<
>

Cowboys' changes could come after Sunday, win or lose

FRISCO, Texas – Whether the bye comes at a good time for the Dallas Cowboys or not will largely be predicated on how they fare Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

Going into next weekend’s bye with a 3-2 record is a lot more palatable than going into it 2-3 with a two-game losing streak. It doesn’t mean all would be well with the Cowboys with a victory, but it means they righted the ship and put themselves in position to be one of the NFC’s better teams.

That brings us to this week’s Twitter mailbag question:

The biggest change could be the fate of Ezekiel Elliott. Whenever the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals makes a decision on the NFL’s request to stay Elliott’s injunction will determine a lot for the Cowboys. With Elliott, the Cowboys’ offense could be potent. Without Elliott, their season might not be over, but things would be a lot more difficult no matter how much faith the Cowboys have in Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith.

As much as the running game has struggled this year -- yes, being ranked 14th in the NFL is a struggle when factoring in Elliott and the talent on the offensive line -- losing Elliott’s ability to break tackles and long runs, as well as his pass-catching ability, would have a tremendous impact on the offense. The Cowboys would effectively ask three players -- Morris, McFadden and Smith -- to do the job of one player, Elliott.

The only other changes could come on the defensive side of the ball, specifically in the secondary.

At some point the Cowboys will have to ask themselves if it is better to go with rookie defensive backs Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods than Nolan Carroll, Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier. Awuzie first has to show he can stay healthy. He has missed the last two games with a hamstring strain, but is expected to return in some role Sunday against the Packers.

Perhaps the Cowboys have made a decision on what they want to do at cornerback and just aren’t telling anybody. Carroll has practiced for the last two weeks, either limited or fully, after suffering a concussion in Week 2, but he could miss his third straight game.

Lewis has the Cowboys excited about his future. He has natural ball skills. Woods has found himself around the ball in his limited playing time, but the Cowboys are considering whether or not he is better served to play smaller doses than 60-65 snaps. The Cowboys drafted Awuzie with the idea that he could play safety and cornerback. Maybe they will start to tinker with the safety part of it with Lewis, Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown as their top three corners.

There will be growing pains. Rookies always have them. But the if the ceilings on Lewis, Awuzie and Woods are as high as the Cowboys believe they are, then it would be time to live with their mistakes now to see the growth down the road.