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Cowboys news: New practice schedule has Tyron Smith in peak form

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Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Cowboys LT Tyron Smith ‘still dominant’ without practicing - Todd Archer, ESPN

When Smith is healthy, he’s still one of the best.

The Cowboys have taken a less-is-more approach with Smith. Since aggravating his neck in a Thursday practice, which caused him to miss the Oct. 29 game against the Los Angeles Rams, Smith has not fully practiced.

Almost every week, he has NIR-rest next to his name on the injury report. Not Injury Related.

Entering this season, he played just 17 of a possible 50 regular-season games since Mike McCarthy took over as the Cowboys’ head coach in 2020. He opened the season missing three of the first seven games because of knee and neck injuries.

“We all know I hurt myself during practice,” Smith said, “so trying to stay as healthy as possible for the team.”

On Sunday, Smith will play his 11th game this season, tying for the most he has played since 2020. He will play his seventh straight game, his longest consecutive games streak since nine in a row in 2019.

In 10 games this season, Smith’s pass block win rate (87.2%) is better than his average mark for each season (86.8%) since ESPN Analytics started tracking the stat in 2017. Same with his run block win rate (78.4% compared to 76.9%). TruMedia has attributed six sacks to Smith this season, but looking at the video, only two of those sacks were Smith’s fault, and one came on a scramble play.

Cowboys list six players as questionable, including Stephon Gilmore - Charean Williams, NBC Sports

Dallas has key players dealing with an illness.

Cowboys defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (knee/ankle) will miss some time after being injured during Sunday’s victory over the Eagles.

He is the only player the Cowboys have ruled out for Sunday’s game at Buffalo.

But Dallas has six players with questionable tags as an illness has spread through The Star.

Linebacker Micah Parsons is off the injury report with an illness that he played through Sunday. But receiver Brandin Cooks, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and receiver Jalen Tolbert are questionable with an illness.

Gilmore did not practice all week, and Cooks had a limited practice Wednesday before missing the past two days. Tolbert missed Thursday’s session before returning to limited work Friday.

Mailbag: Next step a road win vs. quality team? - Nick Eatman & Patrik Walker, DallasCowboys.com

The Cowboys get to show they can win on the road over the next two weeks.

Nick Eatman: From the looks of things, the Cowboys are probably going to have to win on the road to have the kind of playoff success everyone is hoping for. So yeah, the Cowboys need to become a good road team. Right now, they’re 3-3 but they’ll get some great challenges with the Bills and Dolphins here in the next 10 days. Obviously, the Cowboys don’t have to turn it on until the actual playoff game but from a confidence standpoint, it wouldn’t hurt to prove they can go win a game like this. More than anything, they need to show they can run the football and win some games other than airing it out. Who knows, we might get to a game in the playoffs where passing the ball is a huge hurdle and therefore, the Cowboys must rely on the run game. I’d like to see if they’re up for that challenge, too.

Patrik: You hit the nail on the head here, Roy. The narrative was once that the Cowboys would only beat bad teams, but then they dropped 41 on the Seahawks. The goal posts then moved and became, “They can’t dominate teams that are above .500.” And now that they’ve obliterated the Eagles, it’s become, “Well, they can’t do it on the road.” The latter one is the only one of the three narratives I even care to entertain, because it’s valid. The first chance to check that box ended in a narrow five-point loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia. The next chance will be to take the field in Buffalo and defeat the Bills. That would go a long way to checking that box (especially since the Cowboys are 3-3 on the road), but walking into Miami and doing it against the Dolphins the very next week will end all doubts that Dallas is designed to beat anyone, anywhere — with only one final Boogeyman in their way (hi, 49ers).

Bills-Cowboys thoughts: Which matchups affect Sunday’s game the most? - Joe Buscaglia, The Athletic

Parsons is a key component, per usual.

It won’t be on every single snap, but Cowboys star pass rusher Micah Parsons could put Bills right tackle Spencer Brown in a difficult situation several times in pass protection. Parsons is unbelievably quick off the snap, but also combines that speed with power to challenge an offensive tackle in unpredictable ways. Brown has been much better this season than in his first two years, but he is still prone to a bad beat in pass protection more often than his fellow offensive linemen.

Brown can get caught thinking through the move coming at him, and against an especially explosive pass rusher like Parsons, there will be a lot of potential for either a clean win for the defender to the outside or to get Brown a step too far in defending the edge with a counter to the inside. It likely won’t be a relentless matchup for Brown because the Cowboys like moving Parsons all over the formation to keep the offense guessing. But if Parsons has some early success against Brown, the Cowboys may just keep Parsons on the defensive left side near the end of the game to maximize chances of a potential Bills turnover.

Troy Aikman says this Dallas Cowboys team is different, and it’s not just about numbers - SportsDay Staff, Dallas Morning News

Aikman believes in his former team.

“I’ve liked them for a while. But this team, it just feels a little different to me,” Aikman said. “And I don’t know if everybody else feels that. I sense that they do, I sense that the players do.”

Dallas has been pretty much unstoppable at home. The Cowboys have won 15 straight games at AT&T Stadiums and haven’t lost since Week 1 of last season against Tampa Bay on Sept. 11, 2022. That plays a part in the Cowboys’ recent dominance. But Aikman likes what is going on off the field.

“It just feels like a team that really enjoys being around each other and playing together,” Aikman said. “And that’s a big part of this whole thing. Not that that’s ever been lost on anybody, but when you have it, you can’t just will it to happen.”

If this Cowboys team really is different, they will show it over the final stretch of the regular season. Dallas plays at Buffalo, at Miami and then hosts Detroit before closing the season on the road against Washington.

That’s where the camaraderie will really matter.

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