Written by Patrik Walker, DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
Jason Peters was asked to do something he was flat-out not prepared to do, but kept his promise to do whatever the Cowboys need, and they escaped upset because of it.
ARLINGTON, TX — You know you’re a legend at your job when you can do someone else’s and still be dominant. That’s the case with Jason Peters, who hasn’t taken a single snap at right tackle since his 2005 season with the Buffalo Bills, a 15-year gap between then and now — when he was asked by the Dallas Cowboys to step in and be a hero in Week 14.
The team saw starting right tackle Terence Steele go down in the second quarter with a knee injury, not to return, and backup tackle Josh Ball was unleashed with a chance to show his value.
Instead, he struggled mightily against the Texans pass rush, evidenced by an interception that was fueled by Dak Prescott being pressured and hit on the throw. And after being unable to get anything going on their drives following the loss of Steele, the Cowboys made a wildly unexpected decision in sending Peters in at right tackle … and with the game on the line.
“Man, I had no idea that I was gonna do that,” a still-stunned Peters said following the nerve-racking 27-23 victory over at AT&T Stadium. “The O-line started going down and they dressed me for a reason, so I just went in and tried to help the team out and get the win.”
As honest as ever, Peters said he’s not kidding.
He genuinely was stunned, albeit ready to do whatever the Cowboys need, the latter being something he said immediately after his signing — having now proved that to be true, time and again.
“You can’t [prepare for that],” Peters said. “I hadn’t taken any right tackle reps since ’05, so I just went in the game and I know how to stay in front of people, and that’s what I did.”
Having been unable to move the ball downfield with Ball in place, things changed immediately with Peters on Prescott’s right side. The first play was a completion to Dalton Schultz for 23 yards, then a rollout by Prescott to the right side for a nine-yard gain, and then a 13-yard completion to Schultz on a drive that also saw Prescott connect with Noah Brown for a critical 18-yard completion that put the Cowboys on the Texans’ 22-yard line.
In other words, Prescott suddenly had time to cook and it’s because Peters brought the groceries.
“It was awesome,” said Prescott of what Peters was able to do on Sunday. “A guy that hadn’t played right tackle since ’05, but a veteran, a gold-jacket veteran. You have no worries when he comes in, and wherever he has to fill in and do his job, you know his standards and his expectations are to the highest; and he’ll give it his all.
“… He’s just contributed so much to this team. … Coming in at right tackle on that final drive, did exactly what he needed to do in giving me some time and allowing me to take some opportunities down the field. Hell of a player, hell of a tackle — right or left.”
At best, the nine-time Pro Bowler was brought in to provide depth/insurance at left tackle for the Cowboys, but his three months in Dallas has been painted with asks of doing more, and that includes duties as left guard earlier in the 2022 season.
And, now, right tackle.
There are many who don’t understand the level of difficulty required to pull off such a feat (reversing field is what it’s called, and it’s insanely difficult even with weeks of practice, let alone none at all), and so what Peters did on Sunday probably won’t truly be absorbed by the masses.
But those who know, know.
“That shows what type of player he is,” said rookie first-round pick Tyler Smith. “Since he got here, he’s taught me so much about left tackle and left guard, in general, and to be able to see him go out there — regardless of the situation — and come up big and always show up, it’s a testament to the type of player he is. That’s a real Hall of Fame dude. That’s a rare one.
“To be able to do that, with no practice reps, no idea of it happening; and to go in there on the game-winning drive and lock stuff down, and do your job to the highest level, there are no words.”
So, what exactly went through Peters’ mind when he got the shoulder-tap on the sideline? Well, he admits he was already planning on approaching the coaching staff to make the offer/suggestion of trying him at right tackle, but they beat him to it.
“I know I can stay in front of people,” he said, making the extremely difficult sound pedestrian. “And after Dak got hit and threw that interception I was like, ‘Man, I gotta go in and try to help us win.’ That’s what I was thinking but, before I could turn around, [offensive line coach Joe Philbin] was like, ‘You’re going in.’
“He must’ve read my mind.”
Unfortunately, there is a possibility Steele will miss significant time, but the Cowboys are awaiting more tests to determine if that will be the case.
If so, is Peters prepared … now … to possibly start at the position?
“I might have to [be],” he said.
And with the return of Tyron Smith looming, the Cowboys offensive line (one that was already dominant with Steele at right tackle, the veteran having himself played very well in 2022), might find themselves putting three Hall of Famers in front of Prescott.
Talk about falling upwards.