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Ten Injury-Prone (or Just Injured) Dallas Cowboys

Fragile-Please-handle-with-careMost news recently has focused on Sean Lee‘s season-ending knee injury suffered during a non-contact drill.

In the history of the Dallas Cowboys, many players have, of course, been prone to suffer injuries. Some, however, have never only been able to contribute a small fraction of what they could because of those injuries.

Below is a list of players who fall into that category.

10. Robert Brewster, Tackle (3rd Round, 2009)

We begin with two picks from the dreadful 2009 draft. The team picked tackle Robert Brewster with the 75th overall pick. This was during a time when the team had a decent but aging offensive line.

Brewster tore a pectoral muscle during a workout and did not play as a rookie. He was released during the middle of the 2010 season.

He last played in the Arena Football League in 2012.

9. Brandon Williams, Linebacker (4th round, 2009)

The Cowboys needed linebackers even in 2009 and took Texas Tech defensive end Williams with the goal of converting him to outside linebacker.

He tore his ACL during a preseason game in 2009, though. He played in 10 games in 2010 but was waived before the start of the 2011 season.

He was on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad in 2011 and made active roster at the end of the 2011 season. He has not played in the NFL since being waived before the 2012 season by Arizona.

8. Billy Cannon, Linebacker (1st Round, 1984)

If the Cowboys could have picked up the senior Billy Cannon in 1960, he could have been a cornerstone in the new franchise. The senior Billy Cannon won the Heisman Trophy at LSU, and he was a key member of the Dallas Texans’ 1961 AFL Championship Game.

The junior Billy Cannon lasted eight games into his rookie season. He suffered a spinal injury against the Saints and was forced to retire.

7. Tody Smith, Defensive End (1st Round, 1971)

The Cowboys took USC defensive end Tody Smith with the 25th overall selection in 1971. Smith had to deal with an ankle injury as a rookie and played in only seven games. He had knee surgery during the off-season in 1972 but still played in ten games. Perhaps due to the bad knee, he was disappointing in 1972.

The upside of the Smith selection was that the Houston Oilers gave the Cowboys first- and third-round draft picks in 1974 to acquire Smith.

Smith lasted three years in Houston but was waived while injured before the 1976 season.

Meanwhile, Dallas used the picks from the Oilers to take Too Tall Jones and Danny White.

6. Robert Shaw, Center (1st Round, 1979)

Shaw took over as the starting center in 1980 and did an excellent job in three playoff games.

However, he suffered a catastrophic knee injury in 1981 and was never able to play again. Had he remained with the Cowboys, he probably would have anchored a very good offensive line.

Tom Rafferty did a fine job at center, but the Cowboys struggled to replace Rafferty at guard.

5. Jimmy Smith, Wide Receiver (2nd round, 1992)

Smith wound up with more than 12,000 receiving yards while playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As a Cowboy, though, he was injured most of the time and even had to undergo an emergency appendectomy.

He never caught a pass with the Cowboys, who released him before the 1994 season. Jacksonville picked him up during the Jaguars’ expansion season, and he spent 11 years there, earning five Pro Bowl berths.

4. Bill Thomas, Running Back (1st round, 1972)

The Cowboys selected Bill Thomas as part of an effort to replace Duane Thomas. However, Bill Thomas never recovered from a shoulder injury suffered during college, and the Cowboys cut him before his second season in 1973.

He played two more seasons for the Oilers and Chiefs.

3. David LaFleur, Tight End (1st Round, 1997)

The Cowboys desperately needed to replace Jay Novacek in 1997 and used the 22nd overall pick to take LaFleur, thanks largely to an endorsement from Troy Aikman.

LaFleur played four seasons in Dallas, but he suffered through chronic back injuries. The team had to cut him before the 2001 season when he could not pass a physical.

He finished with just 729 yards in four seasons.

2. Mike Sherrard, Wide Receiver (1st round, 1986)

Sherrard had a promising rookie season in 1986, with 41 receptions for 744 yards and five touchdowns. He would have been the team’s top receiver in 1987, but he broke his ankle during training camp. He missed the entire season.

