FRISCO, Texas – Do not ever equate the bye week with nothing going on around here.
There is always something going on with the Dallas Cowboys during the season, game or no game.
Like, the Cowboys made a trade, acquiring veteran defensive lineman Michael Bennett.
Like, the Cowboys wisely pulled back right before the trade deadline on Tuesday from making a trade.
They got somewhat healthier during the past one-and-a-half weeks, Leighton Vander Esch and Robert Quinn, two guys who did not finish the last game, suffering injuries against the Eagles, appear ready to jump back into practice Thursday and then play Monday night against the New York Football Giants.
But they also suffered an injury during the interim, backup swing tackle Cameron Fleming going down with a strained calf muscle.
So let's catch up with some rapid shots.
· Upgrading: No matter what anyone else says or believes, the Cowboys No. 1 priority to upgrade this roster just had to be a 3-technique defensive tackle. So welcome Michael Bennett. Think about it, the Cowboys certainly are just fine with Maliek Collins starting at that position. But tell me who is playing behind him? That's why the loss of Tyrone Crawford was a critical one. Ty could play the 3-technique. He could play the 1-technique and he could rotate in at either defensive end spot. Now Bennett, even though he's 33 years old, can fill those voids in a rotation. Don't forget he totaled nine sacks last year with the Eagles, and as important had 30 quarterback hits. Plus, his money is quite manageable for the remaining nine games, costing them just $1.6 million plus as much as $843,000 more in per game incentives if active for all nine games. On top of that, he only costs the Cowboys a conditional seventh-round pick in, not next year, but 2021, that can go to a sixth if he plays at least four games. In the true spirit of the Jones Family dealings, low risk, high reward. And as the veteran Quinn assessed the move, "His résumé speaks for itself." Bring it on.
· He Ready: That's been a popular question, when will Bennett be ready to contribute. My answer: Thursday's practice. First, he's been practicing all season, so it's not as if he's coming in off an injury. Then, remember he played in Seattle with Cowboys' passing-game coordinator Kris Richard. He should be quite familiar with the Cowboys' 4-3 system. Then there are his fresh legs. He only played 133 snaps in six games with the Patriots, an average of 22 a game, and hasn't played since Oct. 10, serving that one-game suspension, and at that, only 11 snaps against the Giants before the trade. Plus, if he's rotating in, say, on nickel downs, don't want to oversimplify things, but … see quarterback, get quarterback. What's to learn?
· Gone Fishing: That's apparently what the Jets were doing bumping up against the trade deadline, listening to anyone interested in strong safety Jamal Adams, and then hoping someone would make them an offer that would knock their socks off. Sounds as if the asking price was unreasonable if we are to believe these reports. Too many comparisons going on out there with the Cowboys trading a first-round pick last year for Amari Cooper during the bye week to potentially looking for a strong safety during this bye period. To me, Cooper was the reason the Cowboys turned 4-3 over the first seven games last year into 7-2 over the last nine games. Does anyone think a strong safety would have that kind of impact on this team, turning 4-3 into 7-2 over the next nine game?
· Time Heals Most: With the exception of offensive tackle Cameron Fleming (calf) and cornerback Anthony Brown (hamstring), the Cowboys likely will have everyone else available for Thursday's practice, at least on a limited basis. That's the good news. Bad news, though, sounds as if Fleming, who injured his calf in a mere drill holding one of those blocking pads this past Thursday, might miss a couple of weeks. That means, as the roster stands now, Brandon Knight must serve as the backup swing tackle. Knight's play was encouraging when stepping in for the injured La'el Collins midway through the third quarter against the Packers and starting against the Jets. But good gosh, that's all he has played in the NFL, the Cowboys acquiring him as a rookie free agent this year. A tackle moved to guard in camp, now he's a tackle again. And to think both Collins and Tyron Smith were nursing injuries, even though they played against the Eagles. Makes you want to suck anxiety air through your teeth don't it.
· NCF East Number: The Cowboys have swept the first round of NFC East games so far this season, amounting to three of their four wins, with the second round starting Monday night against the Giants. This is nothing new versus East opponents since Jason Garrett took over midway through the 2010 season as interim head coach and then head coach in 2011. Thanks to our producer Kaden Gates, Garrett is now 36-19 in division games since Game 9 of 2010. And they hold winning records against all three opponents: Eagles (11-8), Giants (13-5) and Redskins (12-6). In fact, since the start of the 2017 season, the Cowboys are 13-2 in the East, losing only to Washington, 20-17, last season with Brett Maher's game-tying field goal bouncing off the upright, and Philadelphia, 39-9, in 2017 with Ezekiel Elliott serving the second game of his six-game suspension.
· Scatter Shots: Despite the bye, the Cowboys still are the No. 1 offense in the NFL, averaging 437.9 yards a game … Not only do the Cowboys rank first in total yards, they also are first when it comes to average yards per play (6.7), first downs per game (24.6) and third down efficiency (51.9 percent), which is quite remarkable and the only team converting more than 50 percent of their chances … Their 27 points a game ranks sixth, and to think they only scored 10 against the Saints. Otherwise, in the other six games they are averaging 30 points a game.
And here is another example of the Cowboys' drawing power, with "Tank" rolling into the Big Apple during the bye, DeMarcus Lawrence making a Monday appearance on the NFL's Good Morning Football. Anyone in Manhattan recognize you big guy while doing some shopping? "The Cowboys fans did," he said. Sure they did.