Monday, September 19, 2011

Why All These $%^&*ing Injuries are Good for the Cowboys

Whether or not you think the Cowboys victory yesterday over the mighty Alex Smith might be pyrrhic (I say no), there are definite casualties on the Blue and Silver side of the ball.  Besides the litany of injuries the Cowboys sustained in their preseason and game one, it now looks like the Alien Austin might be out through the bye week and at best, it looks like Felix Jones may play in the home opener, albeit seeing diminished carries while trying to regain full strength.  Tony Romo is playing with a (delicious) broken rib.  That’s nothing to say of the multitude of injuries on the offensive line and in the secondary, which seem to be changing on an hourly basis.  I’m tempting fate as I say it, but it would be hard to get worse as far as injuries go.

Next time try the pulled shoulder; I hear it's tender.

Here comes the shaky logic: admist the chaos and pain, I see a team, who by the trial of fire brought upon its youngest and most inexperienced players, will emerge stronger and more driven.  No one thought at the beginning of the season that the Boys would be able to make it to the playoffs this year, even less so now.  But by taking the blows up front, they might find themselves primed for a competitive run sooner than otherwise expected.

Let’s look at it from several angles:

The Young Player
Obviously, when you have a certain level of talent at any position, it can become difficult for the players low in the depth chart to gain the experience necessary to make any kind of meaningful impact.  As we saw last night at the WR position, those players could now get that chance.  While we all doubt Jesse Holley will go from fourf and long to first and ten on the reg—DON’T GET CAUGHT SHOWBOATING ON THE TWO IF YOU’RE NOT THAT FAST—he at least now has the opportunity to prove what he may be able to do.  Or maybe he’s a scrub that got lucky; maybe Dwayne Harris will emerge as a standout.  Maybe neither—I doubt either will be the next Miles Austin replacing an injured Roy Williams in 2009.  But the opportunity is there.


The same goes for the RBs.  DeMarco Murray was brought in exactly for the situation we’ve arrived at: Felix is hurt, and no one is quite certain that Tashard can get it done alone.  Now he and Choice will get the carries, gain the experience, and hopefully find the confidence that a contending team will need from their backups in order to make a meaningful playoff run.  They might even make the case for a move to a true two-back system.  Bad for us fantasy players, but (arguably) good for real football.

If no young player emerges as a new star with the given opportunities, at the very least we’ll find ourselves with a team that is deeper in experience and football grit.

The Injured Starter
Jason Garrett has tried to foster a spirit of competition, instilling into his team’s psyche that every player’s job is constantly on the line.  After sitting on the sidelines and watching younger players in their roles, the hope is that the injured starters come back with greater drive and a renewed competitive spirit.  If a hungry Kevin Ogletree can show his teammates what it takes to play four full quarters of football, maybe Dez will quit doing his best LeBron impression (or at least start wearing thigh pads).  At the very least, it creates a hunger to perform in a serious and consistent manner that the Cowboys always seem to be low on.

"SSSSSS-ahhhhhhh" -pretty much everyone on RER's team

The Team
Offensive line cohesion is an important topic (as Brooks highlighted a week ago).  Having players shuffled in and out of the line because of injuries wouldn’t seem to help to build cohesion, but struggle does.  Challenge can bring these men together.  And if it takes eight guys to put a line together week in and week out, then it takes eight guys.  And hopefully we have a group of eight men who can grow together and be stronger than five alone, because they’ve learned what it’s going to take to be consistently successful.

The Bottom Line
These hypotheses can apply to any situation where a significant player is injured, but the Cowboys have been given the middle finger by the football God (I think he’s just pissed that his hole in the roof is now retractable)—they find themselves beaten and battered through and through in a season that’s barely underway, and they might be 1-4 after meeting their next three opponents.  But we know now that they’re not lacking for opportunities at growth, even at positions where we thought they might’ve reached talent saturation on the starting level.

The Cowboys are sorely lacking in depth, and it’s evident they can’t trade, draft, or free agent their way into having the depth that they need to be contenders in the next few years.  At some point, it has to come from within—it will have to be cultivated, not bought (unless we can dupe the Vikings into "The Trade" again—of course, if some of these young players can build their merit, they can be used to find  necessary replacements in other positions, but it returns to the same point).  The Cowboys may have been given exactly what they need to find their strength: enormous adversity.

After all, the Green Bay Packers faced a similar situation just last year, and that seemed to turn out ok.

As the Cheeseheads would politely tell you, the opportunity is on the table.

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