Change is inevitable, but there are some things that just seem to be unchangeable. Time passes, the surrounding circumstances change, yet a few issues just will not go away. For a couple of years now, we have known that one of the biggest issues facing the Dallas Cowboys was the health of the offensive line and the depth behind their starters. Now we are on the eve of their first game against the New York Giants, and that looms larger than any other concern following what were supposedly minor concerns for both Tyron Smith and Tyler Smith, but have gotten worse as game time draws near.
It’s time to panic. Or maybe not. Our David Howman and Tom Ryle take matters under consideration.
David: I may not be at the disco right now but there is definitely some panic going on. Everything we’ve heard about both of the Smiths - Tyron and Tyler - seems to suggest they’ll be ready to play come Sunday night. But we have yet to hear anything definitive, which leaves far too much wiggle room right now. And it feels like a story we’ve heard a million times before where the Cowboys are optimistic about a player’s injury status only for it to turn out to be bad news on game days.
My gut tells me that both linemen will be good to go, but what if they’re not? We’re talking about the entire left side of the line being out for the first real game in this new offense. Not only that, but their first real game under new offensive line coach Mike Solari. The last thing you want to have happen is to ask Chuma Edoga - who wasn’t even healthy enough to play in the preseason - and, according to the team’s unofficial depth chart, rookie Asim Richards to go out and start against a Giants defense known for throwing a ton of exotic blitzes at the offense.
And even if only one of the two Smiths ends up missing the game, you’re still likely asking Edoga to go out and start a game after not seeing anything from him in the preseason. And the little he showed in training camp wasn’t exactly promising. So I’m feeling really panicked about the options if either or both of these guys can’t go. Want to talk me down off the ledge, Tom?
Tom: Well, this may be throwing a bit of a ballroom blitz at you, but things are not looking so good for Tyler, who was listed as doubtful on the Friday injury report. He still may go, but I don’t see a lot of great options if he doesn’t, although I think T.J. Bass may be the one who actually is asked to be the next man up in that case.
You could see this coming, based on recent history. We all know how Tyron has not played a full season since approximately the time cell phones weighed about five pounds. Now Tyler is showing a bit of fragility. Why didn’t the team do anything about it?
Well, I think they did. Specifically, Mike McCarthy took over the offense and installed the so-called Texas Coast attack. One of the features of that is quick reads and releases for Dak Prescott. That will help protect him against the pass rush. Additionally, he has a much more capable looking group of receivers, with established veterans mixed with intriguing newcomers, so he should be able to find open men quickly. And you can’t overlook Solari’s addition to the staff, which has to have some element of preparing for this situation.
So back away from the ledge. Things got harder, but the team is not doomed.
David: I’m just not ready to step back from the ledge, my friend. I do believe that McCarthy is experienced enough to understand how to scheme around some issues like this, but at a certain point you just need good players on the field. I hesitate to even mention the name Chaz Green, but that is a good example of how one poor player can completely jeopardize the entire operation.
I’ll be much less concerned if just Tyler Smith misses the game, as it seems likely with his doubtful designation. Edoga is experienced enough to provide serviceable reps when sandwiched between Pro Bowler Tyler Biadasz and a future Hall of Fame left tackle. The same goes for the opposite, if Tyron Smith can’t go but Tyler can.
The Cowboys can very likely last a game without one of those two, but can they go without both of them at the same time? That would force the Cowboys to start one of their rookies, whether it be Richards or T.J. Bass, and as much as we all liked what we saw from them in the preseason those aren’t the guys I want starting a meaningful game. That’s the prospect that is likely to keep me up at night, regardless of how good Dak Prescott is (he’s really good) or how smart McCarthy is (he’s really smart). Missing two of your five starters on the offensive line is never good.
Tom: Let me remind you that McCarthy won his Lombardi with the Green Bay packers in a season when almost everyone on the team was hurt at some time or another. They put 15 players on IR that year, but still managed to win the Super Bowl. He knows how to coach through adversity.
And despite the associated PTSD, Green is an interesting mention. That game was notable for how Jason Garrett and the coaching staff did not give him any help. They paid the price for a mistake I don’t think will be repeated.
I’ve already mentioned how they can compensate with the passing game, using play-action and Prescott’s mobility to move the ball. And Dallas is already right-handed running the ball behind Zack Martin and Terence Steele. If Tyler Smith’s injury is a short-term concern, then things should improve as the season progresses. At least we can hope for that. As for this particular game, the Giants have their own problems, with their best offensive weapon, TE Darren Waller, cropping up on their injury report on Friday.
I still am picking the Cowboys to win this opener with Prescott keeping his domination of the Giants going. After that, it is always one game at a time, but I also remain optimistic about this year’s crew.
David: I also think the Cowboys are picking up a win in New Jersey on Sunday night, but playing without the Smiths on the left side of the line will make it much harder to do so. I worry about the kind of punishment Prescott may take while doing so, or what might happen to the running backs and tight ends that have to stay in to block instead of going out for a pass.
I suppose that if this has to happen at some point in the year it’s best to do so at the start of the season and against a familiar opponent. But it is still a worrisome prospect no matter how you slice it. If the Cowboys do go out and handle business without an issue, it’ll prove your point about McCarthy and earn him a whole lot more brownie points for his ability to handle adversity. Naturally, I’ll be rooting for that outcome Sunday night.
Oh, and a Cowboys win, of course.