, on to the big names.
WR Michael Gallup & Tavon Austin
The Cowboys will be without their current leader in receptions and receiving yards. While we hate to see Gallup losing games during a potential breakout season, it’s also an opportunity to see what some other players can do with more targets.
Randall Cobb, who’s already had a solid start to 2019 himself as the number-three WR, should be more involved today. He’s done plenty of heavy lifting before during his time in Green Bay, and he’d be a starter for plenty of other NFL teams right now.
This would have been a good chance for Tavon Austin to get more work on offense, perhaps playing the slot while Cobb moved outside, but he’s still dealing with a concussion. That means Devin Smith, one of last week’s surprising heroes, could be in for a major uptick in playing time.
Another beneficiary could be Cedrick Wilson, who was called up from the practice squad to fill in as the punt returner with Austin out. Now that Gallup’s missing, Wilson should get a few looks on offense as the 4th WR on the depth chart.
Outside of the WR position, this could be a big week for Tight End Blake Jarwin. He only got one target last week in Washington, but we could see Dallas use more double-TE sets given their injuries at receiver. There will still be plenty of guys for Miami to worry about in Cobb, Amari Cooper, and Jason Witten, so Jarwin might get some nice matchups to exploit.
Unless this game gets surprisingly competitive, I don’t expect Kellen Moore to go deep into his bag of tricks. Therefore, players like RB Tony Pollard or FB Jamize Olawale probably aren’t going to get much work in the passing game. I think Moore wants to keep any of those plays under wraps until he really needs them.
DT Antwaun Woods & DL Tyrone Crawford
Missing both of these players hurts, but at least Crawford’s absence is mitigated by Robert Quinn coming off suspension and making his Cowboys debut. Quinn was expected to start even if Tyrone was available.
With Antwaun Woods out, and now Crawford also missing as an interior depth option, Dallas will call on rookie Trysten Hill to be active for the first time this year. Christian Covington should be the other start at defensive tackle beside Maliek Collins, but now we’ll hopefully see what our 2nd-Round rookie can do.
Another player who should see more playing time today is rookie Joe Jackson, who the team reportedly favored over departed 1st-Round bust Taco Charlton for his work ethic and position flexibility. It will be interesting to see if Jackson is used as a pass rusher from the inside and if he gets those opportunities before Trysten Hill.
Thankfully, Dallas still has their two studs in DeMarcus Lawrence and Maliek Collins at DE and DT. If Quinn hits the ground running today, they should be able to fill in the gaps and have solid performance in the trenches despite their missing players.
S Xavier Woods
Perhaps the biggest blow of all, given the lack of depth, is missing Woods at safety. He is easily the team’s best player at the position now and could have had a big day with Josh Rosen getting his first start at QB for Miami.
Despite the hype for rookie Donovan Wilson or the experience for fourth-year backup Kavon Frazier, Dallas has chosen to give Darian Thompson the start today. The former 3rd-Round pick for the Giants joined the Cowboys midway through 2018 and has 17 games of starting experience at free safety.
This doesn’t mean we won’t get to see Wilson. He’s fully back from his ankle injury and could be rotated in at times for Jeff Heath, especially if Dallas has a comfortable lead in the second half.
However, keep in mind that Heath has played free safety before. If Thompson struggles today, perhaps the Cowboys would move Jeff to FS and then give Frazier or Wilson some time at SS.
Whatever happens, we’re going to miss Xavier Woods. Hopefully Miami isn’t good enough, or trying hard enough, to take advantage of his absence.