One year later, he suffered yet another broken ankle, causing him to miss yet another season.

The 49ers signed Sherrard through Plan B free agency in 1989, so Sherrard never played for the Cowboys after his rookie season in 1986.

Dallas had to use another first-round pick to take a receiver in 1988, but fortunately the team selected Michael Irvin.

Sherrard played for the 49ers, Giants, and Broncos but suffered through several more injuries. Nevertheless, his career lasted until 1996.

1. Sean Lee (2nd round, 2010).

Lee has the talent and leadership to be one of the franchise’s great linebackers.

He has the body of a porcelain vase and has been injured frequently. In four years, he has missed 18 games.

He will miss another 16 in 2014 while recovering from a torn ACL.

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New Orleans 49, Dallas 17: A Defense as Effective as Air and Gravity Alone

Nobody can really dispute whether the 2013 Cowboys have the worst defense in franchise history. After 10 games, this unit has won the prize.

The Cowboys' former defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, did not lead a defense as bad as the 2013 version. In fact, nobody has led such a bad defense.

The Cowboys’ former defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, did not lead a defense as bad as the 2013 version of the Cowboys’ defense. In fact, nobody has ever led such a bad defense.

Yes, the unit has suffered injuries, and nobody knows the names of the defensive linemen. But the results have been just incredibly bad, no matter what the reasons or excuses are.

So the Cowboys had to take the worst defense in franchise history to New Orleans to face one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL.

And how did Monte Kiffen et al. decide to slow down Drew Brees and the Saints? Our best guess is that the brain trust decided the defense would rely on air and gravity.

The problem? The Saints play their games in a dome, meaning the air did not have much of an effect. That left gravity.

Of course, gravity wouldn’t stop Brees, who effortlessly threw for 392 yards and 4 TDs.

On the other hand, gravity has helped just about every other team to slow down Mark Ingram, the former Alabama running back who had never rushed for 100 yards in a game.

Er, Ingram had never rushed for 100 yards in a game until the Saints played the Cowboys. Ingram rushed for 145 yards, averaging 10.4 yards per carry.  Jim Brown in his day did not run through the Cowboys as easily as Ingram did on Sunday.

The Cowboys were actually in the game for part of the first half. When DeMarco Murray scored on a 7-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, the Cowboys had a 10-7 lead.

But on the first play after the Dallas touchdown, Sean Lee suffered a hamstring injury. From that point on, the Cowboys had no chance.

Brees led the Saints on a 14-play drive that resulted in a Pierre Thomas touchdown that allowed New Orleans to regain the lead.

Dallas did not manage a single first down for the rest of the first half. The Saints managed to score two more touchdowns to take a 28-10 lead at halftime.

The Cowboys obviously decided to commit to the run, and Murray had a good first half. However, Romo did nothing in the air, completing just 3 of 9 passes for 20 yards in the first half. He completed all three passes to tight ends, including two to James Hanna. Yes, Terrance Williams dropped some passes, but the passing game never really got on track.

It would be easy to say blame the defense’s performance on Lee’s injury, but this is a team that has given up just under 4,400 yards in ten games. The team will break the Saints’ NFL record for most yards allowed in a season if the Cowboys allow more then 2,644 yards in their final six games. That will require the Cowboys to give up about 441 yards per game.

The Eagles beat the Packers today, so both teams now have 5-5 records. Dallas has a bye, while the Eagles will face the Redskins. It is very possible that the Cowboys could be in second place when they play again on November 25.


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Cowboys-Chargers Instant Trivia: Very Premature Projections

cowboys.question.markThe Cowboys are 2-2 for the third consecutive year. The team is 18-18 since the start of the 2011 season. Heck, the team is 130-130 since the 1997 season.

If everything in the NFL, and especially the NFC East, remains the same for the rest of the season, the Cowboys could make the playoffs even with an 8-8 record.

In fact, if the regular season ended today, the Cowboys would host a playoff game as the NFC East Champions. The team would play the Chicago Bears, who are currently 3-1.

