There were several preseason casualties this week and the Dallas Cowboys were not immune to the damage. Key offensive players Julian Edelman and Spencer Ware went down with knee injuries. Then on Saturday, the Cowboys took a blow to the defensive side of the ball as starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens suffered what is believed to be a serious knee injury. This leaves Dallas now with an interesting dilemma concerning the development of second-year backer Jaylon Smith.
Anthony Hitchens Injury Opens Void For Jaylon Smith
With just 0:27 seconds left in the first half the injury bug bit the Cowboys during its 24-20 win. Jamize Olawale took a hand off and busted a 59-yard run down the sideline, that was ultimately called back on an offensive penalty. Hitchens bounced off the initial pile at the line of scrimmage and was in pursuit on the play before he took to the turf in pain. He walked off the field gingerly and the team fears Hitchens tore his ACL.
Will The Cowboys Feel Pressured To Force Second-Year LB Smith Into The Lineup?
Smith was the feel-good story last week when he played his first snaps in the NFL last Saturday. He missed all of last season with a knee injury.
One potential plan the Cowboys could install Week 1 against the New York Giants is slide veteran Sean Lee to the middle linebacker spot and insert Smith on the weak side. Lee, who led Dallas in tackles with 145 last year, made his first appearance of the preseason against Oakland. He was previously held out with a hamstring strain.
Yet with just two preseason games experience, the Cowboys brass’ seem to want to keep building Smith slowly. It seems that the initial response from Cowboys Executive Vice President, Stephen Jones, would indicate that as well.
“We’ll stick with our plan with him. We won’t jeopardize the guy’s future over anything like that, but as you know, Jaylon is coming along,” Jones said to David Helman of dallascowboys.com. “The plan was all along for him to be ready for the Giants. Are we going to throw him in there for 60-something plays? I don’t think so. But a lot of that is going to depend on what he’s ready for. My guess is probably not.”
Instead, the Cowboys will likely lean on veteran, Justin Durant, who was re-signed in the off-season. In addition, starting strong side linebacker Damien Wilson is versatile enough to play all three positions, giving Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli some options. It remains to be seen if Dallas will tap into the free agent market for additional depth, for instance, Ahmad Brooks, who was released by the San Francisco 49ers.
Rush Plays Well Again And Will Make Team
The undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan, Cooper Rush, continues to impress at quarterback and has made himself indispensable come final cuts. Rush played the majority of the second half working with Dallas’ second-string offense, completing 12-of-13 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Kellen Moore, also competing for a backup role, played just the final series. The injury to Hitchens could leave Moore eligible for the chopping block if the Cowboys consider adding a linebacker.
Zeke Makes Preseason Debut
Fans got their first glance at Ezekiel Elliott, although he played only the first drive of the game, that resulted in a field goal. The Cowboys made a concerted effort to get Elliott the ball with three consecutive running plays to start the possession. Elliott also had a nice cutback run in the series and caught two passes from Dak Prescott out of the backfield. He finished with six carries for 18 yards and the two receptions for another six yards.
Elliott is expected to meet with NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson regarding the appeal of his six-game suspension on Monday and Tuesday.