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After Four Weeks, Games Missed By Key Cowboys Starters Already At Level Of Entire 2014 Season

The 2015 Cowboys will easily eclipse the 2014 Cowboys in terms of games missed by key players. Now they'll just have to hang on until reinforcements arrive, hopefully before it's too late.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

For the 2014 defense, the year started off badly when Sean Lee was lost for the season with a torn ACL in OTAs, and it didn't get any better when Devonte Holloman suffered a career-ending spinal injury and rookie DeMarcus Lawrence fractured his foot - all before the season started. During the season, Morris Claiborne (12 games missed) and Justin Durant (10) would join an ever growing list of injured defensive players that eventually would see 10 key defensive contributors miss various degrees of playing time.

On offense, Tony Romo's health dominated the headlines all year, but the offense remained remarkably healthy. Apart from Romo's one missed game, the only notable injury was to Doug Free, who fractured his foot in Week 6 against Seattle and missed three games, then re-injured his ankle against the Eagles in Week 14 and missed the final two regular season games.

When I reviewed the 2014 injury situation in a post in March of this year, I was optimistic that the defense could be a little healthier this year:

There's a good chance the Cowboys defense will see a lot less injuries in 2015. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, if you were counting on the offense to bail out the defense by maintaining its fifth-ranked scoring pace of 29.2 points per game into the new season, regression to the mean has some less favorable news for you: Given that the Cowboys offense was one of the healthiest units in the league last year, we have to expect that they'll see more injuries in 2015, and that might impact their ability to score.

Turns out, I was bang on for the offense but way too optimistic about the defense.

2015 started out reasonably well for the defense without any significant injuries in OTAS and most of training camp - until Orlando Scandrick tore his ACL and MCL on August 25. By then, it was also clear that Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy would each miss the first four games. Randy Gregory was added to the injury list after the season opener, DT Terrell McClain went on IR after the second game, Jeremy Mincey missed the third game, and now Sean Lee is out with a concussion.

On offense, Tony Romo will miss at least seven games and Dez Bryant hopes to be back by Week 7, which would potentially leave him missing just four games. But that's already more than the entire offense missed in 2014. Add Lance Dunbar, who could be out for the season with a knee injury, and the offense is arguably missing its three biggest playmakers.

Add it all up, and this year's games missed by key starters has already reached the entire 2014 total, as the table below shows:

2014 2015
DEFENSE Games missed DEFENSE Games missed
Sean Lee 16 Orlando Scandrick 16
Morris Claiborne 12 Terrell McClain 14
Justin Durant 10 Randy Gregory 4
DeMarcus Lawrence 9 Rolando McClain* 4
Anthony Spencer 3 Greg Hardy* 4
Rolando McClain 3 Jeremy Mincey 1
Bruce Carter 3 Sean Lee tbd
Terrell McClain 3
Orlando Scandrick* 2
Tyrone Crawford 1
OFFENSE Games missed OFFENSE Games missed
Doug Free 5 Lance Dunbar 12
Tony Romo 1 Tony Romo 7
Ronald Leary 1 Dez Bryant 4

Ronald Leary 2
Brice Butler tbd
Total Games Missed 69 68

The Cowboys still have 12 regular season games left to play, and they are bound to sustain more injuries along the way, even if not all of them will be of the season-ending variety. But the cold, hard truth is that in terms of games missed by key players, the 2015 Cowboys will easily eclipse the 2014 Cowboys, and may already have: The numbers for Romo and Bryant in the table above are optimistic, and we have no idea how much time Lee and Butler will miss.

It's true that the Cowboys will get some of the players above back over the course of the season, starting today with Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain. But it's also true that the Cowboys "are simply running out of enough quality players to win games", as Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas writes.

At the end of the day though, nobody is going to care about the Cowboys and their injuries. Other teams have battled their way through injuries, and the Cowboys will have to do the same. They'll just have to hang on until reinforcements arrive. By any means necessary.

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