Since Jason Garrett has been the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, the mantra has been “Next Man Up”, which has been tested many times throughout his tenure from losing Sean Lee every season to losing numerous key players. Overall, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys have done fairly well. This year, unfortunately, brings on a new test. With eight of the Cowboys best players out, it brings on the biggest test of them all.

Here is the list of the key Cowboys Players that are injured or suspended:

  • Dez Bryant
  • Rolando McClain
  • Greg Hardy
  • Randy Gregory
  • Orlando Scandrick
  • Ronald Leary
  • Jeremy Mincey
  • Tony Romo

This is a long list of players to have out during any point of the season, but the Cowboys are still 2-1 at the top of the NFC East. On the negative side Orlando Scandrick is done for the year and Tony Romo is out for 8 more weeks, but on the positive side Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain will be back in two weeks. Also nearing return is Ronald Leary and Jeremy Mincey. Last but not least are Dez Bryant and Randy Gregory who are set to return in 3 weeks. Once this team is fully assembled, they will be dangerous.

With Dez Bryant out the “Next Man Up” Terrance Williams has not been a good substitute. During this past Sunday’s game against the Falcons he had two targets, but no catches. He has got to step up, which he understands. “It’s my job to be ready no matter if it’s toward the end of the game, the beginning of the game or the last pass,” said Williams, who has caught nine passes for 144 yards and a touchdown this year.

While Greg Hardy has been out his replacements have been Demarcus Lawrence and Jeremy Mincey. Neither of them have recorded any sacks or made any noise this year so far. As a matter of fact, the only member of the Defensive Line with a sack is Tyrone Crawford. I have huge expectations for Greg Hardy as well as Randy Gregory at the Defensive End position and I hope they can deliver. When every member of the Defensive Line is healthy we should see a good rotation.

When Orlando Scandrick was injured during training camp I did not expect much from his replacement Morris Claiborne because of the issues he’s had over the past two years, but fortunately he has played fairly well. His confidence seems to be back and he has become a smarter player.

Excerpt from “A better student, Morris Claiborne is now a better player” by Todd Archer, ESPN:

Atlanta receiver Julio Jones caught 12 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Cowboys, but Claiborne played him the toughest. He knocked down a pass to Jones, and he should have had an interception near the goal line on Atlanta’s first scoring drive. But, mostly, he fought the way Coach Jason Garrett wants his players to fight.

The way Claiborne is playing now is closer to what the Cowboys thought he was going to be. I’m excited about Claiborne’s growth and his potential this year.

 

With Rolando McClain out the “Next Man Up” Anthony Hitchens has played well so far. He’s 2nd on the team in tackles and has a sack. I’ve liked Anthony Hitchens since he got to Dallas and I knew he would be able to fill in until McClain returns. As he continues to build his career I see him becoming a dominating force in the Cowboys’ Defense.

 

Although Ronald Leary has missed the past two games, La’el Collins has done a solid job filling in. He started one game and played more time than Mackenzy Bernadeau in the other game. Collins was a surprise drop in the draft, but has paid off for the Cowboys and will continue to get better. He already has a few online highlights in his short pro career, but with Ronald Leary probably returning this week Collins won’t be used as much.

 

With Brandon Weeden taking over for Tony Romo we have seen some ups and downs. It’s not that Brandon Weeden is bad; he just plays like he’s afraid to make a mistake. This concept did not work well in the last game against the Falcons, a game that the Cowboys were up by 14 and still lost. Brandon Weeden and the Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan need to come up with a better plan or the next 8 weeks are going to be hell. I don’t know if I even want to see Matt Cassell because he may not be any better.

The bottom line is this team is good, but until everyone is healthy we won’t see their full potential.

Ben Sudderth III

Spark Sports NFL Analyst

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