Entering Week 11, the Dallas Cowboys are somehow still very much alive in the laughing stock division of the NFL, the NFC East. This week, the Cowboys travel to Minnesota to take on the surging Vikings, in a matchup that could either propel the Cowboys closer to the front of the division, or perhaps help seal Dallas’ fate towards the top of the draft boards in April.
The Cowboys injury report was a mixed bag on Thursday, with a mixture of positive and worrisome news.
Zack Martin (calf), Ezekiel Elliott (hamstring), Andy Dalton (Concussion), and Joe Thomas (wrist) were full participants in practice. Meanwhile, Randy Gregory (illness) , Tyler Biadasz (hamstring), and DeMarcus Lawrence (illness) were all absent.
Much of these practice status’ were expected, except for Lawrence who’s first appearance on this week’s injury reports was Thursday.
Dalton is set to reclaim his spot as the team’s starting quarterback after being cleared from the concussion he suffered in Week 8 against the Washington Football Team and overcoming a bout of COVID-19.
The news of full availability was as expected for the All-Pro Martin, who was limited Wednesday for what head coach
Biadasz started Week 5 through Week 8 for the Cowboys, and from all accounts he held his own quite well, despite his inexperience. The club could certainly use the former Badger’s presence as another quality player and depth piece on the depleted offensive line.
Elliott admitted earlier in the week that his hamstring was still “a little stiff” but noted that he would work through in it practice. Elliott’s “full” designation on Thursday answers any potential questions regarding his ability to play Sunday, and the Cowboys will once again try to feature a heavy dose of their workhorse back.
Thomas’ return may be just be depth defensively, as he’s now behind Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and Sean Lee for playing time, but Thomas is a capable backup if needed and should return to his duty on special teams.
Gregory missed his second straight day of practice with an illness, but McCarthy mentioned that he doesn’t believe that the illness is related to Covid-19. Gregory played over 50% of defensive snaps for the Cowboys in their valiant effort against Pittsburgh, and his return has been a much needed spark of athleticism off the edge.
Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence missed practice today with an illness. Same as DE Randy Gregory the past two practices. Both of team’s starting defensive ends tending to illness. Coach Mike McCarthy said today he believes Gregory’s situation is not related to COVID-19 at this point.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 19, 2020
Lawrence’s addition to the injury report with an illness is the most troubling, as he was presumably fine earlier in the week. Lawrence has elevated his game in recent weeks and is playing like the All-Pro edge defender that Dallas paid up for.
The availability of two of Dallas’ best pass rushers will be crucial to monitor as Sunday quickly approaches.
On the other side of the field is Minnesota, who has a handful of injury questions as well.
Minnesota fullback C.J. Ham was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week. While most teams rarely use a fullback, if they even roster one, Ham is a key cog in the Vikings offense that so heavily relies on creating lanes for Dalvin Cook.
Starting offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland did not participate Thursday with an ankle issue.
CB Cameron Dantzler, TE Irv Smith Jr. and DE Hercules Mata’afa all play meaningful snaps for Minnesota and were limited on Thursday.
The Vikings should have the services of starting Center Garrett Bradbury who practiced in full, as well as DE Ifeadi Odenigbo.
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