Up next are the Dallas Cowboys, a team that would ordinarily seem to present a very difficult challenge for an already struggling run defense. However, the events of Sunday Night Football in week four have changed the equation significantly.
In the Cowboys’ 12-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the Cowboys had their worst rushing performance since week two of 2017, picking up just 45 yards on the ground at a 2.3 yards-per-carry clip. But to make matters worse for the Cowboys, they appear to have lost their best blocker for a few weeks.
Left tackle Tyron Smith has been standing in David Bakhtiari’s way for Pro Bowl invites over the past few seasons (though Bakhtiari earned the first-team All-Pro nod in 2018). But now, he appears likely to miss week five’s game against Green Bay due to a high ankle sprain he suffered on Sunday night. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed the diagnosis after the game, and because this is an injury that typically takes several weeks to heal, Smith is all but assured to be out when the Packers come to town.
If he indeed misses the game as expected, Dallas will have two options at that position. One option would be to simply replace Smith with veteran backup Cameron Fleming, a sixth-year player who is in his second season with the Cowboys. Fleming, who was a 4th-round pick of the Patriots’ in 2014, has made a total of 23 career starts all over the line, including three last year in Dallas. Alternately, the Cowboys could move La’el Collins over from right tackle and insert Fleming on the right side.
Either way, this sets up tantalizing matchups for the Packers’ edge rushers. Lining up either Za’Darius Smith or Preston Smith against Fleming — on extra rest, no less — should be advantage: Packers.
Although Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked only once despite attempting 33 passes on Sunday, most of that came with Smith in the game, as he played 50 of Dallas’ 58 offensive snaps. With the Packers possessing more talented, experienced, and productive edge rushers than the Saints, there is a good chance that Mike Pettine’s group can cause some havoc in Dallas’ backfield this coming weekend.
UPDATE: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport confirmed via a source that Smith will indeed be out for Sunday’s game against the Packers.