Confident? Anyone?

* * *

As for individual players, Tony Romo is on pace to 4,060 yards, which would mark the fourth season during the past five years where Romo would surpass the 4,000-yard mark.

Romo is also on pace to throw 32 touchdown passes with only 4 interceptions. (And the team will only finish with an 8-8 record?) Romo’s interception rate of 0.7% is lower than his total for any previous season. He also has a completion percentage of 72.4%.

* * *

DeMarco Murray is on pace to rush for 1,424 yards. That would rank as the eighth-highest total in team history. It would also mark the first time since 2006 that a Dallas back has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark.

* * *

Dez Bryant is on pace to catch 16 touchdown passes, which would break Terrell Owens’ record of 15 set in 2007. Bryant is on pace to have 1,128 receiving yards.

* * *

Sean Lee now has eight career interceptions and two returns for touchdowns. He is clearly one of the biggest playmakers on the current team.

How does this total rank among other linebackers in team history?

Below is a list showing linebackers with at least 7 career interceptions.

Note that Lee is only on in his fourth season. By Jordan’s fourth season in 1966, he had only 5 career interceptions with 1 touchdown. Howley also had more interceptions later in his career and had only 8 picks during the first 6 years of his career, including 2 years in Chicago.


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San Diego 30, Dallas 21: More Mediocrity

Philip Rivers dropped back to pass with the San Diego Chargers trailing the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 14-10.

Rivers tried to get the ball to Antonio Gates, but Jason Hatcher got to Rivers and caused the quarterback’s pass to pop up in the air.

Sean Lee made the last play worth watching on Sunday in a 30-21 loss to the Chargers.

Sean Lee made the last play worth watching on Sunday in a 30-21 loss to the Chargers.

Middle linebacker Sean Lee intercepted the pass and raced down the right sideline for a 52-yard touchdown.

Dallas 21, San Diego 10.

The Cowboys then packed their bags and headed to the locker room. Perhaps they would shower and get ready to answer questions about their second consecutive win. Or maybe…

Well, maybe they might realize at some point that 73 seconds remained in the first half. That realization might have helped the Cowboys, because the team effectively stopped playing for those 73 seconds as well as the final 30 minutes of the second half.

From that point on, Rivers completed 21 of 23 passes and finished with 401 passing yards. The Chargers scored the last 20 points of the game to beat the Cowboys 30-21, dropping the Cowboys to 2-2 for the third consecutive season.

Need a reminder that the last two 2-2 starts ended up leading to 8-8 finishes? Nah.

Tony Romo did not look awful, completing 27 of 37 passes for 244 yards with 2 TDs to Dez Bryant.

Terrence Williams’ final stat totals were not bad as he started in place of Miles Austin. However, he botched an opportunity to keep the game close.

With less than three minutes remaining and Dallas trying to score from the San Diego 7, Romo hit Williams over the middle. Williams tried to reach for the goalline, but when he extended his arm, a San Diego defender knocked the ball out. The Chargers recovered and were able to kill most of the rest of the clock.

The loss was not Williams’ fault, though. This was just another team loss by a mediocre team that cannot find consistency when it needs it.

This team may have the talent to have a 4-0 record, but this team has no idea how to win games on a regular basis. Sean Lee can look like a beast, but that doesn’t mean the team has any idea how to cover Antonio Gates (10 receptions, 136 yards, 1 TD).

Bryant may look unstoppable, but having Bryant does not improve the Cowboys’ statistic of going 3 of 9 on third-down conversions.

Perhaps the Cowboys come out of nowhere and beat the undefeated Broncos next week.

It’s possible, but there is also a good chance the Cowboys would follow up the win by blowing their game against the Redskins during the following week.

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Oakland 19, Dallas 17: Late Turnover Hurts Cowboys

The Cowboys took a 17-16 lead over the Oakland Raiders early in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ second preseason game on Friday evening. The defense then did its job, forcing a three-and-out after the Raiders returned the ensuing kickoff 51 yards.

