by Dallas Cowboys Mailbag, David Helman & Rob Phillips
Obviously Leighton Vander Esch is looking to return at some point this season, while Blake Jarwin will not be back until next year due to the ACL surgery. But for the time being, which injury hurts the team more as they try to rebound from the Week 1 loss, and what should they do to address it? - MATTHEW K / DALLAS, TX
David: Neither one is good, obviously. But I feel less nervous about letting Joe Thomas and Luke Gifford fill in for Vander Esch - especially if Sean Lee can return from injured reserve in two weeks. Without Blake Jarwin, the tight end position quite simply doesn't seem to have a proven player. Dalton Schultz didn't rise to the occasion on Sunday night, and Blake Bell only played eight snaps. I thought Cole Hikutini, who is now on the practice squad, had a decent training camp. But is that good enough to offset the loss of the starter? It doesn't seem like it.
Rob: Mike McCarthy said they'll probably take the full week to decide how they'll address depth at linebacker and tight end. Obviously the practice squad is one option and probably the most likely one. The linebacker depth jumps out at me first because it's such a physical position, and Vander Esch was stepping into a vital role as the middle linebacker. However, I thought Joe Thomas did a nice job filling in. He and Sean Lee (when he returns from IR) have more experience than the backups at tight end. They're going to miss Jarwin's ability to stretch the field. But it is an opportunity for Schultz, who has shown flashes of being a capable all-around tight end.
Until Michael Gallup's penalty, I don't recall seeing Dak Prescott throw many (if any) deep balls against the Rams. It looked to me like the pocket was consistently collapsing in front of him, not allowing him to set up and drive the ball down field. How do you grade the center/interior play of the offensive line last night? Thanks. - ROB RIGGIERI / RUTLAND, MA
David: You're not wrong. Pressure was definitely a problem. But I think I blame the coverage. It seems pretty obvious, based on the fact that Dak only threw two deep balls all night, that the Rams were playing zone and keeping their safeties back to respect the deep passing game. I'd have liked to have seen some more receiver screens and maybe some bootlegs to try to force the Rams' secondary to cheat up the field.
Rob: At times I thought they were solid. At times, Aaron Donald really got in the way. That's the best he's played against the Cowboys the last few years, and yes, that did affect some timing for Dak in the passing game. The Rams also were playing their safeties deep and keeping things in front of them. That's one reason why we saw some shorter, underneath throws, though you have to take some chances downfield when they present themselves, and they almost had a deep one to Gallup that might've won the game late.
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