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Mailbag: Looking At 2016 In Hindsight?

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If LVE can't play, and most reports say he likely won't, who replaces him in the lineup?KYLE COX / EAST DUBUQUE, IL

Rob: Sean Lee played by far his most snaps of the season against the 49ers (27) and Joe Thomas saw an increase too (17). They would seem like the most logical choices based on what we saw Sunday. But if Vander Esch can't play, whoever steps in would be facing a critical matchup. The Eagles really challenge you with their speed and ability to create in space with their skill players.

David: The obvious answer is that Sean Lee can step into that spot, but it's worth pointing out that Sean hasn't played more than about 30% of the snaps in a game since returning from his injury. The best bet might be to rotate several guys, including Sean Lee, Joe Thomas and maybe even Luke Gifford.

With the Cowboys not earning a single Pro Bowl spot this year, I wanted to hear your thoughts on the decision to draft Zeke over Ramsey. I recall Zeke's pick was to help the defense as much as it was the offense - not really helping much this year. Let's pretend the Cowboys need a RB leading into the 2021 draft as much as they did in the 2016 draft. Would you ever again take a RB with a top 15 pick, let alone a top 5 pick, over an equally talented DE, CB or LT? Zeke worked in 2016 but has been in decline since. Ramsey seems to be getting better and plays a much more important position. — BRIAN SAMBIRSKY / SPRING, TX

Rob: Let's be fair here. If the offense was at full strength we'd probably talking about three to five Pro Bowlers on offense: Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Amari Cooper and yes, possibly Zeke. It's understandable for fans to second-guess things in a season like this, and this year hasn't met his normal standards of production. But it's also been hard to evaluate the run game. I thought he ran well early in the year, but the balance got so out of whack due to playing from behind. Some of that was due to his fumbles, sure. But now late in the year, it's been a completely different offensive line and I do think he's been fighting through some injuries. I just expect Zeke and the whole operation to be better next year, with maybe an expanded role for Tony Pollard, too.
David: I think Zeke has the unique distinction of being the dividing line between two different outlooks for this franchise. The Cowboys drafted him fourth overall to be a spark plug, a weapon and a health insurance policy for Tony Romo. It's fascinating to think what the team might have looked like with Zeke running behind that offensive line and an MVP-caliber quarterback for 4-5 years. Unfortunately, Romo & Zeke never played a meaningful snap together, and the roster has transformed completely. That's not Zeke's fault, it's just an interesting bit of timing. At this point in their respective careers, I think it's probably fair to second-guess the pick — but I also think all this fretting about Zeke's production is a bit premature. Let's revisit this conversation in 2021 and see if we weren't overreacting a little bit.

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