If you’ve ever listened to the Dave Dameshek Football Program, then you’re likely familiar with Dave’s “Jenga Theory.”
The theory is based on the classic game of Jenga, where you try to remove rectangular pieces from a tower built of them without the structure toppling over. Typically in a game of Jenga, one ill-fated piece removal leads to the whole thing’s demise. The “Jenga Theory” poses the question as to who on each NFL team would be the block you removed that brought the whole team down.
Who are the top five, "if he goes down, the season is over," players for Dallas now that Tony Romo is retired?— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) July 1, 2017
When Dameshek plays the “Jenga Theory” he does so with the stipulation that if any team’s quarterback (with the exception of New England because they’re New England) goes down, the team is likely doomed (uh, hello 2015 Cowboys). This makes a lot of sense, so we’ll abide by that and say that Dak Prescott is an exception for the purposes of the game.
All that being said, who are the five Cowboys you feel could send things tumbling down a 2015 reincarnated dimension should they be lost for any reason?
The Obvious Choices... For The Most Part
The Dallas Cowboys defense is... well you know what it is. Beyond all that though, it does boast Sean Lee who is the unquestioned defensive leader. It’s hard to ask yourself who’s the most important and not circle back to ‘ol #50.
The obvious rebuttal to this idea though is the 2014 season for the Cowboys. “Sean Lee didn’t play that whole season and the Cowboys won 12 games!” Yes, this is true; however, Rolando McClain had not fallen down a purple rabbit hole yet. Justin Durant was playing at a decent level. Matt Eberflus did a lot of great work to compensate for Lee’s absence, but that doesn’t negate Sean’s importance.
It feels ridiculous to do a list like this and not include the most passionate player on the Cowboys, let alone one of the most individually talented. Dez Bryant has been championed by many over the offseason to be a captain on this team, but to be fair the Cowboys won every game that he missed in 2016 (49ers, Bengals, Packers).
That being said, the Dallas Cowboys also fell apart without Dez offensively in 2015 (to be fair Romo was gone as well). The identity of the offense is clearly we’re-going-to-run-all-over-you, but Dez Bryant is as big a part of that as anyone.
The Obvious Choices... If You’ve Been Paying Attention
You could make an argument that the best player at his position on the Cowboys compared to the rest of the NFL is Tyron Smith (I might go Travis Frederick if I’m feeling particularly spirited simply because Fredbeard is so much better than the field).
Tyron missed the games against the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers last season, and things didn’t really fall apart. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Cowboys fans were fine with it and are prepared for more of the same.
We saw Tyron get more days off than others last season, emphasizing his candidacy as the new benefactor of “Romo Wednesdays.” There’s no doubt that a long stretch away from Tyron would be very painful for fans, and particularly for the Cowboys backfield.
The aforementioned Fredbeard doesn’t seem to get as much pomp and circumstance as his teammates Tyron Smith and Zack Martin. Maybe it’s because his arrival didn’t coincide with the Cowboys’ run game blowing up like Zack’s, or maybe it’s because Dallas traded back and “ended up” with him in 2013.
Frederick serves as the center, forgive my pun, for everything the Cowboys do. He’s as consistent in the health department as he is in the success one, and considering he’s the one handling the football... that’s a glorious thing. This also makes considering life without him an incredibly frightening thing.
The Clear Cut #1
It’s difficult to designate Ezekiel Elliott as the biggest jenga piece on the Dallas Cowboys when Darren McFadden did so well just a season before his arrival. That being said, Darren McFadden is not Ezekiel Elliott.
We mentioned identity earlier, Zeke is the unquestioned identity of this team. The offense goes through him, and the current version of Darren McFadden surely isn’t enough to replicate anything remotely close to what Zeke brings to the table.
The “Dak was only good because of Zeke” narrative has, thankfully, faded over time, but there’s no denying that whoever is your starting quarterback would be largely affected by Zeke’s absence.
It was difficult to leave Zack Martin off of this list because he’s obviously so good. Ultimately though, the truth is that those other positions might be more critical to who these Cowboys are. I will say though that if you wanted to argue that Zack is of higher priority than Sean Lee because the Cowboys have gotten by with little help on defense, I wouldn’t fight it.
We’ve given Jason Witten a pass for his poor blocking at times because he’s Gold Jacket Witt, but he’s so extremely valuable to this football team. He is the consummate professional off the field, and on it he seems to always be good for a first down (or a game winner at home against the Eagles WHAT UP PHILLY).
What makes Witten more valuable at this given time is that there really is nobody behind him who we would feel really comfortable with rolling as the starting tight end. The Rico Gathers hype is going to be huge as we roll through training camp, but that would be a huge leap of faith.
What do you think? Who are your top five jenga pieces for the Cowboys?