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Playoff Experience or Youth? Cowboys Have Both


FRISCO, Texas — Is it better off to have a roster full of battle-tested and playoff savvy veterans if you're the Cowboys, or a group full of young and hungry players that don't know what they don't know?

You could make the argument for either. In one corner, ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is also power. Whatever the case, the truth of it is that the Cowboys don't have to decide which team they'd rather have. Their locker room consists of a healthy mix of both as they prepare for the Buccaneers on Monday night in the Wild Card round.

Yes they have the Tyron Smiths, Zack Martins. Dak Prescotts, and Ezekiel Elliotts of the world. Those guys have seen plenty of playoff success (and failure) during their tenures with the Cowboys, and like the rest of the team, they'll be looking to expunge last year's home loss to the 49ers from their memory.

There's also Dante Fowler with his six career playoff games, including Super Bowl LII with the Rams. Then there's T.Y. Hilton, whom the Cowboys signed just a month ago, and has the most playoff games under his belt on the roster with nine during his 10 seasons with the Colts.

Though for Hilton, who has 47 catches for 781 yards and three touchdowns in those nine games, there is no gray area between the regular season and postseason, and there's no such thing as 'too much preparation' given the Monday night kickoff.

"You win, you continue, you lose, you go home," Hilton said. "So we put all the emphasis on one team. It's Tampa, Tampa, Tampa, and that's all we know. We have to come out here and give everything we know.

"For us we love it," he said of the Monday night format. "We get an extra day to prepare for them.. So we'll be ready coming off this past game we just had."

But on the other hand, there is a sizable portion of the Cowboys' locker room at The Star in Frisco that is made up of plenty of young guys gearing up for their first playoff game of their careers. That list includes - but isn't limited to - rookies KaVontae Turpin, DaRon Bland, and first-round left tackle Tyler Smith.

"I'm pretty excited," Smith said. "This isn't my first time in a championship-like atmosphere, but these are big games. We're only guaranteed four quarters so I'm excited to go out there and put the best on tape."

Despite his rookie status, Smith is no stranger to the Cowboys and their recent history when it comes to road playoff games, given that the franchise has not come away successful in those situations in over 30 years. But, for a guy who just arrived last spring and made an immediate impact while preparing for his first postseason dance, it's pretty easy to view things in a vacuum.

"I think the biggest thing is to just keep focused on what matters," Smith said. "At the end of the day everybody wants the same thing - We want to win a championship… You know what the end goal is - It's to hoist up that Lombardi. Period."

The rookie has large aspirations, though he does so while still remaining grounded. So when Smith was asked if there was a sense amongst the team to make a lengthy playoff run, the optimism and realism made another appearance.

"This win would change the culture," Smith said. "And going to the Super Bowl that would change the whole city. Winning the championship would mean more than just a trophy to the city of Dallas… But we start with this game, we start with this week, we start with the next day of prep as getting towards that goal."

Championship aspirations are admirable, and one could argue that it's the standard when it comes to the Cowboys, but Smith was right in the latter part of his thinking - it starts with Tampa. And it'll take every combination of youth and experience the Cowboys have assembled to help power them where they want to go.

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