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No Time For Panic In Dallas

Panic: Not in his vocabulary.
Panic: Not in his vocabulary.

The Dallas Cowboys are battered and bruised. Miles Austin is out, as are Derrick Dockery and Orlando Scandrick. Tony Romo's ribs are being talked about so much he should change his last name to Roma. Dez Bryant head-faked a practice today, Felix Jones and Phil Costa are practicing but hardly 100%.

There is a lot that could cause massive concern. Issues abound as the team gets ready to face a suddenly resurgent Washington Redskins team that always is looking to put a beatdown on the Cowboys. But reading and listening to what is coming out of Valley Ranch, I don't see any sign of panic. I see a head coach quietly getting his team ready to play and win.

To me, this would be a time to feel a little panic, with my starting quarterback hurting and my top weapons so banged up. Apparently, Jason Garrett doesn't do panic.

For some time, we have been observing that the Cowboys are going to play the best people they have available, regardless of contracts or experience. That principle is still clearly in effect as the injuries pile up. The next man up steps in and is expected to carry his share of the load.

Unexpectedly, the implementation of this philosophy prepared the team for just the situation it finds itself in. With the onslaught of injuries, the team was ready to move on. When Tony found himself trying to engineer a comeback with his top two wide receivers out with injuries, he just went out and turned Jesse Holley into one of the heroes of the game.

There is a toughness on this team that is becoming increasingly apparent. Everyone saw it against San Francisco when Tony Romo demanded his helmet because he was not going to let the team go to 0-2 to start the season. But it's not just Tony. It's rookies going out and starting on the offensive line, or coming in off the bench in a crucial situation. Not much has been said about Kevin Kowalski, an undrafted free agent from Toledo, who came in during that fourth quarter comeback and filled in for an injured Phil Costa. That's because he went in and did his job. Tony had time to complete his passes. I don't know if San Francisco went after Kowalski because he was a rookie coming into the game like that. If they didn't, they should have. If they did, they failed. Which would imply that he succeeded.

I am not going to predict a Dallas win, because I am not so hot at predictions and because I have lingering superstitions regarding jinxes. But I know they certainly have a chance to win this game, and I think it is a pretty good one.

First, if Tony Romo thinks he can play, they will have to run his helmet though a car-crusher to keep him off the field - even then he'd probably steal Stephen McGee's hat. If they did manage to medically prevent him from playing, Jon Kitna is going to have a week of work with the first team offense. One way or another, the quarterback will be ready. And I think the rest of the team will be as well.

Like I said, this is now a tough team. It had a reputation for softness under the prior coaching regime, but I will be quite ready to argue that point with anyone who still sees it that way in 2011. Consider that at some point last week Tony Romo, Felix Jones, Miles Austin, Phil Costa, Tyron Smith and Jason Witten were all lined up and playing with some degree of injury. That's six of your offensive starters, and Derrick Dockery and Kevin Ogletree would also be hurt before the game was over. And they came from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to win.

I will submit that this starts at the very top, with Jason Garrett. And his field general has certainly carried that toughness flag well.

On the defensive side, there is also toughness present. And a fair bit of meanness. When they line up against the Redskins on Monday night, they will be throwing the NFL leader in sacks and the NFL leader in tackles at Rex Grossman and company. This team is 1st in sacks, 2nd in rush defense, and 4th in total yards allowed.  (All stats from NFL.com.) And this is the first game of the season they are projected to have both starting cornerbacks on the field. Grossman has been pretty hot to start the season, and he is going to need to stay that way against this bunch or they could eat him up. I am a bit stunned at how rapidly this group has absorbed the Rob Ryan scheme and style and how well it has worked so far. I do caveat everything with the fact that the sample size is small, but the results are still very good.

There are still at least fourteen games to play, and I do not pretend that everything is rosy. But I have no doubt that the situation is under control. The title of this post did not mean that this is the wrong time to panic. It meant that panic is not going to happen with the Dallas Cowboys because the coaches and players don't have time for it.

No, I'm not drinking Kool Aid. But I do have a pitcher ready in the fridge. Just in case.