It’s not like the Dallas Cowboys were really going anywhere after Dak Prescott went down with injury, but there was the notion that they could still win the NFC East. Part of that was built on Andy Dalton being a good backup for Prescott, but his stint as the starter only showed how truly flawed the team was; Prescott was perfuming over a lot of the stink. With last night’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, we can safely put a nail in the coffin of the competitive part of the Cowboys 2020 season.
So what should they do now? They should look toward the future and begin a process of player evaluation. And that means some veterans should be riding the bench.
Here are a few ideas to think about going forward for the Cowboys.
Should they really go back to Andy Dalton?
As an organization they have to ask themselves what they hope to gain by that. The argument is likely to be he gives them the best chance to win. Sure, in a vacuum you would take Dalton over Ben DiNucci any day of the week. But really, Dalton and the offense looked just as inept the past few games as they did in the loss to Philadelphia. You could make the argument that Dalton gives them the best chance to win the NFC East, but it’s hard to see that happening.
Would it be better for the Cowboys to see what they actually have in DiNucci? He was bad for most of the game, but as the fourth quarter came around he started to settle down and look a little competent. Why not spend the rest of 2020 finding out if he is worth keeping around? By doing that, you are basically throwing in the towel on the season, and you’re somewhat telling your team that winning isn’t the real goal each week. But so what. This group of players forfeited any reason to complain because of their lackluster play over the first eight weeks of the season.
We all know that Mike McCarthy and Jerry Jones won’t do this, but they should. If there were analytics for this type of thing, it would say it’s better to try and develop a young QB that you can possibly flip for a draft pick than to waste away a season with a veteran that you likely won’t re-sign next year anyway.
Start playing Reggie Robinson
The safety position for the Cowboys is as unsettled as ever. Donovan Wilson is finally getting his shot, and he’s showing a little potential in the process. Now is the time to add another young player to that mix. The Cowboys should throw 2020 draft pick Reggie Robinson into the safety rotation.
In the offseason the Cowboys will have to make a decision about Xavier Woods. He is a player that has had the word potential attached to him for a while, but he never builds on that. The Cowboys have been waiting forever for him to breakout and it hasn’t happened. Now is the time to see what they have on hand as a potential replacement. Find out now what you have in hand before you have to make the decision on Woods this offseason.
They don’t need to bench Woods, they just need to give Robinson some game action.
Tyrone Crawford’s time is over
Tyrone Crawford has been a great veteran in the locker room and has proven valuable with his versatility on the defensive line. Salute to him for his long service to the Cowboys. But his time with the Cowboys should be coming to a close. He’s a free agent this offseason and there is no reason for Dallas to re-sign him. Now is the time to reduce his role.
The Cowboys need to know if they want Antwaun Woods back, they need to see what Neville Gallimore and Justin Hamilton are capable of, and they will need to evaluate Eli Ankou who they just traded for. On the edge it would be good to see more of Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong, and Bradlee Anae along with the two starters. There just isn’t any room for Crawford anymore.
The future of the two Connors
The Cowboys line is already a mess, so they should start looking toward the future. They need to see if Connor McGovern is going to be part of that future. They need to get him in games. They could move Zack Martin out to tackle and insert McGovern at guard. They could also get a look at Connor Williams at tackle by moving him out to tackle and inserting Joe Looney at guard. The point is they could get a better picture of the future along the line.
This upcoming offseason both Joe Looney and Cam Erving are free agents. Could McGovern be used as a guard in 2021 and Williams become the swing tackle? Could Williams be insurance in case Tyron Smith can’t come back for some reason? Is Williams a better option at tackle than Brandon Knight? The Cowboys could make some alterations to their line to get a jump on the upcoming offseason.
The Cowboys are likely stuck with Jaylon Smith through the 2021 season, if not longer. His contract makes releasing him a dead cap problem until at least 2022. But maybe they could get something decent in trade. Maybe his amazing comeback story and previous reputation (circa 2018) can salvage something on the trade market this offseason.
Whatever the case, the Cowboys need to start looking at some other options at linebacker. It might not happen right away, but they need to think about life beyond Smith. Joe Thomas is a free agent this offseason. Is Francis Bernard ready? The Cowboys don’t have to bench Smith, but they could start brining Bernard for some plays to see what he’s got. They need to to open up their linebacker rotation instead of having Smith play 100% of the plays.