FRISCO, Texas -- You could not blame Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy if he took a moment to wonder what he has done to upset the football gods.
His first season was a 6-10 mess with tragedy (the death of strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul), horrific injuries (Dak Prescott's ankle) and a large number of injured players.
This season promised to be better because it seemingly could not get worse. After the promise they showed in pushing the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the brink in Week 1, nothing has gone right for the Cowboys since as they prepare for Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).
Wide receiver Michael Gallup was placed on injured reserve with a calf strain. Right tackle La'el Collins was suspended five games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Defensive end Randy Gregory was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. And on Wednesday the Cowboys' best defensive player, DeMarcus Lawrence, suffered a broken foot that sources said will keep him out for six to eight weeks.
If there is a collective here-we-go-again from Cowboys fans, it's not coming from the organization.
"I don't feel that way," McCarthy said. "I don't get that sense from our players at all."
The coach wasn't going to share his thoughts in private moments publicly, but he has been around long enough.
"The reality of it is, this is how it goes year in and year out. It's just a matter of how many," McCarthy said. "As I've stated, the injuries are so personal to the individual. But in the team concept and the team environment, we're focused on who's the next guy up, the opportunities. And really from a coaching perspective we just want to make sure we put these guys in position to be successful."
The Cowboys will go with Cedrick Wilson to replace Gallup, pushing CeeDee Lamb to more of an outside receiver role. Wilson had a 100-yard receiving game last season. Terence Steele or Ty Nsekhe will replace Collins. Steele started 14 games as an undrafted rookie in 2020 with Collins out because of hip surgery. Nsekhe is in his eighth season, but he has started just three more games (17) than Steele in his career.
Oh, and they will be mainly responsible for blocking Chargers pass-rusher Joey Bosa.
Replacing Gregory and Lawrence is a bit more problematic.
The 26 defensive players currently on the 53-man roster have combined for 46.5 career sacks. Linebacker Jaylon Smith has the most at nine. The likely starters, Tarell Basham and Dorance Armstrong, have 7.5 and 2.5 sacks, respectively, in their careers.
Moving linebacker Micah Parsons to more of a pass-rushing role is an option, but McCarthy offered a bit of caution.
"We've been very conscientious about how we play Micah, both at the off-the-line responsibilities as opposed to being on the line," McCarthy said.
The rest of the pass-rushers include Bradlee Anae, Azur Kamara and rookie Chauncey Golston, who put on pads for the first time Thursday after missing training camp with a hamstring strain. Forget about adding a free-agent pass-rusher or making a trade for the moment to help this week.
The Cowboys will have to see what they have first, but losing Lawrence is a huge blow.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Lawrence has the fourth-best pass rush win rate among edge rushers the past five seasons at 25.9%. (By the way, Bosa is second at 28.1%.) When Lawrence has been on the field the past five years, opposing quarterbacks have a 48 QBR against the Cowboys. It jumps to 70 without him on the field.
The Cowboys will go with a pass rush by committee.
"How many pass-rushers line up and play 70 plays, 75 plays in a game?" McCarthy said. "So you have to have a rotation at some level. There's a school of thought that whatever the number is, 23, 25 rushes is the maximum that you can expect from a guy. And there's some people that don't believe in that, too. But there's a reason why we kept as many defensive players and also in particular in the defensive front. We want to be rotation-focused anyways."
The Cowboys were one of two teams without a sack in Week 1, but maybe there's some good news in Week 2. Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has been sacked at least once in each of his 16 NFL starts.
It's the third-longest streak in the NFL.
The Cowboys hope it doesn't end Sunday.