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Dallas Cowboys 3 Starters OUT at Chargers; Malik Hooker Steps In?

Is Malik Hooker ready to sprint to the Cowboys rescue?

FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys’ starting safeties have spent the week limping around The Star.

Is Malik Hooker ready to sprint to the rescue?

“I think,” said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, searching for answers as Dallas gets ready for Sunday’s kickoff at the Los Angeles Chargers, “he’s clearly back physically.”

If that’s true, Hooker, the former Colts first-pick who has been consistently plagued by injuries during his NFL career, has a shot at stardom.

But first he needs to be on the active game-day list, which wasn’t the case for the Week 1 loss at Tampa Bay.

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If Hooker has indeed put his 2020 Achilles surgery behind him, the free-agent signee’s debut will be well-timed. Starting strong safety Donovan Wilson spent the week resting a groin injury and is not making the trip to L.A. Damontae Kazee, last week’s starter at Hooker’s natural free safety spot, is dealing with a thigh injury, though he will try to play. (Starting defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are also out Sunday.)

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Enter Hooker, who could be counted on to help contain budding star QB Justin Herbert and the Chargers passing attack.

Jayron Kearse, like Hooker and Kazee a vet newcomer, will help at safety. Rookie Israel Mukuamu could make his debut. And one more newcomer vet, Keanu Neal, has been converted to linebacker by Dallas but was once a first-round safety in Atlanta.

But the best answer is Hooker.

"I thought Malik has had a really good week of practice," McCarthy said. "I think it really started last week, to see that he's comfortable with what we're asking him to do."

This Sunday? It’s a big ask. And maybe a big opportunity for Malik Hooker.

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