Dallas Cowboys: Three Final Thoughts before MNF
The Dallas Cowboys are entering Week 16 getting ready for a post-Christmas brawl with the Detroit Lions. Here are some thoughts prior to this weeks matchup. Nov 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys free safety J.J. Wilcox (27) against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cowboys won 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a terrific win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they look to wrap up their regular season on a strong note. This week Dallas will take on the Detroit Lions, and both teams success has made for an interesting competitive rivalry. The Cowboys in 2014 vanquished the Lions in the first round of the playoffs however this victory was not without controversy. Several missed penalties on Detroit’s final drive allowed the Cowboys to squeak by with a win. In what is another meaningful installment of a budding cross divisional rivalry, Dallas will have very little to play for. The team will likely utilize the usual starters on both sides of the ball however expect players who have been dealing with lingering injuries to get some much needed rest. This is also the first time Cowboys superstar rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will play against the Lions so very little should change with how this offense operates. The Cowboys have already wrapped up home field advantage throughout the playoffs as they will remain the top seeded team in the NFC. The Lions must keep pace with not only the Green Bay Packers in what will be a tight race for the NFC North but also with other wildcard contenders. This should be a fantastic contest as both teams will come out swinging early.
#1 – J.J. Wilcox returns to the lineup
Cowboys backup safety, J.J. Wilcox was having a productive season before he was sidelined with an injury.
He will finally make his return back into the lineup which should add some versatility to the secondary.
Wilcox is primary a big hitter, he can dislodge the ball from running backs with ease, and should continue to find opposing ball carriers for a loss of yardage.
The Cowboys could completely overhaul their secondary during the offseason as plenty of the Dallas defensive backs could be free agents heading into 2017.
Wilcox like break out cornerback, Morris Claiborne should look to deliver a ton of production in the playoffs as they are approaching the end of their contracts.
Jan 11, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys players react on the bench in the fourth quarter in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
#2 – Resting players
This whole concept of resting players prior to the playoffs has obviously been magnified in Big D. The team and coaches have had to face a ton of questions on whether or not former starting quarterback, Tony Romo will start in either Week Sixteen or Seventeen. Realistically this is something Dallas will not do because at the end of the day it just does not make any sense.
Bringing in Romo at this point would not only cause a serious stir in the national media which could bring unwanted attention to the franchise, but it could also jeopardize the rhythm in which this offense finds themselves in. It is more likely that Romo becomes a healthy scratch in the next two weeks, with backup quarterback Mark Sanchez getting some playing time.
It seems more likely that Sanchez will step in to relive Prescott if they wish to rest him in order to keep him focused, the last thing they need is another quarterback controversy especially at this time of the year. Plus if Romo were to get injured that would essentially ruin his trade value, and that is something the Cowboys simply will not do.
Paying attention to the in-actives each week should also be very telling as it is unlikely the Cowboys bring in Romo if backup offensive linemen are starting. Cowboys star left tackle, Tyron Smith has been battling a nagging back injury all season long, it will be interesting to see if Dallas gives him an extra week of rest prior to the playoffs.
Another interesting situation to watch is Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant and how they handle him moving forward. The appearance of him on the injury report is something that we have gotten used to as the season wore on but what if this is having an impact on his effectiveness.
Dez has been questionable for the last two weeks and should see less snaps as the playoffs get closer. The return of Cowboys safety JJ Wilcox also allows the team to rest veteran safety Barry Church a little more than they could earlier in the season. If players are injured they will likely get some extra time to heal or less snaps than they would in Week Eight however this team seems focused on finishing the fight.
Aug 29, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory (94) in action against Minnesota Vikings guard David Yankey (66) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
#3 – Tryout for Randy Gregory?
Troubled Cowboys pass rusher, Randy Gregory has been missing from the team for quite some time.
However it appears the days of him being out of uniform are over (for now).
Gregory has been routinely suspended for testing positive for marijuana.
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However Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has stated they will continue to support the young defensive lineman.
That support may payoff big for Dallas as Gregory looks to take the field against the Lions.
This is huge for plenty of reasons.
But mainly it is the fact that Dallas will be missing one of their best pass rushers in defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
Starting defensive end Tyrone Crawford is questionable heading into this contest as well.
Gregory will see a ton of snaps in this game.
And if he impresses his stock with the Cowboys should rise.
However there is still the matter of his appeal to a year long ban that was reportedly handed down against him recently.
So, there are still question marks in his long term future.
One thing is certain, Gregory is in a terrific spot to help the Cowboys.
And if the Nebraska alum could stay on the field, he could make this pass rush more effective than we could have ever imagined.