With organized team activities ramping up and training camp just around the corner, the Dallas Cowboys are in full prep mode for the upcoming 2022 season. How they handle the remainder of the offseason could be the difference between success and failure, especially as it pertains to a few of their veteran players who may, or may not, need to be put on pitch counts.
Today, we’re going to discuss a handful of veteran players the Cowboys should consider utilizing sparingly in both practice and preseason games leading up to the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Doing this should protect some of their key players and also provide opportunities to get a better look at the influx of youth who could play larger roles this season.
LT Tyron Smith
If there’s one player on this entire list the Dallas Cowboys should absolutely put on a pitch count throughout the rest the offseason, it has to be Tyron Smith. At 31 years old, he still remains one of the best left tackles in the entire league when he’s healthy. But sadly, it’s his inability to avoid the injury bug that remains a cause for concern year after year. Unfortunately, this just as true in 2022, if not more so.
As things stand right now, the Cowboys don’t have a clear-cut backup for Tyron Smith on the roster. It’s looking as if they are going to rely on second-year offensive tackle Josh Ball and rookie Matt Waletzko. Neither has played a single down in a significant game in the NFL, making the unknown surrounding them a pretty big concern considering No. 77’s known injury history. Because of that, Dallas needs to do their best to keep Tyron Smith healthy.
RG Zack Martin
Zack Martin is arguably the best, and most important, player for the Dallas Cowboys on offense outside of Dak Prescott. He’s proven time and time again he’s still one of the best, if not the best, offensive guards in the entire league, but sadly, he’s reaching that point in his career where his body could start breaking down. He’s missed some time due to injuries the last few years, but so far it’s been minimal and hasn’t affected his play.
Considering the questionable depth along the interior of Dallas’ offensive line, No. 70 is more important to the Cowboys then he probably ever has been in his entire career. He brings stability to the unit and raises the play of those starting next to him. Keeping him healthy for the entire season should be a top priority, thus the reason why Mike McCarthy and Company keep a close watchful eye on his utilization in the offseason.
LDE DeMarcus Lawrence
DeMarcus Lawrence has had a litany of injuries as a member of the Dallas Cowboys over the years. Unlike Tyron Smith, who’s been plagued with mostly neck issues, zeroing in on Lawrence’s problematic injuries is almost impossible. Because of that, and the fact he’s a veteran who knows how to prepare himself both mentally and physically for the rigors of an NFL season, Dallas should put him on a pitch count in both practice and preseason.
The Cowboys are a better defense with D-Law on the field. His stats may suggest otherwise, but what he does both against the run and pass puts him among the best at his position in the league. As an added bonus, less snaps for him in the offseason means more for some of the youngsters behind him on the depth chart. That could help find Randy Gregory’s replacement and the pecking order at defensive end.
RB Ezekiel Elliott
An argument could be made the Dallas Cowboys don’t really need to worry too much about Ezekiel Elliott considering they have Tony Pollard waiting in the wings. While Zeke has noticeably lost a step over the last few seasons, the opposite could be said about Pollard. There’s even a large contingent of fans who would love to see No. 20 take on a much larger role in 2022. Despite that, Zeke remains a large part of Dallas offense.
Given Elliott’s slight injury concerns, the Cowboys should absolutely pull the reins a little bit in order to make sure he’s ready for the upcoming season. That’s especially true considering the knee injury he played through last year. There’s no need to further risk injury in practice or preseason. A healthy Zeke and Tony Pollard is much more beneficial to Dallas than having just one of them available.
WR CeeDee Lamb
CeeDee Lamb’s importance to the Dallas Cowboys in 2022 is pretty significant considering the unproven depth at the wide receiver position behind him. He may barely qualify as a veteran entering just his third year in the league, but without him Dallas’ passing game doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. With that in mind, the Cowboys should absolutely monitor the amount of snaps he’s playing in both practice and preseason.
As a added bonus, monitoring Lamb’s snaps also provides an opportunity to figure out the pecking order at WR behind him. The Cowboys need to figure out how to deploy their WRs until Michael Gallup gets back to 100%. So, any extra snaps they can get could go a long ways into working all of that out. There’s just no need to put Lamb at risk considering the personnel is pretty much the same, as is the system since he’s joined the Cowboys.