Decisions, Decisions: Cowboys face big choice in O-line shuffle for Jets
FRISCO - This would be so much easier if the Dallas Cowboys knew for certain that their hobbled pair of tackles, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, will be able to play Sunday at the New York Jets. But the unknowns regarding their health may mean "unknowns'' when it comes to the Week 6 starting O-line.
The Cowboys believe Smith (ankle) will play almost no matter what, regardless of what he's able to do in the Thursday and Friday practices here inside The Star. For the moment, though, swing tackle Cameron Fleming has been practicing in his left tackle spot.
Meanwhile, the optimism involving Dallas' La'el Collins, the right tackle, is shrinking as his knee remains bothersome. During his absence, undrafted rookie Brandon Knight has been practicing at right tackle.
It so happens that when Smith went down on the final series in the 12-10 loss at New Orleans two weeks ago, Fleming stepped in on the left side .. and that last week, when Collins went down in what would become a 34-24 loss to Green Bay, it was Knight who stepped in on the right side.
Seems like a simple plug-and-play situation for the 3-2 Cowboys against the winless Jets. Except ...
What if Tyron is indeed good to go on Sunday despite getting very little work done during the week? That would likely mean that Fleming will have spent most of the week practicing on the left side ... but then, in the event of a game-day decision to have Tyron play left tackle, Fleming - as a true "swing tackle'' - would shift over to the right side.
Ah, but inasmuch as Fleming will have spent little time during the practice week at right tackle, maybe coach Jason Garrett and staff will opt instead to let the guys who practiced at their respective spots stay there once we get to New York ... which would mean Knight, 22, stays on the right side in place of Collins.
Will Tyron be ready? Is the assumption that Collins won't be ready correct? If Fleming is the swing tackle, shouldn't he be the guy who steps up at either spot? Or would it be simpler to consider Fleming specifically Tyron's backup and to consider Knight specifically Collins' backup? Our best hint from the coaching staff: Fleming is the swing tackle and being able "swing'' is the job definition. But if he's asked to do that on Sunday with little practice on that side? Lots of eyes will be focused on the thankless job of a backup O-lineman. Let's put it that way.
UPDATE From coach Jason Garrett on Thursday morning: Dallas doesn’t anticipate either Smith or Collins practicing today. Garrett says they’ll continue to rehab, and he’s hopeful they can practice by the end of the week.
Dallas' offensive line is touted as being among the NFL's best. That can be true even if they are missing Collins. But it's impossible to know how true it can be Sunday when we aren't even sure which five guys are playing ... or where.