- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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I will have some more extensive thoughts Monday on the Dallas Cowboys, the toughness they showed in coming back to win a tougher-than-expected game Sunday against the Browns and the fact that they're only one game out of first place with six games to go. But tonight, I wanted to post on the injury to left tackle Tyron Smith, who has a high ankle sprain and could miss a few weeks with it.
This is a significant injury for the Cowboys, who as you know have struggled on the offensive line all year and allowed seven (!) sacks of Tony Romo on Sunday. Never mind that Romo only has three days to rest his battered body before the Thanksgiving Day home game against the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys have to prepare to play that game without their best offensive lineman. Smith, the Cowboys' first-round pick from the 2011 draft, struggled early with the transition from right tackle to left tackle, but he has played better in recent weeks. His position is the one offensive line spot about which the Cowboys don't feel they have to worry from week to week. When he left the game Sunday, he was replaced by Jermey Parnell, who's an enthusiastic backup but likely to hurt the offense if he has to see extended playing time.
The Cowboys were already using regular right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau at center and Derrick Dockery at right guard in Sunday's game because they're so banged up at center. And while I haven't yet had the chance to watch the game, my Twitter feed seems convinced that Doug Free had yet another terrible game at right tackle. The Redskins' pass rush hasn't been the most fearsome in the league, but the Cowboys will have to devise some way of keeping the Washington defense off of Romo on Thursday, and Smith's absence would make that a lot more difficult.
At 5-5, the Cowboys are back in the division race. And if they win Thursday and the Giants lose to the Packers next Sunday night, Dallas would be tied for first place in the division. This is not a time at which they can afford to be getting thinner on the offensive line.