FRISCO, Texas – Can it really be, already? Week 4 of the National Football League?
Who would have slapped down money on that back at the first of July of the NFL heading into Game 4?
Can remember being asked back then what were the odds of the NFL pulling this off, especially after Major League Baseball immediately ran into COVID-19 dilemmas, with games being postponed, having to play seven-inning doubleheaders to compensate for those lost games.
Can remember saying, the NFL has a good plan, but all this will depend on how well the players mind themselves if they aren't going to be in a bubble like the NBA and the NHL. And would follow that up with, "Well, we'll see."
Well, we've seen so far until this week. After no players had tested positive the previous week, the Tennessee Titans had an outbreak, which not only caused them to shut down their facility for the time being, but also the team they had played Sunday, Minnesota, and consequently affected who they are scheduled to play this Sunday, Pittsburgh.
So now to give both teams a fair shot at preparing for a game, the NFL has been saying that game will be postponed until Monday or Tuesday. Crazy times.
So crazy, this afternoon for lunch, guess wearing a mask all day at work is like wearing a shirt. Went to take a bite of lunch, and, uh, my mask was still on. Part of me now.
Oh, this 2020, and not a bad shot to start with.
Tackling This: Seems like for a near month we've been belaboring the Cowboys' injury problems on the offensive line. For the past two games, they have been playing without their three top offensive tackles, La'el Collins, Cam Erving and now Tyron Smith. And on top of that, guess the guy being considered fourth, since he had been starting at right tackle in place of Collins (on IR), rookie Terence Steele comes down with a stomach disorder Sunday in Seattle and finally had to be replaced in the third quarter. So with Brandon Knight starting for Smith, the Cowboys were forced to move right guard Zack Martin to right tackle, center Joe Looney to right guard and rookie Tyler Biadasz to center. And despite all this, the Cowboys have the No. 1 offense in the NFL again, having gained more yards than anyone else in three games (1,472). Go figure.
- Center Of Attention: As quiet as it's been kept, after going back to watch the Cowboys-Seahawks games, Biadasz played more center than we thought. Appeared he first came in with 6:36 left in the third when the Cowboys shuffled the offensive line. Nope. Biadasz played two full possessions at center in the first half in place of starter Joe Looney, the third and fourth, along with the kneel-down play to end the first half. He was in there on the third possession for the eight play, 65-yard touchdown drive. And then in the second half, his first three possessions ended in touchdown, touchdown, field goal. Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin, says, "Tyler stepped in there and did a great job." In all, Biadasz played 52 of the 80 offensive snaps in the game, or 63 percent. Worth keeping an eye on.
- Inside Out: Everyone will point out the Cowboys will have their hands full with Browns' top pass rusher Myles Garrett, the defensive end from right here in Arlington. Might want to keep Martin out there at right tackle. But don't go to sleep on Cleveland defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Might need Zack to help hold down the middle. The Browns have eight sacks after three games. Garrett has three and Richardson has two. Plus, they have combined for 19 tackles.
- Hold That Ball: The Cowboys are tied for last in the NFL at minus-4 when it comes to turnover differential. And their six giveaways rank 30th, only the Giants and Washington with more at seven. Worst part of these turnovers? Five of them – the sixth was an ender in Seattle – have led to 31 opposition points – four touchdowns and one field goal. And if we add the fumble Tony Pollard recovered at their own 1-yard line in Seattle, that directly led to a Seahawks safety. So make that really 33 points. And if we count the two failed fake punts against Atlanta, those turned into a field goal each, or six points. Now that's accounting for 39 of the 97 points given up – or 40 percent. There is no room in football for such generosity.
- Dak Attack: Somehow this is unbelievable hearing Dak Prescott criticized for his two interceptions in the Seattle game. Do those folks realize he had a streak of 291 consecutive attempts without an interception before that one? Spanning eight consecutive games? A Cowboys franchise-record streak, 75 attempts more than the previous record of 216 owned by Troy Aikman? And was the ninth longest such streak in NFL history? Oh, and that second interception? Like spinning out of a sack, righting himself when by all rights should have ended up on the ground to desperately throw basically a Hail Mary? Has common sense been lost?
- Buckle Up: This past Sunday the Cowboys struggled mightily in pass coverage. Too many mental errors. Too many busted coverages. Well, they better not become so preoccupied with stopping Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield that they lose sight of the No. 1 priority against Cleveland: Stopping the run. Otherwise, the 2-1 Browns will run right over 'em. Check this out. In three games, the Browns have 511 rushing yards. That's 170.3 a game. They went for 215 against Cincinnati. And it's not as if they are just run, run, run. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt leading the way, the Browns are averaging 5.2 yards a carry. Chubb's 292 rushing yards rank fourth in the NFL. Be interesting to see how the Cowboys defense adjusts since the first three teams they've played were basically three-wide, the Cowboys playing mostly nickel. Might need an extra linebacker out there in this one.
- Short Shots: Other than Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence was the only other Cowboys player not practicing on Wednesday. Spent the day rehabbing … Speaking of rehabbing, in the early portion of practice IR cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie were working on the resistance cords, a good sign they are improving. Brown would be eligible to come off IR next week if ready … Conditionally-reinstated defensive end Randy Gregory is halfway through his condition, relegating him to miss the first six weeks of the season, and continues to work with trainers on his own.
And last word goes to Cedrick Wilson, exploding for the first two touchdowns of his three-year NFL career Sunday against Seattle. Not exactly a shock to those of us watching training camp. In fact, when asked to list our Top10 Campers, here were my first seven, in order: Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, Aldon Smith, CeeDee Lamb, Zack Martin, Cedrick Wilson. Finally, Wilson is healthy and apparently has earned Dak's trust.
Don't miss the chance to see the Cowboys when they return to AT&T Stadium on October 4th to take on the Cleveland Browns. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. Click here to find tickets.
Details on all of the health and safety procedures you can expect at AT&T Stadium this season can be viewed at www.DallasCowboys.com/safestadium.