The final regular-season game versus the Washington Commanders is upon us, and the team has seemingly put the pieces together ahead of what the franchise hopes is a long stay in the postseason. Throughout the course of the year, injuries affected the Cowboys in various ways. It all started in Week 1 with Dak Prescott going down. When the injury to Prescott occurred, things looked bleak and many pundits weren’t sure how Dallas would rally. Well, thankfully the rally occurred in the form of a quality team effort led by backup quarterback Cooper Rush. Rush, would help steady the ship to a 4-2 record as Prescott would return from injury in Week 7.
With Dak back in the mix, the secondary lost an important piece to the puzzle
In Week 7, as Prescott returned, the injury bug would grab a hold of cornerback Jourdan Lewis and end his season via a foot injury. The secondary after the injury to Lewis came with many unknowns, and these unknowns would be put to the test. Fortunately for the team, DaRon Bland, who was a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft, would fill the void left by Lewis in a big way. As the Cowboys bounced back from the Lewis injury, the depth behind Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and now, DaRon Bland was still a question mark. The franchise seemingly couldn’t afford another injury in the secondary. Unfortunately, the injury bug would once again strike this group in Week 13, as cornerback Anthony Brown would tear his Achilles which would end his season.
Oh no, the secondary gets hit once again by injury...
With five weeks to go in the regular season, the depleted cornerback group was once again front and center. Weeks 14 and 15 featured some patch work as the team was attempting to figure out what to do in the secondary. As things were standing on shaky ground, Nahshon Wright stepped forward and has been playing well since entering the lineup. It seems that the Cowboys have figured out the best combinations in the secondary just ahead of the end of the regular season.
Injury has struck the backfield, but unlike the secondary it is isn’t a serious one
Before 18 weeks of NFL football are in the books, there is one other injury that has occurred and it is to a major piece to the team. Thankfully, this injury has been deemed minor as the Cowboys sat running back Tony Pollard out in Week 17. Pollard, has been dealing with a thigh injury and the team opted to give him a week off to rest up and get ready for the season finale, and more importantly, the postseason. It appears that the week off was much needed for Pollard as he is trending towards playing in the season finale.
As the Cowboys prepare for the final regular season game, it’s about time to put a bow on the previous matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Please keep in mind how the injuries throughout the year were factored into this week’s stock up and down.
Stock up: The secondary
As noted above, this unit has been greatly affected by multiple injuries and have seemingly taken it in stride with their quality of play. Currently, the pass defense ranks inside the top 10 in three important metrics: opponent completion percentage (62.90%), opponent passing yards per game (203.6), and opponent interception percentage (2.82%). Putting up those type of numbers while dealing with injuries is a promising sign towards the future as the young players in this group have stepped up and steadied things.
In Week 17, both Nahshon Wright and DaRon Bland played well as they were among the team leaders in total tackles. It seems like lately Bland has been picking off passes at a fairly high rate but Nahshon Wright wanted to join in on the fun as he snagged his first career interception last week. Wright would also end last week’s game tied for the team lead in pass deflections as well. Both Bland’s and Wright’s quality play did happen against a less-than-stellar Titans offense, but they played well against another NFL team nonetheless. Heading into Week 18, it seems like this group is trending in the right direction as of late and that is a promising sign with the playoffs coming up in the very near future.
Stock down: Running game
The depth of this group with Tony Pollard in the lineup is quite strong, but without him it is a different story. Through 16 games played, there has only been one player with over 100 yards rushing in a game for the Cowboys and that player is Tony Pollard. Pollard has broken the 100-yard mark on three separate occasions in 2022. He is also averaging over five yards a carry, and is closing in on a 1,000 yard season. His average yards per carry ranks tied for second in the league among running backs. Pollard’s explosiveness gives this offense so much more juice and because of his ability, it also forces opposing defenses to take the run more seriously which opens things up in the passing game.
Since Week 7 when Dak Prescott returned from injury, Tony Pollard has been in the game much more often and with his opportunities increasing the offense hasn’t looked back. There was a recent bump in the road versus the Tennessee Titans with Pollard out. The total yards rushing was only 87 yards, and it took 32 carries to get there. With an average of only 2.7 yards per carry while Pollard sat, it showed his importance in the running game.
Fortunately, this should not be a long-term issue due to the lack of severity with Pollard’s injury. Let’s just hope the week of rest keeps Pollard healthy and fresher for the postseason because the Cowboys will need him. A balanced offense is the key for success, and that balance starts with a healthy Tony Pollard.