FRISCO, Texas – The questions seem to rage:
Why him? Why now?
No brainer for the Cowboys to acquire the 10-year veteran receiver T.Y. Hilton on Monday.
First, not only was he available, but he's fresh, injury free and all indications are he's ready to play, saying heading into his first week of practice of the season that he can do whatever the coaching staff is asking of him.
"I'm definitely fresh," said the 33-year-old Hilton, having played just 10 games last year with the Colts, his season shortened by neck surgery and a strained groin. "I just got to be able to speak Cowboy," meaning getting down the terminology that he says he has spent 10 hours in each of the past two days studying.
Next: Speed. The guy ran a 4.37 at the NFL Combine in the 40. He averaged 15.4 yards a catch on 631 career receptions for the Colts in 143 games. And when asked if he can still run, he said as if offended by even being asked, "Absolutely," and then when asked if he's been working out, came, "Nobody grinds like me."
We're talking deep speed now.
This can be a godsend for a team in need of speed down this stretch, and for a mere $600,000 guaranteed over the final four games, with per game 46-man game day roster bonuses and playoff incentives added that can amount to $1.8 million. Peanuts against the cap.
And to further qualify this late season move, think DeSean Jackson. Let me take you back to last year, Thanksgiving Day, the Raiders in town to play the Cowboys. The speedy Jackson was 34 years old. He gave the Cowboys fits in that 36-33 OT loss.
Raiders first possession, third play, first and 10 at the Vegas 44. Go route. Derek Carr to Jackson for a 56-yard touchdown.
Next, third-and-6 at the Cowboys 31. Deep right, P.I. on Anthony Brown in the end zone. Ball placed at the one. Touchdown next play.
All followed by an incompletion his way, and then Carr connecting with Jackson for a 16-yard catch and 30-yarder on a deep route.
Why three catches on four targets, for 102 yards on 42 snaps, quality over quantity.
And when asked what he does best, Hilton said, "Make plays . . . make plays."
Makes your mouth water, doesn't it.
- Sack-Less: How in the world did that happen, the Cowboys leading the NFL going into Week 14 with 48 sacks in the first 12 games are held sackless by the now 1-11-1 Texans in the eventual 27-23 victory? That's right no sacks for the first time this 10-3 season after recording at least two in every other game, and that low of two occurring just in three of the previous 12 games. In fact, get this, you would have to go back to Game 5 of the 2021 season to find the last time the Cowboys were held without a sack, and that was against the Giants. So, do the math, 25 consecutive games with at least one sack until this past Sunday. "A combination of things," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn pointed out of the shutout. "We didn't get a lot of chances to go, the ball was thrown pretty quickly on some of the (chances) we had. Our moments were there, too, and as it was when we went to it, some of our missed tackles happened to be on missed sacks in this game . . . we got to go finish."
- Hank-Less: Sometimes a guy is not missed until he goes missing. Take Johnathan Hankins, the over-sized addition in the middle of the Cowboys defense. Well, Hank is done for the rest of the regular season with a strained pectoral muscle, and the reason why the Cowboys signed DT Anthony Rush to the practice squad. Why him? Well, Rush is listed at 6-4, 361, a space-eater for sure. And as Quinn says before finding out how long Hankins would be out, "If we do miss him for some time, he would be one that's missed. He's square and really strong inside." In other words, hard to be moved off the line, the Cowboys hoping he returns in time for the playoffs.
- In-Season Shuffle: Not that the Cowboys offensive line will be putting out a song as the 1985 Chicago Bears did with the "Super Bowl Shuffle" on their merry way to Super Bowl XX, but there will be a shuffle taking place with the loss of starting right tackle Terence Steele and the impending addition of 12th-year veteran Tyron Smith, maybe for a few snaps this Sunday and then likely finding a more permanent spot on Christmas Eve. The alternatives are many, including Tyron eventually making the move to right tackle to hanging more with technically rookie Josh Ball, having gone unknown for almost two quarters replacing the injured Steele until his two missed plays late in the game, bringing Jason Peters into the game for that game-winning 98-yard drive. As head coach Mike McCarthy said, "I think a lot of the questions will start to be answered tomorrow," meaning when the Cowboys practice in pads, then tongue in cheek, McCarthy said, "I think this is a really good opportunity to wait until Sunday." Sure thing coach, no sense handing the Jaguars a scouting report, "But I'm feeling a personal challenge (to keep that secret) but I don't think the odds are very good." Meaning someone just might spill the beans beforehand, like maybe with the initials J.J.
- Few Leftovers: Remember, former Colts safety Malik Hooker played with Hilton four seasons in Indy, and when asked his impressions of the Cowboys signing, he said, "He always shows up in big games, makes plays . . . he's a gamer," and then when asked what he's does best on the field, Hooker added, "I know he'll catch deep balls for us and catch a screen and go to the house." . . . Hooker had a strange rehab contraption on his bothersome right hand, having dipped his hand into wax to make a mold on his hand, then placed in a clear plastic bag . . . While their records are not similar, the Cowboys 10-3 and the Jaguar 5-8, they have similar offensive rankings, the Cowboys 10th overall in the NFL and Jacksonville 11th . . . And beware, the Jaguars are 10th in passing offense while the Cowboys are 20th, Quinn pointing out how dangerous Trevor Lawrence can be, saying, "He has the ability to throw it on the run and just make accurate plays when he's extending plays or by design . . . And a Happy Birthday to Anthony Brown, turning 29 on Thursday.
And might as well let Jerry Jones weigh in on the signing of Hilton for this week's last word since the Cowboys have guaranteed Hilton the $600,000 for the remainder of the season, the equivalent of a one-year, $$2.55 million deal factored over 17 games.
"Well, we got a lot of position flex with him, but I would say he's got that step (speed) but he also brings a ton of experience – that's big, that's real big because we'll want him to step in immediately, and these guys who have played a lot of football in the NFL have a good chance of doing that," Jones said Tuesday during is radio segment on 105.3 The Fan.
"He's seen the kinds of routes that we're going to run, he's seen them time and time again in the NFL and there in Indianapolis. So, I think he's a real pickup for us that frankly will hit the ground running and immediately give us some help."
Especially stretching the field to unclog a crowded middle of late.