It’s officially Scapegoat Szn.
Feeling the sweltering heat under his posterior, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is mulling alterations to his starting lineups following the team’s 31-24 loss to Chicago — their third consecutive defeat.
Garrett, who affirmed that no changes to his staff would take place, did not specify which players are destined for the bench.
“The guys who earn the playing time by playing the right way are going to play more,” he said Friday, per ESPN.com. “Obviously you can’t swap everybody out. That’s not what we’re talking about, but we have to look for opportunities to play the guys who play the right way and have done that consistently when they’ve gotten opportunities.”
One obvious tweak could come at tight end, where third-year man Blake Jarwin offers higher pass-catching upside than incumbent 37-year-old Jason Witten, who totaled 37 yards on five receptions against the Bears. Jarwin finished third on Dallas’ offense with six grabs for 50 yards.
It’s also worth wondering if nose tackle Antwaun Woods now resides in Garrett’s doghouse after his recent drug-related arrest. Second-round rookie Trysten Hill started in Woods’ place in the Windy City, notching two tackles. Christian Covington was more impressive, logging two solo stops and a quarterback hit.
The Cowboys will reconvene at The Star Wednesday to begin full-scale preparations for their Week 15 home contest versus the Los Angeles Rams. Perhaps then we’ll have a clearer picture of Garrett’s plan for the remainder of the year.
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Garrett Addresses Woods Incident
The Cowboys’ embattled head man was forced to break his silence on Woods, who was busted last Tuesday during a traffic stop for possession of marijuana over two ounces, tampering with evidence, and possession of paraphernalia.
Garrett expressed frustration over Woods’ actions. “Obviously a disappointing situation,” he said, per ESPN.com. “I don’t know all the details of the situation right now but not something we want.”
Woods, sidelined by a knee injury, allegedly had over two ounces of weed at the time of his arrest. The possession charge is a misdemeanor under Texas law, but the tampering charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Aside from the newfound legal battle, Woods subjected himself to league discipline, which likely would result in a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Depending on how quickly the arrest is reviewed, he may be banned for a game or two this season or, if the league drags its feet, his punishment could toll to 2020.
LVE Unlikely to Play vs. Rams
Garrett all but ruled out Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) for Week 15. There is nothing new to report on the second-year stud, who’s missed the last three weeks due to a bothersome stinger. He’s considered week-to-week — at best.
“We’re going to do right by Leighton Vander Esch. He’s not going to rush back and we’re not going to rush him back,” Garrett said, per the team’s official website. “But obviously he’s chomping at the bit to play.”
Reading between the lines, it’s entirely possible, if not probable, that Dallas shuts down Vander Esch for the remainder of the season. Neck injuries are no joke, and the club is taking a safer-than-sorry approach with its 2018 first-round pick.
Veteran LB Sean Lee will continue starting in place of LVE, with Joe Thomas serving as his reserve. The two combined for nine tackles (five solo) and a pass deflection against the Bears, who accumulated 382 total yards (151 on the ground) in their dominant victory.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL