By Shawn S. Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys are looking for anything to turn their season around. In this case, it means trying to throw players under the bus and replace them with similar options. This week, the Cowboys hinted at a new starting quarterback, are trying out new running backs, and have defensive players on the bubble as well. With the bye-week here to help try to stop their nose dive after three straight losses, here are the Cowboys team headlines this week.
Matt Cassel Is The New Starting Quarterback
After ESPN reported that sources said Matt Cassel will start at quarterback when the Cowboys play the New York Giants after the bye week, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys officially made the announcement saying that Cassel had something extra to bring to help them win. Jerry Jones hinted at it also when he said that “We have to play better on offense, and that usually includes better quarterback play.” Of course, Brandon Weeden did what he was asked, ran the plays that the Cowboys called, and did not turn the ball over too many times. However, the Cowboys couldn’t get first downs nor could they move the chains. According to reports, Cassel and Weeden were informed by coaches of the change this week.
La’el Collins To Get Start At Left Guard
La’el Collins had first-round-draft talent, but the LSU prospect went undrafted due to off-field controversy; The Cowboys took a chance on him anyhow. With one of the already premier offensive line Dallas already had, it looked like they would have four first-round talents blocking for the team this season. However, Ronald Leary proved that he deserved that left guard starting role and Collins became a reserve. That has changed. Thanks to the difficulty in running the ball this year, as well as too many defenders reaching the quarterback, La’el Collins will finally move into the starting lineup after the bye. “LC’s going to be the starter at left guard for us,” Garrett said. “Spoke with him and Ron Leary yesterday. We’re going to give LC an opportunity at that spot here this week and have a chance to start against the Giants next week.”
Cowboys Trying Out New Running Backs
When the Dallas Cowboys chose not to re-sign DeMarco Murray, many fans claimed that anyone could run behind that offensive line and that running backs were a dime a dozen and overrated. Last year, DeMarco Murray was the Offensive Player of the Year and led the NFL in rushing by 500 yards over the second best runner. This year, the Cowboys top two running backs have averaged 83 yards a game and 3.7 yards a carry. They rank 16th in the NFL and neither Joseph Randle nor Darren McFadden run the power run that this offensive line specializes in blocking for.
This week, Dallas is trying out two former second round draft picks in LaMichael James (San Francisco 49ers) and Isaiah Pead (St. Louis Rams). The two running backs have combined for 271 total rushing yards over their careers. Neither will help improve the offense, but could provide depth. Already on the team, Christine Michael only has two carries this season for the Cowboys. Rumor has it that Michael could replace Randle as the Cowboys’ starting running back against the Giants.
Defensive Line Looking For More Depth
Running back is not the only position that the Cowboys want to rethink. For the last two seasons, the biggest problem for Dallas on the defensive side of the ball was getting to the quarterback. In 2014, the Cowboys ranked 28th in sacks, with only 28 through the season. DeMarcus Ware, who Dallas cut in the 2014 offseason, had 10 sacks for the Denver Broncos the following year; adding 4.5 already this season. The Cowboys sack leader in 2014 was Jeremy Mincey, who had a total of six.
Things changed on Sunday when Greg Hardy made his 2015 NFL season debut. Hardy knocked down Tom Brady five times by himself, forced a fumble and finished with two sacks. As a team, thanks to Hardy’s dominance, Dallas sacked Tom Brady five times in the first half alone. The Cowboys had six total sacks in the first four games combined.
They used a three man front throughout the game and it now turns out that they might need more help at defensive tackle, possibly part of the reason for the 3-4 front. “For a number of different reasons we wanted to play that style, our personnel against their personnel,” Jason Garrett said. This week, they might be looking to reload. Da’Quan Bowers, Kendrick Ellis, Casey Walker and Chuka Ndulue all worked out for the Cowboys this week to help add depth to the defensive tackle position.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.