The Cowboys have not exactly been a model of health this year. Their once dominant O-line has been thrown into disarray by Travis Frederick’s illness and the injuries Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Connor Williams have been dealing with.
Tavon Austin, whom the Cowboys had great hopes for this year, has played all of six games. David Irving was supposed to have a breakout year at defensive tackle but only played 56 snaps this year. Sean Lee has started just five games this season.
Yet outside of of Frederick, none of those players were placed on injured reserve. So using IR as a measure of team health is probably not very accurate, though it is still worth a look.
The caveat here obviously is that at this point in the season, every team has a bunch of players that are banged up, and not all of them are on IR. But at least in terms of IR, the Cowboys have been relatively fortunate this year: With just eight players on IR, the Cowboys are tied for the fourth-fewest in the NFL.
C.J. Goodwin was activated from IR just this week, Noah Brown was activated in Week 10. The players left on IR are Travis Frederick (illness), Terrance Williams (foot), DT Datone Jones (hamstring), WR Cedric Wilson (shoulder), OG Marcus Martin (toe), TE Geoff Swaim (wrist), S Jameill Showers (ACL), OG Parker Ehinger (knee).
390 NFL players have been put on IR so far this season, an average of 12 per team. By far the leading reason provided for putting players on IR are knee injuries suffered (62 general knee injuries, 57 ACL or MCL tears), which is 119 players or almost one third of all players. Here are the leading injuries for players on IR:
- Knee: 119 (31%)
- Shoulder: 33 (8%)
- Ankle: 31 (8%)
- Foot: 23 (6%)
- Hamstring: 18 (5%)
- Concussion: 14 (4%)
- Neck, Achilles, Groin: 13 each (3%)
Here’s how the league stacks up in terms of players on IR through Week 16. Teams marked in green are the current playoff teams, teams marked in yellow have a chance to make the playoffs today.
While there is no direct link between number of players on IR and teams making the playoffs (the IR-list is too much of a roster-management tool for that) the correlation here is eye-catching: 11 of the 12 current playoff participants rank among the top 16 teams with the fewest players on IR.
And the playoffs are where team health may become a deciding factor. Which is why many playoff-bound teams are resting key starters today - or at least limiting their snap counts.
Including the Cowboys, who look like they will sit Ezekiel Elliott and Zack Martin.
#Cowboys team sources tells me they will rest RB Ezekiel Elliott today. Expect backups Darius Jackson and Rod Smith to split reps instead against the Giants. RG Zack Martin also not expected to play ahead of playoffs— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) December 30, 2018
So enjoy the Cowboys’ starters today for as long as they play, and then cheer on the backups as they show their stuff.