However, rookie B.W. Webb could not handle the punt and fumbled, giving the ball back to the Raiders. Oakland’s Eddy Carmona kicked a 23-yard field goal that turned out to be the game-winner, as Oakland beat the Cowboys 19-17.


The fumble was one of several mistakes made by the backups in the second half. Both of the Cowboys’ turnovers happened in the second half, and both let to points. The first mistake was Nick Stevens’ interception on the Cowboys’ opening drive of the second half. The pick led to a Raider field goal.

The loss ruined Tony Romo’s preseason debut. He completed  6 of 8 passes for 88 yards. Kyle Orton was also sharp, completing all 6  of his attempts for 52 yards and a nice touchdown throw to Cole Beasley.

The starting defense looked very good.  Sean Lee forced a Matt Flynn fumble on Oakland’s opening drive of the game. However, the Cowboys stalled on the resulting drive, as the team went backwards and had to settle for a field goal.

Romo also directed a good drive late in the first quarter, finding Dez Bryant on gains of 26 and 15 yards. However, the drive stalled, and Oakland blocked Dan Bailey’s field-goal attempt.

The defense had a difficult time stopping the Raiders’ offense when Terrelle Pryor entered the game. The Dallas back-ups did not appear ready to stop the read-option.

On the other hand, rookie J.J. Wilcox was able to end a long Raider drive when he picked off Pryor in the end zone. The Cowboys turned around and drove 80 yards for a touchdown to take a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. Dallas led 10-6 at the half.

The Cowboys travel to Arizona on Saturday, August 17 to face the Cardinals.

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Giants Have Slight Edge in Every Simulation

Miles Austin caught a touchdown in the Madden simulation of Sunday’s game, but Dallas still fell to the Giants.

There should not be any question that Jerry Jones is a Sean Lee fan. Jerry was not willing to consider this team as anything less than a Super Bowl contender until the Cowboys lost Lee for the season. Jerry now says the team is “going to have to adjust for him” and that he may have lower expectations.

Even with the injuries, most simulations have the Cowboys giving the Giants quite a game. However, none of the simulations predict a Dallas win. Here’s a summary:

What If Sports: N.Y. Giants 26, Dallas 23

AccuScore: N.Y. Giants 26, Dallas 25

NumberFire: N.Y. Giants 25, Dallas 24

Team Rankings: N.Y. Giants 26, Dallas 23

Madden (ESPN): N.Y. Giants 29, Dallas 24

* * *

Very few commentators think the Cowboys will win. Of 12 commentators on ESPN, 10 think the Giants will win. One of the two who think the Cowboys will manage an upset was Nate Newton. Michael Irvin also predicted a Dallas win on the NFL Network’s pregame show.

* * *

Tony Romo’s name showed up on a poll of NFL players about the league’s most overrated player. Romo was tied for second by receiving 8 percent of the votes.

The leader was Tim Tebow, who received 34 percent of the votes. Michael Vick and Ray Lewis also received votes.

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A Very Short History of 3-3 Records

A button stripped from the suit of Jerry Jones.

The Cowboys are off to a 3-3 record for the second year in a row. According to at least one story, Dallas has about a 30 percent chance of making the playoffs with this start.

(Losing Sean Lee certainly doesn’t help. In fact, I think the Cowboys’  chances of recording another turnover this season just fell from 50% to 5%. I’ll keep you posted.)

The Cowboys don’t have a deep history with 3-3 records. Including the 2012 season, Dallas has started only eight seasons with 3-3 marks.

The really bad news: the Cowboys managed a winning record in only one of those previous seven seasons, and that was thanks to a boost that Tony Romo gave the team in 2006. Here is a summary:

1961: Start 3-3, Finish 4-9-1. Dallas finished the year with an 0-6-1 record.

1962: Start 3-3-1, Finish 5-8-1. Dallas finished the year with a 1-5 record.

1987: Start 3-3, Finish 7-8. Thanks to the replacement players, Dallas started the season at 3-1. It did not end as well.

