With injuries mounting, Cowboys must rely on Jerry’s drafts

Posted Monday, Oct. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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engel OK, Jerry, you didn’t want it to be this way, but this is the way it’s gotta be: Your best players, the ones you pay the most, are starting to go down, and now we will see if the kids and the backups are worth a flip.

Time to see if some of “the guts” of these drafts are actually any good.

Jason Garrett would rather not have his job security tied to a pack of rookies and second-year guys drafted by general manager Jerry Jones, but that’s the path he is on.

Just like it is for nearly every team, the team the Cowboys thought they were going to have is changing, and it’s not even Week 8.

The Cowboys defeated the Redskins 31-16 on Sunday night to tie the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the Big 12 North. Seriously, I really want a 6-10 record to win this division and host a playoff game.

As preposterous as that sounds, a division that continues to defy the odds in terms of ineptitude leaves every scenario in play. If you are a Cowboys fan on Monday morning, just take it and be glad you aren’t in the AFC West.

Take it because your team is changing fast, and not for the better. This thing was already on the edge of a cliff before Sunday, and it feels even more precarious now.

The running back who pledged to play 16 games — DeMarco Murray — suffered a sprained left knee in the first half. For the third time in as many seasons he looks like his body simply won’t allow him to be a reliable NFL running back. It’s too bad, because the man is a quality runner.

The defensive line the Cowboys built in the off-season is gone. Anthony Spencer is out for the year, having never played a snap. Jerry hinted on Sunday night that nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who has not played this season, is out for the year. And now defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who entered Sunday’s game already hurting with back and stinger issues, is even more hurt; he suffered a quad injury that forced him out for the second half.

He said in the locker room after the game, “I’m good,” but an MRI is coming today. Best case, he’s not going to be the same guy this season, and at 31 probably never again.

“[Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte] Kiffin always tells us everybody is a starter,” defensive end Kyle Wilber said.

Given enough time, Coach Kiffin won’t be lying.

Coach Process will most assuredly toss out “Next man up” just as every man in his position does, but deep down he knows. This thing is going to depend on Jerry drafts.

There is no running back who has done a thing on the NFL level on the Cowboys’ roster. If we thought the run-pass play-calling balance was askew with Murray in the lineup, how might it look when Joseph Randle takes his place?

After Murray went out, for most of the second half the Cowboys had no rushing yards.

Randle looks not up to this just yet. Never mind if he can run; can he pick up the blitz?

The defensive line, already runway-model thin, is going to need veteran Jason Hatcher to play even better than his current Pro Bowl level. The man has a career-high five sacks at a position he has never played before.

If we thought teams were going out of their way to negate Ware, how is it going to look when they don’t have to sweat a pass rusher who was already dealing with back and stinger issues before the quad?

Second-year defensive end Wilber, who made a sweet strip and sack of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III to set up the final score, must be able to play. Not just occupy space, but make plays.

“We’ve got older guys who are depending on us,” Wilber said. “Guys like Hatcher and D-Ware are counting on me.”

This team was on a similar path last season when injuries destroyed its starting lineup and left the team with a cast of obscure players who, despite their best efforts, were not good enough. Maybe these guys are.

Injuries have not wrecked this team. But the wounded are starting to accumulate, leaving the backups and the rookies left to clean up the mess and win games.

Fortunately, the way it looks, guys like rookies Travis Frederick, J.J. Wilcox and Terrance Williams have a clue and can play.

It’s only Week 6, and the way things are shaping up, the Cowboys are going to need a few more of these guys from these past few drafts to hit for this thing to work out.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @MacEngelProf

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