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Dallas Cowboys: How serious is the injury situation this year?

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We detail and review which players missed how many practices in camp so far and try to draw some conclusions about the overall Cowboys injury situation.

Military Hospital Cares For Injured Soldiers As KIA Conflicts Rage On Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images

The Cowboys had their final practice in Oxnard on Thursday. That brings the total number of practices the Cowboys had in Oxnard this year to 16. The first two practices were both conducted in shirts and shorts only, which means the Cowboys had 14 padded practices so far in training camp.

Tired Allen Iverson-practice jokes aside, preseason practices are where NFL players develop and hone their skills, get into football shape, and learn the playbook. And as much as the players have tried to curtail this part of playing football via the last CBA, it is a key part of getting ready for the upcoming NFL season.

And considering the amount of practice time several Cowboys players have missed in camp so far, that could be a concern as the Cowboys head into the 2017 season.

Below is a table detailing which players missed how many padded practices in camp.

Cowboys training camp practice participation, Oxnard, 2017
POS Player Injury 7/26 7/27 7/29 7/30 7/31 8/1 8/7 8/8 8/9 8/10 8/14 8/15 8/16 8/17 Total
CB Jourdan Lewis Hamstring A l x x x x x x x x x x x 13
LB Justin Durant NFI x x x x x x x x x x 10
CB Anthony Brown Hamstring x x x x x x x 10
DE Tyrone Crawford Ankle l x x x x x x 7
DT Cedric Thornton Hamstring l x x x x x x 7
DE David Irving Ankle l x x x x x 6
DT Maliek Collins Hip x x x x x x 6
CB Marquez White Hamstring x x x x x 5
LB Sean Lee Hamstring l x x x x 5
CB Chidobe Awuzie Hamstring x x x x 4
DT Joey Ivie x x x 3
CB Sammy Seamster l x 2
DE Benson Mayowa Knee x x 2
DT Richard Ash PUP x x 2
S Xavier Woods Hamstring x x 2
DE Charles Tapper Hip l 1
DE Taco Charlton Back l 1
LB Mark Nzeocha Knee x 1
Offense
WR Ryan Switzer Hamstring l x x x x x x x x 9
OT Chaz Green Shoulder x x x x x x 6
OG Joe Looney Toe x x x x x x 6
QB Luke McCown Shoulder x x x x 4
OT Tyron Smith Back x x x 3
TE Rico Gathers Concussion l x x 3
WR Brice Butler Foot l x 2
POS Player Injury 7/26 7/27 7/29 7/30 7/31 8/1 8/7 8/8 8/9 8/10 8/14 8/15 8/16 8/17 Total
Rest Days
LS L.P. Ladouceur rest R
OT Tyron Smith rest R R
LB Jaylon Smith rest R R R R
RB Darren McFadden rest R R R R
WR Dez Bryant rest R R R R
TE Jason Witten rest R R R R
DE Tyrone Crawford rest R R
LB Sean Lee rest R R R
CB Orlando Scandrick rest R R R R
Released Players
QB Zac Dyssert Back x x
RB Jahad Thomas Hamstring x x
WR Javontee Herndon n.a. x x x x
Legend: x Missed practice l Left practice early R Rest Day A Absent

Excluding rest days and practices missed by players not on the 90-man roster anymore, the Cowboys totaled 107 missed practices (or practices left early) over the 14 padded practices the team held in Oxnard this year.

Justin Durant entered camp on the NFI list so his missed practices shouldn't count against the total, which still leaves us with 97 missed days.

Before going into the specifics of 2017, I'd like to compare the 2017 numbers to two previous years, 2016, and 2014. You'll find the 2016 numbers at the bottom of this post, the 2014 numbers can be found by following this link.

In 2016, the Cowboys had a total of 136 missed days, but seven players entered camp on the PUP or NFI List. Excluding those, the Cowboys lost 61 practice days due to injury.

In 2014, the Cowboys totaled 152 missed days, excluding players on PUP/NFI or absent for personal reasons.

So the 2017 Cowboys (97 missed days) are a lot healthier than the 2014 team (152), and a little more snakebit than the 2016 team (61).

Of course, there is no way of telling how serious most of the listed injuries are. With the emphasis the Cowboys have placed on injury prevention in recent years, the team could well be erring on the side of caution when holding some players out of practice - especially with soft tissue injuries.

More than half of the days missed in 2017 (51 missed days) are due to hamstring injuries suffered by eight different players. In 2016, hamstring and groin injuries accounted for just eight missed days, in 2014 seven players combined for 42 missed days. These numbers suggest that while this year's hamstring injuries feel like a lot, they probably aren't unusual. And perhaps the biggest reason why there's been a lot of talk about hamstring injuries is that the injuries are tightly clustered among the defensive backs (30 missed days), and not more evenly distributed across the roster.

This clustering of hamstring injuries in the secondary is also a key driver of the lopsided distribution of missed days between offense (33) and defense (84).

Overall though, the Cowboys have remained remarkably healthy through camp, avoiding long-term injuries to their top personnel. So far, Tyrone Crawford looks to be the only player of note with a more serious injury, and even he is expected to be back in time for the season opener.

However, there is no denying that a lot of defensive backs have missed valuable practice time so far this year, even if the Cowboys might have been over-cautious with those injuries.

Which brigs me back to a question I asked at the bottom of that 2014 article:

At the start of the season, will the key players have participated in enough practices to develop the skills, the scheme understanding, and the physical stamina to successfully compete [this year]?

The answer in 2014 was a resounding “Yes!”, as the Cowboys finished the regular season with a 12-4 record despite their 152 missed practice days during camp.

Let's hope history repeats.


Cowboys training camp practice participation, Oxnard, 2016
POS Player Injury 8/1 8/2 8/4 8/5 8/6 8/7 8/9 8/10 8/11 8/15 8/16 8/17 Total
RB Darren McFadden Elbow NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI 12
RB Lance Dunbar Knee PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP 12
LB Jaylon Smith Knee NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI 12
TE James Hanna Knee PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP 12
DT Maliek Collins Foot PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP 9
DE Benson Mayowa Knee PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP PUP 9
LB Damien Wilson Eye NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI NFI 9
QB Kellen Moore Fibula x x x x x x x x x x 10
LB Andrew Gachkar Thumb l x x x x x x x x x 10
DT Tyrone Crawford Back x x x x x x 6
DE Terrell McClain Toe x x x x x 5
LB Kyle Wilber Back x x x x 4
WR Devin Street Back l x x x 4
RB Ezekiel Elliott Hamstring x x x x 4
DT Cedric Thornton Illness x x x 3
DE Charles Tapper Back x x x 3
WR Chris Brown Foot l x x 3
CB Anthony Brown Hamstring x x 2
DE David Irving Groin l x 2
DE Lawrence Okoye Elbow l 1
DE Ryan Russell x 1
S Jeff Heath Shoulder l 1
DT Zach Wood l 1
FB Rod Smith Infektion x 1
Rest Days
OT Tyron Smith R R
LB Sean Lee R R
S Barry Church R
QB Tony Romo R R R
WR Dez Bryant R
TE Jason Witten R
CB Orlando Scandrick R R R
CB Brandon Carr R
OT Doug Free R R
TE Gavin Escobar R
DE Demarcus Lawrence R R
Legend: x Missed practice l Left practice early R Rest Day A Absent