Injuries are all that really matter in the preseason

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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galloway Based on the latest failed attempt by the Dallas Cowboys — a wasted Saturday afternoon in Glendale, Ariz. — to create excitement and optimism for the coming season, I stand by a time-honored formula:

Who bleeping cares?

August football in the NFL is absolutely a worthless barometer of what September and beyond will bring.

Except, however, in one area.

When an exhibition game is over, the lone worthy question is this: Who was injured and how bad is the injury?

So beyond the six — yes, six — turnovers in Glendale (actually, I scored it seven turnovers, counting Tony Romo’s overthrow of a wide-open rookie receiver who would have been end zone bound), the only important news that came out of Glendale involved running back Lance Dunbar.

His foot was whacked. So a handy backup guy in Dunbar may miss the opener against the New York Giants.

Those six, or seven, turnovers in Glendale told us no more than the defense, under field-position duress, impressively kept the Cardinals out of the end zone.

It’s only exhibition football, the third of five preseason games, and, in theory, the only one that matters is coming up Saturday night at the Big Yard in Arlington.

Dress rehearsal, they call it in the NFL. Starters go at least a half. Despite all that, when it’s over, the only question that matters will again be, who was injured and how bad is it?

Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ uncertain summer drags on. Uncertainty prevailed in Oxnard for four weeks. The team is back practicing at Valley Ranch, and the uncertainty remains.

The comfort level for the 2013 season is low. That’s not a good thing going into late August, but it’s the obvious thing.

At Wednesday’s practice, the unsettled state of the offensive line was emphasized by right tackle Doug Free switching to guard, a move that started on Monday and comes out of nowhere. But anything is possible over the next three weeks.

Blame the general manager — that’d be OK by me — but the Cowboys have had ongoing offensive line issues for, what, like five seasons or more.

And I repeat what I was hearing in Oxnard:

The defensive line issues are being underplayed, based on the theory that an Anthony Spencer and a Jay Ratliff will be suited up and 100 percent for the Giants. Spencer appears to be more likely than Ratliff, but in both cases, there’s a cloudy unknown element.

Regardless, the depth is thin up front on both sides of the ball.

Granted, much can change, meaning positive change, between now and Sept. 8 when the Giants show up in Arlington, but the injury factor prevails, and it’s only August.

This is the NFL, of course. Injuries happen. Injuries are not an excuse, unless it’s your top quarterback who is down and out.

But a season always come down to one thing. How well-equipped is a team to handle its injuries?

Looking at it here in August, the Cowboys are obviously not well-equipped, at least in the offensive and defensive lines. That’s why so many questions are currently swirling.

If it’s any comfort, the NFC East appears to be riddled with unanswered questions. The division the Cowboys call home has a shaky football foundation at the moment, considering the training camp woes of the Giants, Eagles and last year’s divisional winner, the Redskins.

Speaking of uncertainty, the ongoing health status of quarterback Robert Griffin leaves Washington hanging way out there. The Eagles, with Mike Vick now reinstated at quarterback by a new head coach (what are you thinking, Chip Kelly?) are a total mess.

The Giants are said to be weakened on defense, but offensively, the one major sweat was the current health status of receiver Victor Cruz, but two starting offensive linemen won’t be ready for the opener against the Cowboys.

Based on current evaluations, it’s not like the Cowboys will have to survive an NFC West-type of test. Actually, the East is the weakest division in the NFC, and the argument can be made it’s the weakest in the league.

But while optimism is acceptable this time of year, it’d be blowing Jerry smoke to say the Cowboys have had a good August.

The objective at the moment is to plow through Saturday night against the Bengals without new injury issues, tank the fifth exhibition game against the Texans and hope all key backups remain healthy.

Beyond that, plenty of waiver wire work is on the agenda. Salary cap casualties will happen at cut-down time next week. Will there be a castoff offensive lineman who can help here? A defensive lineman? Maybe a linebacker?

It’s a good bet the Cowboys will also remain in contact with retired offensive lineman Brian Waters, who resides in Waxahachie. So far, there’s been a failure to lure Waters off the couch, but the attempt will continue.

In fact, what happens on the waiver wire, and maybe what happens with Waters, are more important right now than basically anything that goes on in the final two exhibition games.

Let there be health, of course.

Otherwise, who cares?

Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

Randy Galloway, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @sportsdfw

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