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NFC East notebook: A major setback for Dallas exposes holes in offseason strategy

Your weekly notes for news and notes around the NFC East

NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to your weekly edition of the NFC East notebook your source for news and notes around the division! We will start in Dallas as we have a big injury update!

Dallas Cowboys

Earlier this week long-time starting left tackle Tyron Smith went down with a severe leg injury. It looks like now we are starting to get a clearer picture of the injury and the amount of time that Smith will miss.

This timetable will mean that it looks like in a best-case scenario Smith won’t be back until Week 13. This is a major blow to a Cowboys team that was already thin along the offensive line. The Cowboys released La’el Collins and promoted swing tackle Terrance Steele to the starting right tackle position. Now without Smith, there is a massive void at a premium position with no clear-cut person to come in and replace him.

Tom Ryle of Blogging the Boys broke down how the Cowboys got here and what could be next. It looks like first-round pick Tyler Smith might be that next man up.

“First-round pick Tyler Smith has worked almost exclusively at left guard, but he played left tackle in college. With a little over two weeks to go before the regular season opener, the team can move him back to the outside and get him as ready as possible. Connor McGregor would become the starting left guard, which may not be as dire a situation as we once thought.”

It looks like McCarthy has at least thought about this option in some form.

If they did look to bring in a veteran option the market is pretty thin this time of year. The Cowboys could look to bring in names like Eric Fisher or Jason Peters, though injuries are a concern when it comes to names like those.

For a positive, it looks like Michael Gallup will not start the season on the PUP list. If Gallop was on the list he would have to miss at least the first month of the season but it looks like Jerry Jones doesn’t believe that he will be back sooner rather than later.

Jones sounds comfortable with some of the loudest criticisms this offseason around the depth of the offensive line and the wide receivers.

Philadelphia Eagles

It’s been an interesting few days for the Philadelphia Eagles as their joint practice had to be put on pause as a stomach bug outbreak has hit the Miami Dolphins locker room.

The day before this happened Nick Sirianni praised quarterback Jalen Hurts.

“I thought Jalen [Hurts] was outstanding in yesterday’s practice. I mean, to me, Jalen’s practice yesterday was the best practice he’s had as an Eagle — since I’ve been here, I can’t speak for the year before I got here.” Sirianni said. “What he was doing with the football, and being able to go through reads and progressions that fast and getting the ball to where it needed to go, I thought it was unbelievable.”

Sirianni has been about as vocal in support of Hurts as you can be. The best practice as an Eagle against a good Dolphins secondary is enough to get any fan fired up. Though Brandon Lee Gowen over at Bleeding Green Nation had a rebuttal to that level of praise.

“If you want to make the argument that Hurts looked a little better than he was perceived to be, I think that’s reasonable. Best practice ever, though? That’s hyperbolic. And I think the vast majority of practice observers would agree with that much. It’s true that, as outside observers, we don’t totally know what Hurts was being asked to do on those plays. But it seems silly to me to be handing out gold stars to a quarterback performance where the offense struggled to move the ball. Not to mention the play where Hurts underthrew DeVonta Smith for what could’ve been a touchdown. Sirianni is obviously really big on supporting his players. Look no further than how he wears t-shirts with their names and likeness on them. And I’m not going begrudge him for having their backs, especially when it comes to the starting QB! But I do think he could’ve more reasonably said Hurts had a better day than he was credited for as opposed to claiming it was an all-time practice performance. That was a bit much to me.”

If there is one thing Giants fans might be able to relate to, is no player being more scrutinized on the team than their polarizing QB1. There are those that love Hurts and those that want him gone within the Philadelphia fan base. There will be no shortage of conversations throughout the season in regard to Jalen Hurts.

Washington Commanders

Antonio Gibson just a few short years ago was regarded as a blossoming running back in the league. Unfortunately for him, it looks like things aren’t turning out that way. Brian Robinson continues to push for the top running back spot in the Commanders’ offense. With J.D. McKissic handling the passing down roles, it looks like things are not trending in the right direction for Gibson’s playing time. It looks as though Ron Rivera is still willing to give Gibson a role albeit in something Gibson has never really done before. Talking to the media Ron Rivera confirmed that Gibson will be the team’s kick returner for this upcoming season.

“I think we still need to see some more stuff, but I think he is [our top kick returner],” Rivera said Thursday. “I do. I think he’s done a nice job.”

“Antonio’s getting more and more comfortable [returning kicks],” Rivera said. “When you watch it on tape, you see him circling the ball, getting under it and making a good catch. It’s something he did well in college and we’re pretty excited having him do it.”

While Gibson rushed for 1,000 yards last season the thing that continues to stick out is turning the ball over. Gibson coughed up the ball 6 times last season and has fumbled the ball on multiple occasions during training camp and preseason.

Another person that has been under the spotlight in Washington is quarterback Caron Wentz. While he has had an up-and-down training camp like many of the quarterbacks in the NFC East, he is building starting to build chemistry with wide receiver Terry McLaurin.

Rivera stated Wednesday’s practice was “a pretty good show of it” and added some moments when the timing was “perfect.” Wentz also led McLaurin on some passes that allowed him to get open. McLaurin is a big part of the offense and after signing a massive extension last month, will continue to be the focal point of the offense for years to come. Wentz developing that chemistry with Wentz will be crucial for the team to have success in 2022.

  • See SB Nation’s Hogs Haven for more about the Commanders