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Why the Cowboys Should Play Their Starters

Wade Phillips, after gaining home field advantage throughout the playoffs, has a difficult decision in the final game of the season. Rest his starters and risk losing a game many experts are calling meaningless or start his best guys and play to really win against their NFC East foes, the Washington Redskins. If Wade Phillips already knows what his answer is to this tough question, he is not showing his hand—yet.

Since Wade Phillips hasn’t shown his hand yet, I figure now would be a good time to do a two part series on why the Cowboys should and shouldn’t play their starters. The first installment, because I am often viewed as a contrarian, will be on why the Cowboys shouldn’t rest their starters. I’ll even hypothesize a few ways this could be done with out risking too many injuries in the game.

  1. For the Rivalry: Since the beginning of the Dallas Cowboys there has been a fierce rivalry between the Cowboys and the Redskins. Not just because of the Cowboys and Indians concept, but because it was the Washington Redskins former owner, George Preston Marshall, who initially stood in the way of the Cowboys becoming a team. Since then it has been nothing shy of venom and blood that has surpassed the sands of times in longevity. Now the Cowboys does not only have a chance to sweep the Redskins this season, but has the opportunity to end the Redskins hopes at the playoffs. It would be a nice addition to such a storied rivalry.
  2. For the Record Books: Seldom is it ever heard that a player or team is looking to set any franchise records, and I’d be the first to admit I am happy for that, but that’s what pro sports is all about. Sure every team wants to get to a Championship first and foremost, but the second best accolade to that is doing what no other for that team or league has ever done. The Cowboys have that chance again. Tony Romo needs only seven more completed passes to surpass Danny White’s franchise completion record, he already has broken Danny White’s single season franchise records for TD passes and passing yards. Wade Phillips and the Dallas Cowboys also have a chance to get a franchise record 14 regular season wins. Currently they are tied with the 1992 Cowboys team with 13 wins.
  3. For the Stats: Marion Barber is on his way to his first career Pro Bowl, but could be doing that with under 1,000 yards rushing. Currently Barber only needs 19 yards to get to that milestone, but just as important is the fact that it would be his first NFL career 1,000 yard season. A stat like that wouldn’t only speak volumes for Marion Barber, but the offensive line as well. The Cowboys offensive line has played outstandingly well this season and this would only be more proof to that.
  4. For Continuity: Terry Glenn has missed every game so far this season, and will likely get his first chance to play in the final game of the season. He was an integral part of the Cowboys team last year with over a thousand yards receiving. It will be a benefit for the continuity of the QB and WR if Romo starts this week and gets a few solid passes and if nothing more looks with Terry Glenn running routes. This could also be key in the first week of the playoffs with Owens having a high ankle sprain, an injury that has a tendency of lingering.

It’s almost impossible to play a competitive game of football with out the risk of injury. Injury after all is an occupational hazard in this sport, however there are several possible ways to alleviate some of the risk, here are my four points to the game, if you were to play your starters for all or part of the game.

  1. Limit the number of plays for Romo under center: Romo has played very well this season out of the shotgun formation. Wade Phillips doesn’t seem too concerned about Romo’s thumb which is a good sign, but keeping Romo in the shotgun for more plays will allow him a bit more time to make his reads and will keep him from being sacked often.
  2. Don’t be afraid to put the game on Marion Barbers shoulders: This sounds like an odd statement to make considering Barber is one of the players you might want to protect from injury, but Barber is one tough running back. I am not entirely concerned with placing a load on Barber’s shoulders at any point during the season, and that definitely includes this game, but to make sure, I’ll add another option for my third point.
  3. Activate and give snaps to Tyson Thompson: The Cowboys pulled Tyson out early in the season for his sudden inability to produce on Special Teams, but now it’s a good time to see what he has to offer as a running back. Adding a third back into the equation even for just the last game of the season should go a long way in keeping Marion Barber and Julius Jones fresh, which also lowers the risk for injury.
  4. Only play offensive starters for the first half: I wouldn’t be against the Cowboys playing their starters the entire game, I like the idea of keeping the game competitive and losing a back up can be just as debilitating as losing a starter. However, if the Cowboys want to really limit the risk of injury this is the way to go. If they want to win this one however, they’ll have to get to an early start on the scoring and might consider keeping several starters in at defense to help keep the Cowboys ahead.

    In the end it’s up to Wade Phillips how the Cowboys will play, but I would love to see the Cowboys play the last game as competitively as humanly possible. It’s the Redskins on Sunday, what more reason could anyone possibly need to really want to win this game?

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    3 Responses to “Why the Cowboys Should Play Their Starters”

    1. Sam says:

      As a fan who now lives in “Pigskins” territory, nothing will make me feel better on a Monday morning than knowing that Cowboys kicked their butts :-D. I hope we don’t play a second string team and lose to them.

    2. Nate Acreman says:

      Sam, I agree with you whole heartedly. I would hate to see the Redskins make it to the playoffs all because Dallas decided to rest their starters.

      All the same common logic dictates that I go ahead and prepare now for the loss.

    3. Sam says:

      True, but I am counting on the guys who don’t get to start regularly to try and prove something on Sunday. Let’s hope for the best!

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