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Cowboys D: 'Lights Out' & 'Arrows Up'

Leighton Vander Esch is 'Arrows Up' and Randy Gregory is 'Lights Out!'; Weekend Practice Report For NFL Week 6 Vs. Cardinals On Monday Night

FRISCO - Ezekiel Elliott doesn't much bother with hyperbole when it comes to talking football; he's a "tell-it-like-it-is-guy.'' So his evaluation of Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory in practice comes with gravitas.

“Randy was lights out there today,” Elliott said Thursday. “It was really tough to block him. I’m excited to get Randy back. He’s got those fresh legs. 

"He just looks better than I’ve ever seen him.

Gregory's return won't happen this week - unfortunate as the Cowboys' struggling defense faces the Monday Night challenge from a visiting Arizona Cardinals team led by the elusive QB Kyler Murray. But Gregory - who has not appeared in a game since Jan. 12, 2019 - has fresh legs and a beefier torso and is about to be completely cleared of suspension as he is eligible to play the Oct. 25 game at Washington.

For now, approaching Saturday's workout here at The Star - following an in-pads session Friday - the "arrival of the cavalry'' to help 2-3 Dallas is led by linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who fractured his collarbone in the first quarter of the Week 1 loss at the Rams.

Vander Esch was a full participant in Thursday’s practice, with the Friday session figuring greatly in his ability to play Monday.

And the Saturday update?

'All arrows are pointing up,' said Cowboys coach McCarthy on Vander Esch playing Monday.

Meanwhile, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) is fighting his way back, as is linebacker Sean Lee, though neither should be penciled in for Monday. And defensive lineman Everson Griffen was back on the field Friday after a non-injury absence the previous day.

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It's too much to ask of Vander Esch to be a singular savior for the Cowboys, who despite all of their struggles on defense are in first place in the NFC East. But it would help this week.

It's too much to ask of Gregory, in exactly the same way, for next week. But it will help.

“He looked fast,” All-Pro guard Zack Martin said of Gregory, the former second-round pick. “He looked quick, kind of the same twitchy guy that we know Randy is. But I think the big thing for him, just physically looking at him, he looks bigger and stronger, and when you can add that to his first step and his twitchiness, I think he will be able to help us a lot.”

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Dallas' offense - which hopes it doesn't experience too great a decline in the wake of the season-ending injury to Dak Prescott - might still have to carry a heavy load here. Coach Mike McCarthy is among those who believes the Andy Dalton-led group is up to it.

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"Andy is a guy everyone loves,'' the coach said. "If you don’t like Andy Dalton, there’s something wrong with you. We’re very fortunate to have him.''

They'll be very fortunate to add "Arrows Up'' Vander Esch and "Lights Out'' Gregory, too ... maybe one in each of the next two weeks.