Are Injuries About to Ruin Another Dallas Cowboys Season?

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Are Injuries About to Ruin Another Dallas Cowboys Season?
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
DeMarco Murray will once again be in street clothes in Week 7.

If you're one of those people who says "injuries aren't an excuse" because "everybody has them," we can't be friends. It's nothing personal. It's just that I'm already friends with logic and you guys don't get along.

Yes, everybody has injuries, but some teams suffer from more than others do. 

Some lose handfuls of starters, while others lose mere role players or reserves. Some get hit early and recover, and some get hit during the home stretch.

It all matters. Injuries derail seasons every single year, and that'll never change. You can't usually blame all of your struggles on injury luck, but it is certainly a major factor in all major professional sports.

Lately, it has certainly been a major factor for the Dallas Cowboys

According to Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys lost more games to injury than all but two other NFL teams in 2012. Applying a more sophisticated formula that takes the importance of injured players into account, Football Outsiders concluded that the Cowboys were the fifth-most-injured team in football last season.

NFL's most injured teams, 2012
Team Starter games lost (rank) Adjusted games lost (rank)
Green Bay Packers 83 (32) 108.1 (32)
Washington Redskins 75 (31) 89.4 (29)
Dallas Cowboys 71 (30) 86.5 (28)
Jacksonville Jaguars 69 (29) 99.1 (31)
Indianapolis Colts 66 (27) 92.5 (30)

Football Outsiders/Dallas Morning News

Now, an important caveat: The two teams Gosselin listed as more injured than the Cowboys last year—Green Bay and Washington—both made the playoffs. The formula used by Football Outsiders also concluded that Indianapolis and Jacksonville were hit harder by injuries than Dallas, with the Colts making the playoffs. 

So again, injuries can be overcome. However, circumstances change from roster to roster. When you dig a little deeper, it's easier to see why Dallas had so much trouble in 2012.

The problem is that the Cowboys were hit so damn hard in one area.

According to Football Outsiders, only the Packers and Detroit Lions had more adjusted games lost (AGL) on the defensive side of the ball.

Green Bay was able to survive with that high-powered offense and the highest-rated quarterback in NFL history. The Cowboys weren't able to overcome the losses of Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Jay Ratliff and Barry Church on defense.

Indy and Washington's injuries were more balanced. Neither ranked in the bottom five in terms of AGL on either offense or defense, which certainly had to make things a little easier.

Throw in that the Colts, who actually won the AFC South despite surrendering 30 more points than they scored, had the league's third-easiest schedule and it's easier to argue that the Cowboys had very bad luck with injuries last season.

Now here we are, six weeks into the 2013 campaign, and the 'Boys are preparing to play the division rival Philadelphia Eagles without their top two pass-rushers and three of their starting four defensive linemen.

Anthony Spencer, who Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded as the best 3-4 outside linebacker in football last year, is on injured reserve and it looks like Ratliff could soon be joining him there. That's a lot of adjusted games lost.

But the alarm didn't really start to sound until DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murray were both injured on Sunday night. Adam Schefter and Todd Archer of ESPN.com reported that both will likely miss some time, which is terrifying.

It's terrifying because Ware is the best defensive player in this division and his injury indicates that the Cowboys are being hit hard in one spot yet again. It's even more terrifying because the offense has typically lost balance when the dangerous Murray is removed from the backfield.

Dallas Cowboys: Injured starters
Player Position Injury Status
Anthony Spencer DE Knee Injured reserve
Jay Ratliff DT Groin PUP list
DeMarcus Ware DE Quad 3-4 weeks
DeMarco Murray RB Knee Week-to-week
Miles Austin WR Hamstring Just returned

Rotoworld

Without Murray, who now has a sprained left MCL, the Cowboys aren't themselves on offense.

Phillip Tanner is unreliable, Lance Dunbar is hurt and unreliable, and Joseph Randle is a rookie who's averaging just 1.5 yards per carry. 

During the six games Murray missed last season, Dallas averaged only 5.4 yards per play. With him in the lineup, that total shot up to 5.9. Not bad considering that the Oklahoma product didn't even have a particularly good season. 

We can't use history to forecast how the Cowboys might perform without Ware, who suffered a strain to his right quadriceps while trying to get to Robert Griffin III in the second quarter on Sunday, because this will be the first time they've been without him since he was playing college ball at Troy in 2004.

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Ware claims his "body recovers fast" and that he's "not going to be out that long." An initial report from ESPN's Adam Schefter indicated that he could miss a month, but Ware told The Dallas Morning News that he believes he'll be back before that

Considering the amount of injuries he's played through over the last eight years, that's not something I'll dispute. 

Still, the Cowboys are already without Spencer, which could make this a lot more painful. Keep in mind that Ware and Spencer have accounted for over 60 percent of the Cowboys' sacks in the last two years.

Now they have to hope that they can hold things together, but with guys like Lee, Carter and Morris Claiborne prone to injuries, the sad reality is that things have the potential to get a hell of a lot worse for a defense that was struggling to make stops even before losing Ware.

Toss in Murray's latest injury and panic buttons are undoubtedly being hit. Maybe for good reason.

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