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Top 10: Ranking Top 10 Most Significant Injuries Of 2012
IRVING, Texas – It was a season of injuries for the Cowboys, whose 8-8 finish was once again just one game too short of making the playoffs.
Injuries weren’t the only reason the Cowboys failed to reach the postseason, although it was a consistent theme from the start of training camp to the very last quarter of the final game.
In a weekly series that will run throughout the offseason, the staff writers of DallasCowboys.com have created their own Top 10 lists. Today, we’ll continue with the Top 10 most significant injuries of the 2012 season.
Honorable Mention: Orlando Scandrick
While he played an important role on defense as the slot cornerback, Scandrick’s broken forearm injury didn’t cripple this team like other injuries did. The Cowboys won three straight games following his injury. The Cowboys used a combination of Mike Jenkins, Sterling Moore and even Michael Coe to handle the slot on the nickel.
10. Miles Austin
Austin technically played in all 16 games, but he did miss most of both Washington losses, which of course proved to be critical games on the schedule. Austin suffered a hip contusion early in the Thanksgiving Day game and with the Cowboys falling behind 28-3, they had no choice but to throw the ball. While Dez Bryant had a huge day and Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris were solid, Austin’s playmaking was missed. The same goes for the season finale when he suffered a high-ankle sprain and missed most of the second half.
9. Phil Costa
He also had a pair of injuries that plagued the Cowboys this year. Had it not been for the Baltimore game on Oct. 14, he might not have made the list. But in the one game he started and finished, Costa was pretty dominant against a Ravens’ defense that yielded the most rushing yards (222) in franchise history. The Cowboys held up with Ryan Cook for the most part, but not having Costa in the middle did hurt the continuity of the offense at times.
You could argue Coleman could go much higher on this list. He’s not a flashy player but seems to get the job done against the run. Once his season ended with a triceps injury, the Cowboys struggled to find a consistent replacement at defensive end. Early in the season the Cowboys were in the Top 10 against the run, but the team trailed off later in the year, finishing 22nd. While there were several key injuries on defense, Coleman’s loss was a big factor.
7. Jay Ratliff
Similarly to Costa, it wasn’t about when Jay Ratliff was hurt, but more about when he wasn’t. Ratliff was banged up in training camp with a foot injury and then missed six weeks with a high-ankle sprain. And while he returned to play well for a stretch of games midway through the year, a groin injury that led to sports hernia surgery wiped out the final six contests of his season. Coupled with Josh Brent’s situation and absence for the last month, it made Ratliff’s injury even more pressing.
6. Dez Bryant
While he really only missed about a quarter of the final game, it was a pretty important quarter. And one where Dez Bryant had thrived in for the last seven games. Bryant had turned into beast-mode in the second half of the season, coming up huge particularly in the fourth quarter. His team trailing by 11, Bryant suffered a back injury that kept him out of the final quarter against Washington. The Cowboys needed their playmaker, and ultimately, Tony Romo had to force the ball to running back DeMarco Murray as he found Bryant and Austin out of action. Bryant played through a fractured finger but it turned out that back spasms ended up costing the Cowboys when they needed him the most. The injury was so severe that Bryant needed assistance to the team plane after the game and then spent the next day in a Dallas hospital.
5. Barry Church
The Cowboys have been searching for consistent safety play for years and after training camp, it appeared they might have finally found it in Church, who won the job with a stellar camp and preseason. But three games into the schedule, Church suffered a torn Achilles injury against the Buccaneers and once again the Cowboys were left scrambling to fill the void. Guys like Eric Frampton and Charlie Peprah were signed off the street to help and Danny McCray struggled as the season wore on.
4. Bruce Carter
In some ways, this was actually worse than Sean Lee’s injury because it happened second. But Carter was starting to really turn the corner as a young player and emerged as a budding star in Lee’s absence. But a dislocated elbow injury in the Redskins game on Thanksgiving ended his season. It also created a huge hole in the middle, leaving the Cowboys scrambling to play guys like Dan Connor, Ernie Sims and Brady Poppinga.
3. DeMarcus Ware
Some might argue he’s too high on this list because he didn’t miss any games. Some might say he should even be at No. 1 because he’s the best player on the field and he couldn’t be himself when the Cowboys needed him the most. At 8-6 with two games to play, Ware was barely even 50 percent against the Saints and Redskins. Dealing with a combination of a shoulder, elbow, hamstring and neck injuries, Ware just didn’t have the push that makes him one of the best pass-rushers in the game, if not the very best. Toward the end of the year, he wasn’t even the best on his team as Anthony Spencer was making more plays. Credit Ware for fighting through the pain as he’s always done, but his injuries toward the end of the year were costly.
2. Sean Lee
He’s turning into the heart and soul of the Cowboys’ defense, especially with his ability to make plays on the ball and consistent tackling. So losing him on a freak play in Carolina was disheartening. It took five weeks for Lee to be replaced as the team’s leading tackler and he still finished fourth on the squad with 77 tackles. What he provides in terms of awareness, leadership and toughness couldn’t be replaced.
The Cowboys ranked 31st in rushing. They don’t have the 31st best running back in the NFL as it’s obviously Murray has more talent than that. But not having him in the lineup for those six and a half games were crucial to this team’s success on offense and mindset moving forward. They just opted not to run the ball at times in short-yardage and goal-line situations once Murray went out with a sprained foot in Baltimore. The shame of the injury was that Murray was having one of his better games as a pro, with 93 yards in the first half. Over the course of the next few games, Felix Jones just couldn’t provide the same running style as Murray, who returned for the final five outings. Even in a game like Cincinnati, where Murray only rushed for 53 yards on 21 carries, he was able to pick up key first downs on the final drive, using his strength and toughness. Murray runs with an attitude and that was sorely missed in the middle of the year when he was sidelined. The Cowboys were 3-4 in the seven games Murray was out or injured.