By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys got some bad news from the NFL as they head into their bye during the Wild Card playoff week. Randy Gregory, the defensive end Dallas just got back from suspension, has been suspended again. This time, Gregory has been suspended for one full year for allegedly missing a drug test during his long suspension. Luckily for Dallas, they are getting a number of their injured pass rushers back and the extra week off should help them head into their first playoff game healthy.
Defensive Pass Rushers Returning
The biggest thing that the Dallas Cowboys have to look forward to is the return of their strongest defensive pass rushers from injury when they start the playoffs. If anything, Randy Gregory was a stopgap while the banged up defensive linemen were healing. Coming back for the playoffs are starting defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and starting defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford.
In 2015, Lawrence was first on the team in quarterback sacks with eight while Crawford was third with five. This season, Crawford has 4.5 and Lawrence only has one. Lawrence was suspended when the season started and has only played in nine games since he returned. The last time he was on the field was in the loss to the New York Giants. Crawford played in 14 games, leaving the win over the Buccaneers with an injury.
The two players should slide back into their starting positions, but they have a lot of company. While they were out with injuries, Maliek Collins has exploded with five sacks in the last nine games and David Irving had three sacks in the last three games. If Lawrence and Crawford can play like they did in 2016 and Collins and Irving remain hot, Dallas could be very scary when it comes to rushing the passer. Cedric Thornton also looks to make his return after getting injured in the Giants game as well.
Tyron Smith Ready To Return
The scariest injury that the Dallas Cowboys faced at the end of the regular season was when offensive tackle Tyron Smith fell in the win over the Detroit Lions. While Smith says he will be ready when the Cowboys play their first playoff game, Dallas signed recently released offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, a former first round pick by the Arizona Cardinals. They also look to be getting La’el Collins back after they designated him to return from IR for the playoffs.
However, Tyron Smith is very important to the offense. He protects the blindside of Dak Prescott and he needs to be in there to help the best offensive line in the NFL stay strong. The Smith injury was an MCL sprain but he has been working on the side and believes he will be good to go in the Cowboys’ playoff games.
Morris Claiborne is Returning
Another big return for the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs is that of cornerback Morris Claiborne. The cornerback was enjoying a huge season this year before falling to a groin injury. The official injury was a sports hernia and he has been participating in individual drills. In just seven games this season, Claiborne has one interception, 26 tackles and five passes defensed. If Claiborne returns, the Cowboys will finally have their defensive backfield all healthy for the first time this entire season.