Let’s dive right into some Cowboys news.
It’s been 33 quarters since a holding call was made against the offensive line of the Cowboys opponents. That’s eight games. That’s seems almost absurdly impossible in today’s NFL. You could call holding on every other pass play in the NFL, yet the zebras can’t manage to do it once in eight games for the benefit of the Cowboys? It’s almost enough to make you believe in some kind of conspiracy.
"Well a conspiracy, I would not go there," the Cowboys owner and general manager [Jerry Jones] said Tuesday morning on 105.3 The Fan's K&C Masterpiece show [KRLD-FM]. "We don't have any two or three owners hiring the officials. They are paid by all of us. I don't see that.
"You get holding, and I'm going to get specific with it, you get holding a lot of times when you bounce outside and especially on short yardage situations, you bounce outside you'll get some holding outside with your tackle. Maybe we've been taking it outside a little bit.
"But in general, I just think that's a happenstance."
I am the world’s biggest skeptic... but 33 quarters?!
The shakeup in the Cowboys’ secondary will begin on Thursday night, and it will include corners and safeties.
[Anthony] Brown, who started 10 of the first 11 games, will be replaced by [Chidobe] Awuzie on Thursday against the Washington Redskins. Brown has a team-high 10 penalties. Awuzie, a second-round pick, has played more than nine defensive snaps just once this season because of a recurring hamstring injury. Before the most recent strain, the Cowboys planned to give him more work at safety.
They may not be the only changes. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he would move to a cornerback rotation in hopes of finding a combination that will cut down on the big plays. Jones, Heath and Woods could find themselves in more of a rotation at safety as well.
Brown’s decline is one of the many bummer stories of the 2017 season. Once a sixth-round steal, he now could be looking at a career as a backup. Better bone up on those special teams skills.
Luckily, it looks like Zack Martin will be able to play this week. That’s good news for the team, the fans, and center Travis Frederick.
"It is bizarre," Frederick said, noting changes the past few years at left guard including Ronald Leary, La'el Collins, Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper. "But having somebody that's been a stalwart not there, it's interesting to say the least."
Since 2014 when the Cowboys drafted Martin in the first round, they have been on the field together for 3,813 of 3,866 snaps over the past four seasons.
The Cowboys released veteran running back Darren McFadden just a few days ago, and now he’s calling it a career.
McFadden joined the Cowboys in 2015 in the wake of DeMarco Murray’s departure, and after getting the start later in the season he ran his way to fourth in the NFL in rushing yards that season.
It’s hard to find a better soldier over the last two seasons and Darren McFadden welcomed the signing of fellow veteran Alfred Morris and drafting of Ezekiel Elliott. At every turn, every inactive moment, he did what he had to do, which is rare.
Good luck, DMC.
One of the reasons the Cowboys were able to let go of Darren McFadden was the play of Rod Smith. He’s been a solid player in rotation with Morris, and is starting to get noticed.
The two main workhouses driving the current production: starting running back Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, the Cowboys' featured back on third downs and special teams.
Smith has played 30-40 offensive snaps a game since Elliott left, plus another 10 to 20 each game on special teams.
"Rod's getting experience," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said Monday. "He hasn't played a lot. He's really coming along as a running back in his pro career at times and he was pretty raw coming out of college."
Linehan said Smith has become effective not just in the run game but also on third downs and in pass protection. Throw in special teams, and he's contributing to the roster meaningfully.
Smith is setting himself up to be the primary backup next year behind Ezekiel Elliott. Being able to play special teams is a big bonus.
Jason Garrett is back on the hot seat with the media, but how is he with the guy who really matters, Jerry Jones?
"I, without a question, have seen Jason evolve," Jones told 105.3 The Fan. "The key thing is, he is very capable. No one understands any better where we need to improve than Jason does."
Despite what frustrated fans may think of the Cowboys' season so far, Jones defended both Garrett and his team saying the players have not given up on themselves.
"The players are focused on getting their job done. They're focused on preparation," Jones said (via USA Today). "You've got too much invested to quit."
How this team finishes down the stretch will be pretty important. They need to be competitive and win some games. If the team looks like it had packed it in, then the heat will be turned up on Garrett.
Of course, if Garrett wants to douse the hot seat with ice water, all he has to do is make the playoffs! We already discussed that possibility, but if you want to see a detailed roadmap to how it could happen, check out the article referenced just above. Besides winning their last five games, the article lays out what must happen elsewhere for the Cowboys to shock the world.
As difficult as that sounds, nothing is impossible in an unpredictable league from season to season, week to week. As bad as things have seemed of late for Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott, the Cowboys do have the advantage of an ace in the hole for later: running back Ezekiel Elliott.
An update on Washington’s injury situation.
One player who is likely to play is OT Trent Williams (knee). He was a limited participant in practice today. Of late, his usual pattern is to practice two days before the game and then play. It’s a good bet that he will start at his usual left tackle spot. Officially, he will be a game time decision.
On the other side of the coin, look for TE Jordan Reed to miss his fifth straight game with a hamstring injury. He did not practice all week.
Likely to join Reed on the inactive list are S Montae Nicholson (concussion), DE Terrell McClain (toe), and C Chase Roullier (hand). They all missed the Thanksgiving game against the Giants and none of them practiced this week.
One other player who was out of the Giants game due to injury, LB Martrell Spaight (ankle), should return to action against Dallas. He was a limited participant in practice this week.
Um, okay. I’m no huge Eli Manning fan, but the Giants are benching him... for Geno Smith. It’s a brave new world.
For the first time in more than 13 years, Eli Manning will not be starting for the New York Giants on Sunday.
Giants coach Ben McAdoo announced Tuesday that Geno Smith will get the start against the Oakland Raiders. That will put an end to Manning's streak of 210 consecutive regular-season starts behind center, second only to Brett Favre's 297.