By Mike Fisher

FRISCO (105.3 THE FAN) – At 5-6 and fast fading as a playoff contender, maybe the Dallas Cowboys can’t afford to “stay the course.’’ Maybe “change’’ will light a fire under a group of players — and coaches — who have, in the view of many, under-performed.

Running back Darren McFadden’s release was amicable. Same with the dismissal of Mike Nugent, who knew he was a temp until kicker Dan Bailey returned to health. The Cowboys signed street-free-agent defensive lineman Datone Jones to a two-year deal over the weekend, and time will tell how quickly he contributes. Trey Williams has been elevated from the practice squad to add running back depth.

But QB Dak Prescott has suggested the offense is being simplified a bit this week in preparation for Thursday’s home game against Washington. And we’re likely to see an acceleration of snaps for rookie DBs Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods. Dallas will continue to mix and match at linebacker, with Sean Lee still out with a hamstring problem, and with Anthony Hitchens (groin) and Justin Durant (concussion) dealing with injuries.

Dallas hopes the only change in the offensive line is health-related. Zack Martin (concussion) is unlikely to do much at practice today, but he, Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are all hoping to play Thursday.

Whether it’s injury-related or performance-related, though, change is in the air.

“These guys see it as an opportunity for playing time,’’ coach Jason Garrett said, “and that’s good for our football team.’’

Some Cowboys observers are hungry for a change in the coaching staff as well. That’s not coming yet, if it comes at all. But it’s easy to argue that the staff has underperformed, too.

Down the stretch, Cowboys Nation hopes that fire can also be lit.

More From CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Drip Pan: CBS Local App
Drip Pan: Weather App
Drip Pan: Only CBS

Watch & Listen LIVE