Things went from bad to worse for the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday when team owner and general manager Jerry Jones said starting right guard Brian Waters will miss the rest of the season with injuries to his triceps and knee that he suffered during a 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 8. Now it’s back to square one for the Cowboys, whose offensive line was playing better than it has in a decade with Waters as the anchor on the field and in the locker room. Put simply, this could be the beginning of the end for Dallas in 2013.
The gut-wrenching, last-second loss to the Lions was enough to do a mentally-weak team like the Cowboys in, but losing a guy like Waters is beyond devastating. This is a guy who signed after the season started and then stepped in like the savvy veteran he is. Heck, he likely would have made a seventh Pro Bowl this year with the way he was playing.
So now Mackenzy Bernadeau returns as the full-time starter at right guard the same week the Cowboys released David Arkin and then re-signed him to the practice squad. With Waters out, Arkin will have to be brought back to the active roster for depth.
The kicker here is Waters’ impact in the locker room because it’s no coincidence guys like Doug Free, Ronald Leary and Tyron Smith are having outstanding years. Free was especially a pleasant surprise this year playing next to Waters after his horrendous 2011 and 2012 campaigns, so now it will be interesting to see whether he continues to play well without Waters there to help him.
At 4-4, the Cowboys still have a golden opportunity to keep and possibly expand their lead in the NFC East, but their offensive line will have to continue to play at the level it has been so far this season to ensure an 8-8 finish. To do better than that, the defense has to improve as well as the offensive play-calling so without Waters, winning the division is going to be tough and that’s the only way Dallas can get into the playoffs. Buckle up, Cowboys fans, because the Romo-coaster is just getting started.