The Dallas Cowboys have lost three of their last four games. Now, normally, that would be a ‘sky is falling’ moment for Cowboys fans. And when it happens on Thanksgiving Day, well, that can just ruin the whole four-day weekend, right?
Well, let’s back up just a bit. The Cowboys have been grinding things out the past few weeks, much of that due to injuries. I wrote about that last week.
Well, the Cowboys are about to turn the corner when it comes to these injuries.
Left tackle Tyron Smith returned on Thursday, bringing stability to the left side of the offensive line again. That surely kept quarterback Dak Prescott more upright on Thursday.
And that’s just the beginning.
Next Thursday night against the Saints, we could see three more Cowboys walk through the door.
“It’s very important,'' Ezekiel Elliott said regarding the return to the lineup of CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence, all of whom should play in Week 13. "We got four more division games left, in six weeks. We definitely gotta lock in and those division games are always gonna be tough. We gotta get ready to close it out.''
Wide receiver Lamb sat out Thursday’s game when he didn’t pass concussion protocol. While one doesn’t want to speculate on a head injury, we do know that Lamb did practice earlier this week before being ruled out. So that’s encouraging.
The calendar says wide receiver Cooper should be back, too. He’s been on the COVID list the past two games. Since Cooper was unvaccinated and tested positive the Friday before the Chiefs game, there was no chance he was going to play against the Raiders. Today we’re a week out from his positive test. Assuming he’s asymptomatic and tests negative at the end of his 10-day quarantine period, he could get a couple of workouts in next week and, potentially, play.
The wild card is defensive end Lawrence, who was activated on Wednesday, which triggered his 21-day evaluation window. He’s already practicing. We’ll know more about his availability early next week.
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Week 13 also marks the first time the Cowboys can activate defensive end Randy Gregory from the injured reserve. If we’re using Lawrence’s activation from IR this week as a potential guide, then it’s unlikely Gregory plays next week. But, with a 10-day break after the Saints game, I could see Gregory getting in enough practice time to play in Week 14, assuming his calf injury is where the Cowboys’ doctors want it.
There’s no doubt the Cowboys believe the return of Lawrence and Gregory will make a difference, even as rookie Micah Parsons has held down the fort the past few weeks.
"I think (Parsons is) only going to show up more as we get Randy Gregory back and DeMarcus Lawrence back, which hopefully is right around the corner," Jones told 105.3 The Fan earlier this week. "And it should just make our defense all the more dynamic when you have your pass rushers and you have Micah added to that.”
The Cowboys have other potential defensive reinforcements, too. Defensive linemen Brent Urban and Neville Gallimore are on injured reserve and, at some point, the Cowboys hope they’re ready. That goes for defensive back Donovan Wilson, too.
That’s what this team needs right now — reinforcements. Not a change in philosophy or attitude. The philosophy part is working. The mindset is there. It’s working better than it has in years.
What the Cowboys need are healthy bodies, and those appear to be on the way. And the timing is as good as it could be, given the circumstances.
The math says the Cowboys could still claim the NFC’s first-round bye, but Thursday’s loss definitely hurt their chances. But, the Cowboys face four NFC East teams in their final six games, and with a two-game lead in the NFC East (at the moment), they still control their own destiny when it comes to winning the division. Win the division and you’re in the playoffs. Let the chips fall where they may after that.
And healthy bodies will make the stretch run that much more manageable.
You can reach Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.