FRISCO, Texas – You're not happy.
They're not happy.
You are frustrated.
They are frustrated.
You are ready to give up.
They can't. This is their job, not their pastime. And the job just got more difficult. A lot more.
The Cowboys Picasso ain't painting for at least a month. Probably more. Can't hold his paint brush. Left-handed is out of the question.
So, no Dak Prescott starting Sunday against Cincinnati at AT&T Stadium. The leaves might start falling before he returns.
Problem gets worse. No Jayron Kearse, last year's leading tackler. The safety has a sprained MCL. Those usually take two to four weeks to heal. For me and you, more like two to three months.
No Connor McGovern. The starting left guard has a high ankle sprain. This will cause a reshuffling of not just the offensive line but the roster, too. They now need a backup to the backup, and there really isn't a backup to that backup on the 53.
No Tarell Basham, one of the veteran rotation defensive ends. Significant thigh bruise. Who knows how long? But at least the Cowboys have reinforcements there.
Some way to start the season, right? But no one is feeling sorry for them. They had the first of three practices here Wednesday to start fixin' what ails them before Joe Burrow and them, the defending AFC North champs, show up a little red around the neck after faltering as well in their 2022 debut, 23-20 in overtime to the dreaded Steelers.
"It's going to be a 12-round fight," says Micah Parsons. "It's going to go the distance."
Yep, the show must go on. Can't take comp time in this NFL. Got to just go out to give it your best shot. So, let's go.
- Sooner Than Later: This gives new meaning to "upon further review." Because after Dak Prescott underwent surgery to repair the fracture below his right thumb, after the surgeon saw and repaired the break, things weren't as dire as initially presumed. Meaning, now the prognosis is out four to six weeks, much better than that initial six to eight, and one reason why the Cowboys didn't place QB1 on injured reserve, required to miss a mandatory four games. Another reason is this: Players on injured reserve cannot practice during those four weeks, and they cannot participate in any team meetings or position meetings or assist during games on the sideline. Cowboys want to keep Dak engaged for the team's sake.
- On Guard: The Cowboys have a dilemma at guard with McGovern out. With the presumed backup guard Matt Farniok moving in as the starter, no longer is there a backup guard/center. Must get one to the 48-man game-day roster. One in-house choice if veteran offensive lineman Jason Peters isn't ready, and he is yet to practice and still on the practice squad, might be practice squad offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley. He's been working at guard, but has seen action at center in the CFL, the one-time fifth pick in the first round by the Saskatchewan Roughriders having also spent time since 2018 with the Jets, 49ers and Seahawks before the Cowboys signed him to their practice squad on Sept. 1. Big guy, too, at 6-4, 290.
- Friday, Friday: That's when head coach Mike McCarthy expects to make some roster moves since at least three guys on the practice squad need to be elevated to the 53 and/or 48-man game-day roster out of necessity: Quarterbacks Cooper Rush and Will Grier and kicker Brett Maher. Problem is teams are allowed only two elevations per week, so one of the three must be signed to the 53-man roster. Probably at least one guy not named Prescott will have to be moved to IR to make room, plus there is that need for a backup guard/center, too.
- Best Laid Plans: As the saying goes, "of mice and men often go awry." Also include "and football players." While offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has been criticized for calling that double reverse on the Cowboys' third offensive play Sunday that ended up losing eight yards, the execution did him in. On the right side of the line, wide receiver Noah Brown was supposed to block Tampa Bay outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka but couldn't get the block with the linebacker lined up tighter than expected. That caused tight end Dalton Schultz, pulling around to potentially block safety Antione Winfield Jr., to run into the cluster and Tryon-Shoyinka to blow up what could have been a huge play. Nice call, poor execution if you need to know the truth.
- Cheap Chip: Much is being made of Leonard Fournette's block on Micah Parsons, who was engaged with Buccaneers left tackle Josh Wells when the running back viciously launched into the neck/head area of the Cowboys linebacker with his shoulder/helmet, knocking the snot out of him. Talk about hitting a defenseless defensive player. Crackback blocks have been outlawed. So should, uh, "chipback" blocks, too. And to think that's what bought Tom Brady time to launch that 48-yard pass to Julio Jones to set up Tampa Bay's fourth field goal of the first half and the 12-3 lead. "They needed it," said Parsons, who already had sacked Brady twice and hit him passing two more times. "They needed help, you know. I'm expecting it. I like me one-on-one against anybody. … He got one, I got one, pssh, it's football."
- Chip It Up: If the Bengals game against Pittsburgh on Sunday is any indication, Parsons better expect more chips on the way. Why, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked seven times, hit 11 more times and the Steelers registered nine tackles for loss in the 23-20 overtime win. Not only that, the Steelers had nine Burrow passes deflected. He'll need more time, improved protection. And one guy who might need some help is Bengals starting right tackle, one La'el Collins, signed by Cincinnati to a three-year, $21 million deal after the Cowboys released the veteran offensive tackle. Watching Sunday's game, Collins barely could be considered lining up on the line of scrimmage. He was like two yards behind the ball without any penalty for not being on the line of scrimmage, buying himself some time in pass pro. Bet he and Parsons will meet up.
- Booting It: Didn't take long for former Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein to draw the wrath of his new head coach, Robert Saleh. After a mere so-so year with the Cowboys, they decided to let him test free agency. Well, the Jets bit on the veteran kicker, Zuerlein earning the job over Eddy Piniero. Well, in the season opener this past Sunday in the Jets' 24-9 loss to Baltimore, Zuerlein went one for two on field goals – hitting and missing from 45 – and missed his only extra point attempt, causing Saleh to say, "We're missing kicks, we're missing extra points. We're not going to win a football game (like that)." And Indianapolis already has tired of its kicker after just one game, releasing Rodrigo Blankenship after missing a 42-yeard field goal in overtime to win a game that ended up in a tie and also having two kickoffs sail out of bounds.
- Extra Points: Strange start to the NFL season since all the teams in the NFC East won except for the Cowboys and all teams in the NFC West lost except for Seattle … And both Super Bowl combatants lost in Week 1 … Who'd have ever thought this: Detroit (0-1), all of 3-13-1 last year, is being listed as a 2½-point favorite at home over 1-0 Washington, breaking a 24-game underdog streak stretching back to Nov. 22, 2020, when they were favored to win at Carolina in a game they lost 20-0 … Here is an interesting Parsons stat: He currently has four multi-sack games in his first two seasons with 16 games still to go, erasing the Cowboys' franchise mark of three held by Jim Jeffcoat (1983-84) and Jimmie Jones (1990-91).
And this week's last word belongs to Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy when asked how his young receivers handled the amount of press coverage they predictably received from Tampa Bay since rookies Dennis Houston and KaVontae Turpin were playing in their first NFL games, Simi Fehoko only had seven offensive snaps in his rookie year last season and Noah Brown played 61 of 69 snaps in the first game of his sixth NFL season (88.4 percent) when last year he ended up playing a season-high 33 percent of the offensive snaps.
"I think when you look at our receiver group, when you see youth, you see more bump and run," McCarthy said of those receivers who totaled nine catches against the Bucs. "That's been going on as long as I've been in the league. When you're a younger, less experienced receiver group that's what defenses do to you.
"Hey, if you can't defeat bump and run, then the NFL is not for you. That's the ultimate mano y mano situation from the perimeter, and it's definitely a focus for us."
And even more so now needing to get open for a backup quarterback.