Dallas Cowboys fans had high expectations for their team this season - as long as quarterback Tony Romo could avoid injury. Three weeks into the preseason, looks like that idea is shot.
The Cowboys discovered a fractured verterbae in Tony Romo's back. Expected to miss 6-10 weeks. Wow— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 27, 2016
Getting the start Thursday night against the Seahawks, Romo was slammed to the turf awkwardly and looked to injure his back. Immediate reports showed that Romo felt okay, but clearly the issues persisted.
Last season, Romo broke his collarbone twice and played just four games as the Cowboys limped to a 4-12 record. The season prior Romo led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and an NFC East title. In 2013, Romo dealt with herniated discs in his back and had a cyst removed.
Without Romo, Dallas will likely turn to rookie Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State. Prescott has looked impressive in the preseason, though it will be tough to step into the spotlight that accompanies the Cowboys quarterback.
Dallas travels to Washington in Week 2 of the regular season, so the Redskins defense can start preparing for Prescott, not Romo.
Still looking for a new team, former Redskin Dashon Goldson will work out with the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, according to Ian Rapoport.
A knee injury to safety Keanu Neal exposed the Falcons' thin depth at the position. With Neal expected to miss three to four weeks, Atlanta has to explore other options.
Goldson, 31, became a free agent in March when he was cut by the Redskins.
A former Pro Bowler, Goldson was traded from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Redskins in April of 2015. In his lone season in Washington, Goldson started in 15 games recording 69 tackles. He also caught one interception which he returned for a touchdown.
Ryan Kerrigan exited Friday night's preseason game against the Bills in the first quarter with a groin injury. Word Friday night was that Kerrigan's injury was minor, though the Redskins outside linebacker is slated for an MRI exam Saturday on the groin.
Even if the MRI reveals what Redskins fans hope - little to no damage and no prospect of missed regular season action - Kerrigan's exit from the Bills game reveals just how thin Washington is at outside linebacker.
Two months ago, OLB was considered a position of strength for Scot McCloughan's team. Junior Galette's Achilles injury changed that.
Now, the Redskins have two very capable pass rushers in Kerrigan and Preston Smith. In five seasons, Kerrigan has averaged nearly 10 sacks per season, and anybody that watched Smith's rookie year and his excellent 2016 training camp and preseason must be excited about the second-year man from Mississippi State. Smith oozes the kind of All-Pro potential that scouts dream about going through the draft process.
But after those two, things change quickly.
Washington converted Trent Murphy back to OLB after an offseason experiment at defensive end. Murphy's move came following the Galette injury, and was done more for depth rather than the team expecting Murphy to suddenly become a sackmaster. But at least Murphy has experience and is capable of playing the edge in the 'Skins defense.
Behind Murphy, the Redskins can look to some combination of Houston Bates*, Willie Jefferson and Lynden Trail. Bates played some in 2015, and while a useful player on special teams, lacks the top end athleticism needed to consistenly get to opposing QBs. Jefferon (6-foot-5) and Trail (6-foot-7) possess great length and speed, but it's hard to think either could be counted on immediately for help. Jefferson experienced some success in the CFL last year, and Trail has shown flashes in Richmond, but both players are quite raw.
In addition to Trail, two more undrafted rookies have given the Redskins good snaps this preseason in Ejiro Ederaine and Mike Wakefield. That said, both Ederaine and Wakefield look like long shots to survive both round of cuts, let alone see the field this fall.
While many fans focus on running back depth, outside linebacker remains a position that the Redskins scouting staff could be considering options outside of the organization. Should an edge rusher with talent emerge over the next two weeks as NFL rosters get trimmed, Washington will be watching.
* Random note on Houston Bates - In the Redskins newly remodeled locker room, ping pong, foosball and shuffleboard tables have been installed. Multiple players have confirmed that Bates is the best shuffleboard player in the locker room, though plenty of guys are pushing for the title.