OXNARD, Calif. — James Washington got behind Trevon Diggs deep and went up for the ball.
He came down with an injury that will force the Cowboys to hit the free agent market.
Washington suffered a fractured right foot in the team’s first padded practice, an injury that typically carries a six to 10-week recovery period. Two people acquainted with the severity of the injury project 10 weeks is the most likely scenario, meaning the receiver won’t be available until mid-October.
As feared, Cowboys WR James Washington fractured his right foot, two people familiar with situation said. Surgery to come. Dallas to be without both Washington, Michael Gallup to begin season. pic.twitter.com/KN7kUXi12y
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 1, 2022
WR James Washington is returning to Dallas & will undergo surgery on his foot tomorrow, those close to the situation said. A timeframe of 10 weeks has been placed on his return.
— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) August 1, 2022
Surgery to repair the fifth metatarsal bone on the side of his foot (Jones fracture) is scheduled to take place Tuesday in Dallas. Washington’s absence robs the Cowboys of a veteran slated to start on opening night and leaves the receiving corps perilously thin.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones issued his standard response when asked about adding a free agent in the coming days.
“We’re always looking for upgrades to our roster,’’ Jones said after confirming Washington’s status.
Critics made the assertion that Dallas needed to add another proven receiver going into camp. The trade of Amari Cooper and the injury to Michael Gallup that has him on the physically unable to perform list appeared to put the Cowboys in a bind.
Club officials rejected this notion. Repeatedly. The latest came Saturday afternoon, when Jerry Jones told a group of reporters he had no concerns about the position.
“I feel good about our receivers,’’ the owner said.
No one in the organization can cling to that stance now. As encouraged as the Cowboys are with Gallup’s rehabilitation from a torn ACL, even he concedes he won’t be ready to face Tampa Bay in the opener. A late September or early October return is more likely.
Washington’s injury installs rookie Jalen Tolbert as the favorite to start the season along with CeeDee Lamb. It also drives the point home about the unproven nature of this group.
The 10 receivers currently on the training camp roster after Lamb have combined for 39 receptions, 425 yards and no touchdowns in their NFL careers. One other note.
All of those belong to Noah Brown.
Options? Odell Beckham Jr. is the best receiver on the open market, but he tore his ACL in the Super Bowl and is behind Gallup in his path back to the field.
Will Fuller is an explosive threat who has wrestled with injuries and inconsistency during his career. He played just two games for Miami last season and finished the season on the injured list with a broken thumb.
Emmanuel Sanders has a long, impressive resume. He caught 42 passes for 626 yards with four touchdowns for Buffalo last season and scored a touchdown in the postseason. The downside: he’s 35.
Cole Beasley will garner support on social media from Cowboys fans who appreciate what he did in his seven seasons with the club. But Dallas views him strictly as a slot receiver.
Washington’s projected role in this offense is much different.
“I’ll tell you he’s a strong player, he’s a physical player,’’ head coach Mike McCarthy said of Washington a few days ago. “I think when you break down the receiver position, he has a lot of flanker traits from the split end side. And what you’re talking about is his ability to go in there and dig out safeties and run the crossing routes.
“He has the vertical speed obviously. So, his vertical stem routes are definitely a strength of his.’’
Washington spent the first four years of his NFL career in Pittsburgh. His biggest season came in 2019 when he caught 44 passes for 735 yards with three touchdowns.
His production has waned since. Washington has combined for 54 catches and 677 yards over his last two seasons. He has scored seven touchdowns in that stretch.
“He can definitely help this offense,’’ quarterback Dak Prescott said of Washington last week.
He still could. The Cowboys will just have to wait longer than they envisioned.
And find someone else in the interim.
Catch David Moore on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) with the Musers at 9:35 every morning and the Hardline several times a week at 4:15 p.m. during Cowboys training camp.
Twitter: @ DavidMooreDMN
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