FRISCO, Texas -- At the midway point of the season, the Dallas Cowboys have five wins. Can they win five of their final eight games? Which could be enough to earn a wild-card spot.
Fives are wild, especially on a day in which we ponder Five Wonders.
Away we go:
** With the way he is playing, I wonder if the Cowboys already have to pencil in a first-round tender offer to defensive lineman David Irving as a restricted free agent this offseason. The Cowboys could put the second-round tender on him, but that might not scare off every team in the league from making an offer sheet to Irving. Teams with beaucoup amounts of salary-cap space might be willing to give up a second-rounder for Irving, who is showing he can play end or tackle. A first-round pick is a little different story. Irving has six sacks in four games this season. He admits to wondering what kind of numbers he would have in a full season. So do the Cowboys. But considering the price it will take to keep defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent, the Cowboys’ budget might be tighter than expected.
** I wonder if the Cowboys need to start looking at the big picture with left tackle Tyron Smith. This is not to say it’s time to move on from him. Not at all. But he has been bothered by different back injuries over the past two seasons. While the back tightness this season has not cost him any games, there has to be some concern, considering Smith has not practiced on a Wednesday in a month. This week he likely will be limited because of a groin strain he suffered on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith doesn’t turn 27 until December, but the Cowboys might be wise to look at another tackle of the future type in the upcoming draft to serve as a game-day swing tackle, in case Smith isn’t able to hold up. The Cowboys have restructured Smith’s contract the past three seasons. For a mini-wonder inside a wonder, I wonder if they’ll pass on doing the same in 2018.
** I wonder if the Cowboys will call up Lewis Neal from the practice squad as a result of the injury to Brian Price or if they will look outside the building for defensive tackle help. At 318 pounds, Price was the second-heaviest defensive tackle the Cowboys had. Richard Ash checks in at 320 pounds. With the importance of the run defense, getting a wider body than Neal, who is listed at 280 pounds, makes a lot more sense. The Cowboys like Neal, but he is a better pass-rusher from the interior than a run-stopper. This is why the Cowboys trust vice president of player personnel Will McClay. He seems to be able to find players to fill specific niches.
** I wonder if we are seeing how much Cole Beasley is benefiting from the Cowboys’ ability to run the zone-read in the tight red zone and/or the attention being paid to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Beasley has four touchdown catches on the season, and the longest is 7 yards. The other three are 2, 5 and 6 yards. Normally, a 5-foot-8 receiver wouldn’t be such a red zone target, but the Cowboys have found a way to isolate him in man coverage in the slot that gives him the chance to get to the middle of the field or out to the sideline.
** It’s too early to wonder about Pro Bowl spots, but the Cowboys have some obvious candidates in offensive linemen Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin; running back Ezekiel Elliott; quarterback Dak Prescott; defensive end Lawrence; and linebacker Sean Lee. I wonder if a case can be made for Kavon Frazier as a special-teams player. Frazier leads the Cowboys in special-teams tackles, and he set the tone on Sunday with a big tackle of De'Anthony Thomas on the second punt of game.