By Matthew Postins
The Dallas Cowboys (2-1) travel to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Wednesday marks the traditional start to the NFL work week. So here are the five stories you should follow leading up to the game:
With Spencer done, now what?: Now that it’s clear defensive end Anthony Spencer will have additional surgery on his left knee and will miss the rest of the season, the Dallas Cowboys need to move on and refine the roles of their current roster. George Selvie is now the full-time starter and not just a fill-in guy. Kyle Wilber’s development must accelerate. Edgar Jones and Caesar Rayford will be used more often to help spell the starters. The good news is the Cowboys are tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 13 without Spencer. The bad news is they were counting on Spencer to reinforce the defensive end rotation at some point. There will be plenty of questions about how the Cowboys may change their rotation at the ends, but don’t count on answers until Sunday. Keep an eye on the waiver wire, too. The Dallas Cowboys are churning the bottom of the roster. The impending move of Spencer to injured reserve will open up a spot for the Cowboys to grab another end. A name to watch? Jason Vega, the first-year end out of Northwestern who is currently on the Cowboys’ practice squad.
The Dallas Cowboys may also hold tryouts or court a veteran that is out of work. Potential names you know include Kyle Vanden Bosch, Juqua Parker, Jarvis Moss and Vonnie Holliday. Of course, there’s a reason why all of these guys are unemployed.
Is it Waters time?: Late last week owner and general manager Jerry Jones said that guard Brian Waters was in a position to play a full game. Waters continued to rotate with Mackenzy Bernadeau against the Rams, but played more when Ron Leary suffered a minor knee injury. The Cowboys didn’t say anything on Monday, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Waters on the field as a starter against the Chargers. But there’s a question. Will he replace Bernadeau or Leary? It’s intriguing, since head coach Jason Garrett told reporters on Monday that he feels the interior of the offensive line is the best it’s been in three years. Who’s the weak link? The Cowboys probably won’t say until late in the week, if at all.
Building on momentum: That will be one of the dominant storylines this week heading into the San Diego game. The Dallas Cowboys played perhaps their most complete game in more than a year in beating St. Louis. Of course, the Cowboys followed up a nice win over the New York Giants with a loss to Kansas City. We as writers are going to beat this into the ground. Garrett talked about it on Monday and alluded to the fact that the Cowboys have to get the running game going again. Of course, we’ve heard that before. But if this team wants to win the division, they have to do much more than follow a win with a loss.
Pressuring Rivers: You know which team is tied for second in touchdown passes through three games this season? The Chargers. Plus, Phillip Rivers is getting great protection from his offensive line, which has allowed only five sacks. This is the perfect week to find out if the Cowboys’ front four can bring consistent pressure on an experienced pocket passer with an above average offensive line. This might be the matchup of the game. Only Kansas City (15) has more sacks than Dallas (13).
Without Austin …: One could say the Dallas Cowboys are well-equipped to go without wide receiver Miles Austin if his hamstring won’t cooperate. But this won’t be as simple as moving third-round pick Terrence Williams into the slot. That’s not where he fits. Williams is a better fit outside opposite Dez Bryant. When the Cowboys go to their 11 formation (three wide receiver and one running back), expect to see Dwayne Harris or Gavin Escobar out there. Both did time in the slot on Sunday against St. Louis and both scored touchdowns out of the slot. How well they fare on Sunday will determine how involved Cole Beasley becomes in the passing game. But it’s all academic if Austin can play, and the Cowboys might miss him. He’s worked the slot well in three games, catching 15 passes.