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Final Thoughts: Who Plays, Who Sits? Handling The Chargers’ Pass Rush; More
FRISCO, Texas – Jason Garrett says it every year, and he’s right – this game sneaks up on you.
It’s been just three days since the Cowboys finished that Sunday night loss to Philadelphia, but it’s already time to finish up preparations for this Thanksgiving game against the Chargers. It’s a tough turnaround from Sunday to Thursday – especially if you’re coming off a night game. But you’ve got to do what you can.
Given the injuries the Cowboys are facing, not to mention the quick turnaround, there’s a lot of questions surrounding the health of this roster right now. That’s where I’m going to start this week. But there’s a few other issues worth considering against this Chargers team.
Here’s my last look at this matchup before we get into the swing of game day. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Read
- Tyron Smith will be the starter at left tackle after missing the previous two games. This will be a huge boost for the offense and the comfort level of Dak Prescott. Chaz Green and Byron Bell filled in while Smith was out. Look for Bell to be the primary backup to Smith and La’el Collins against the Chargers, meaning that Green will likely sit.
- The team had a scare during the Philadelphia game when Anthony Hitchens went out with a groin injury. Things looked pretty bleak at that time with Sean Lee also out of the lineup. But they caught a break with Hitchens’ injury not as serious as first thought and he was able to practice. I would expect to see him starting once again at weak side linebacker in place of Lee, with Justin Durant playing in Hitchens’ usual middle linebacker spot. Hitchens is an extremely tough guy and hopefully for the defense he can make it through, because they need him at that spot.
- Jeff Heath missed the Philadelphia game with a concussion, but, like Smith and Hitchens, he was able to practice this week. Look for Heath to once again be back in the lineup starting at safety next to Byron Jones and in his role on special teams. Heath will rotate with Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier in various packages.
- Speaking of groin injuries, Dan Bailey has missed the previous four games, but I am hearing that he’s made enough progress in his rehab to be active this week. I would expect that we will see Bailey handle both the kickoffs and field goals against the Chargers. The team is likely going to keep Mike Nugent on the 53-man roster for this week in order to see how Bailey does going forward this week.
- Just to give you an idea, Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley likes to move his rushers around, so Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will come from either side. As dangerous as Bosa is, Ingram is just as good. Between them they have 19 sacks. Given their style of play, my guess is that Bosa will start the game over La’el Collins and Ingram will line up over Tyron Smith. Bosa is a little better around the edge, which tends to give Collins problems. Ingram is more flexible with his rush -- both inside and out. If you’re going to beat Smith, it’s generally to the inside -- which Ingram can do.
- How good has the Chargers defense been in the red zone? Opponents have only scored touchdowns on 40 percent of those trips. What’s even more impressive is that their opponents have only averaged 1.8 yards a play -- which is best in the league.
- Here’s a stat that most fans can relate to. When the Cowboys are on defense, their opponents have only been flagged 56 times, which is last in the league. Just to give you an idea, the league average for opponent’s penalties is 68.
- My weekly guess at the Cowboys inactives: K Mike Nugent, RB Darren McFadden, CB Bene Benwikere, LB Sean Lee, DT Daniel Ross, OT Chaz Green, TE Blake Jarwin.