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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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Cowboys No Strangers To Another O-line Shuffle

Aside from winning on Thursday night in Nashville and taking care of business against the Titans, the Cowboys main objective was to come out of the game unscathed in terms of injuries. After all, the beginning of the week showed a clean injury report, something that has been hard to come by through 17 weeks.

But stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Cowboys are dealing with injuries to the offensive line.

They took care of the first part, gutting out a less than aesthetically pleasing 27-13 victory, but it came at the cost of their center, Tyler Biadasz, who suffered a high ankle sprain on the last play of the third quarter.

While he would soon be ruled out after being helped off the field and subsequently carted back to the locker room where he switched into street clothes and a walking boot on his right ankle, the Cowboys’ sidelines quickly scrambled to reshuffle their offensive line.

With one injury to Biadasz, three different positions were switched: Jason Peters came in at left tackle, pushing rookie Tyler Smith over to left guard, and finally Connor McGovern to the center position. Alongside Zach Martin and Tyron Smith at right guard and right tackle, the Cowboys were forced yet again this season to reconfigure their line.

But there was no panic when the switches needed to be made either. Rotation changes are nothing new this season for the Cowboys. They’ve come and gone since the beginning of the season. Such as Tyron Smith’s training camp injury, or Terence Steele tearing his ACL in recent weeks and replacing him with Smith at right tackle, a position he hadn’t played since 2011.

With that unit on the field together from the start of the fourth quarter on, the Cowboys ran 20 plays, including a 10-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to tight end Dalton Schultz on their first drive together to essentially ice the game. Since they’ve become such pros (no pun intended) at adjusting on the fly this season, the offensive line had little issue immediately working in unison following the realignment.

“It’s a good thing that we practice it during the week in case of the worst-case scenario,” McGovern said. “And so when [Peters] came out, Tyler [Smith] knew he was at guard and we’re all on the same page for everything.”

For McGovern, switching back over to center was not unfamiliar territory given that he played the position during his time at Penn State in 2017. As soon as Biadasz went down, McGovern quickly pivoted to get his blocking glove off and dry his hands to snap the ball.

“The first thing that went through my mind was, I have to make sure my hands are dry so I can hold onto this ball,” McGovern said. “It felt like just riding a bike again. Once I started to get going, I got used to it and we were good to go.”

With head coach Mike McCarthy saying postgame that the Cowboys will reevaluate Biadasz’s ankle injury on Friday, it’s certainly not inconceivable, if not likely, that the group that finished Thursday night’s game will be the starting lineup against a fierce Washington Commanders’ front seven that welcomed back Chase Young just last week against the 49ers after rehabbing a torn ACL.

Outside of Young, the Commanders still can offer up Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat. Those three have combined for 24 sacks this season with Washington as a team having compiled 37 sacks, good for 13th in the NFL.

If the Cowboys need McGovern to suit up at center in Week 18, he said he’ll be ready. Just like the rest of the group will be after experiencing so much turnover this year. With so many different ways to apply the team’s mantra this season of “resiliency,” the offensive line ranks right up there as one of the most resilient aspects of the Cowboys in 2022.

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