After a lackluster victory over a reeling opponent and a six-game winning streak that has disappeared in the rearview mirror, the Dallas Cowboys need to fix what's broken. Now.
The Washington Football Team is suddenly breathing down the Cowboys' neck in the NFC East heading into Sunday's showdown in D.C. and the rematch in two weeks in Arlington. Earlier this season they were powered by an offense that threatened to smash franchise records for yards and points. They scored 35+ points in four straight games, but haven't touched that number since quarterback Dak Prescott missed a game with a strained calf.
Dallas was shut out until garbage time by the Broncos, didn't find the end zone in Kansas City, lost to the Raiders despite the boost of a 100-yard kickoff return and survived the 5-7 Saints thanks to a defensive touchdown that finally put the game away.
Something is amiss, and it starts with the offensive line.
The running game has ground to a halt, Prescott looks rushed in the pocket ... and now the Cowboys face a rejuvenated Washington defense that has held four of its last five opponents under 20 points.
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Help is on the way via a 10-day rest that should help running back Ezekiel Elliott, and the return of offensive lineman Terence Steele from the COVID list. Steele filled in admirably at right tackle when starter La'el Collins was suspended for five games.
The Steele return went official on Tuesday afternoon, one of four Dallas COVID moves, as Blake Jarwin was restored back to IR, T.J. Vasher was restored back to Reserve/NFI and receiver Robert Foster was restored to the p-squad.
So, now that both “starting right tackles” are back healthy, who gets the start in Dallas' most important game of the season? On his weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday morning, owner Jerry Jones refused to name a starter and hinted that "both of them will play a lot" against Washington.
"I think it’s the best we’ve been all year,” Jones said. “You’ve got an improved Collins. You got a Steele that we know and are very confident he can play at the right tackle — just play well there. And, so, in doing so, we will use the fact that we got Collins at his best this year. We got Steele. We’ll use that as one of the, or a way, to help our running game. We will do that. What that lets us do relative to any other formations that we use, we’ll have a big guy in that you would normally have a tight end. That will help us out.”
The Cowboys will have all reinforcements available for the December stretch run. Now it's just a matter of how to use them.