1997: Start 3-3, Finish 6-10. Barry Switzer’s swan song did not end well as the Cowboys lost their last five games.

2002: Start 3-3, Finish 5-11. Dave Campo’s swan song did not start or end well.

2006: Start 3-3, Finish 9-7. Lost to Seattle in the playoffs. The Cowboys had a 3-3 record when Romo officially took over for Drew Bledsoe. Dallas improved to 9-5 but finished at 9-7.

2011: Start 3-3, Finish 8-8. The Cowboys became world-beaters in November before having yet another December to forget.


By the way, don’t look at this year’s December schedule. It isn’t cause for optimism.

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So the Good News…Sean Lee Again Leads the League in Tackles

The Cowboys have at least one star. You know, someone who tackles opponents and generally does his job all the time. That kind of star.

The stat sheet isn’t looking good for this Cowboys team.

Tony Romo is the 23rd rated passer in the NFL, just behind Sam Bradford. He leads the league now with eight interceptions.

DeMarco Murray ranks 18th in rushing, but he has a per-run average of just 3.9. He also has only one run of 20 yards or more.

Jason Witten and Dez Bryant both have 21 receptions to lead the team, but they both have more drops than we care to count.

Felix Jones ranks 27th in average kickoff returns. I’ve barely ever heard of half the guys ahead of him.

So the positive stat? Sean Lee has 46 total tackles to lead the league. He is now one ahead of San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman. If there is a single Dallas player who should even watch the Pro Bowl this year, it’s Lee.

DeMarcus Ware is tied for third in the league with 5.0 sacks. That’s good, too.

Then there are more bad stats, as in the 20 players with more interceptions that the entire Dallas defense combined. As we know, it only takes two picks to surpass the entire Dallas defense.

As a team, Dallas ranks 16th in total offense, averaging 364.0 yards per game. The defense still ranks 4th, allowing 277.5 yards per game.

The Cowboys have scored just 65 points this year and allowed 88. At this rate, the Cowboys would only score 260 points in the entire season. That would be the lowest output since 2002, when the Cowboys went 5-11 under Dave Campo.

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Some Not-So-Positive Statistics

After their opening-game win over the Giants, the Cowboys could boast about some nice offensive and defensive statistics. One week and a poor showing later, and the Cowboys’  stats are not looking so gaudy.

Dallas fell to #11 in total offense, averaging 364.5 over two games. In 2011, the Cowboys finished the season ranked #11 with an average of 375.5 yards per game. Those numbers alone aren’t horrible, but the 2011 statistics are, of course, from an 8-8 season.

Want something horrible? The Cowboys rank #29 in points scored, averaging 15.5 points per game. The only teams with fewer points are the Jaguars, Raiders, and Titans. Of course, keep in mind that Washington, Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, and San Diego averaged 30 or more points in two games, but three of those teams have the same 1-1 record as Dallas.

Thanks largely to the Giants game, the Cowboys rank #28 in penalties, having committed 18 in two games. Those high-scoring Redskins have 23, which is the most after two weeks.

Defensively, the Cowboys rank #9 in yards allowed, giving up 292.0 yards in two games. Not bad.

What’s not good is that the Cowboys are among nine teams without an interception after two games. I know it’s largely only coincidence, but the overall record of those nine teams?

Try 5-13.

Combined record of the four teams leading the league with 5 interceptions?

Try 6-2.

As far as individual statistics, few Cowboys really stand out. One big name that shows up is Sean Lee, who leads the league in tackles with 26.

Tony Romo is just outside the top 10 in several categories. He ranks #11 in ESPN’s QBR.

DeMarco Murray ranks #10 in rushing yards with 175. Former All-American kickoff returner Felix Jones has one carry for one yard.

None of the Dallas receivers are in the top 20 in terms of receptions or receiving yards.

Jason Witten’s injury has obviously affected his play, and he is off to the slowest start in several years. He has only 6 receptions for 68 yards, marking his slowest start since he had 5 receptions for 47 yards in the first two games of the 2005 season.

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