By Shawn S. Lealos

The Dallas Cowboys lost their first game of the season when they fell to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3. They now have to get past the New Orleans Saints, despite having the same problem that they encountered last week. Their starting quarterback, Tony Romo, is on the short term injured reserve, Dez Bryant is still a few weeks away from returning from foot surgery, and rookie pass rusher Randy Gregory is still out with an ankle injury. Add in two major player suspensions, the Cowboys find themselves short handed once again this week.

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Romo won’t be listed on the injury report as long as he is on the short term IR, but he is still the player the Cowboys miss the most. Without the All-Pro quarterback in Week 3, backup quarterback Brandon Weeden was solid when it came to his completion percentage, but never tried any deep passes and threw a key interception. Matt Cassel is working hard as the backup, but honestly, it isn’t Weeden that is the problem. The Cowboys play calling has to trust their quarterback to take chances; without Romo, that has proven to be tough.

Dez Bryant was not as missed though, since Weeden never given his receivers much attention. As long as Bryant is out, Terrance Williams is the main man, but he didn’t catch a single pass last week. Cole Beasly is much more important because he runs the short slants and will be a guy Weeden uses more than others. Jason Witten, who has two twisted ankles and a sprained knee, played despite his injuries and will continue to be an important part of the offense. Offensive guard Ronald Leary should return this week as well to the starting lineup.

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On the defensive side of the ball, Dallas has only three sacks in three games, which won’t help them win against the Saints. Both Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain are both still suspended, so they won’t be there to help. Randy Gregory, who was expected to help rush the passer, is still hurt as well. There is a chance that Hardy and Gregory will be back for the Patriots game, but that won’t help this weekend. Luckily, Jeremy Mincey and Ryan Russell are returning to action, so the defensive line is not quite as shallow as it was against the Falcons.

Kyle Wilber, LB (hamstring)
Jeremy Mincey, DE (concussion)
Ronald Leary, OG (groin)
Jason Witten, TE (ankle/knee)
Ryan Russell, DE (groin)
Brandon Carr, CB (NIR)
Andrew Gachkar, LB (foot)

Randy Gregory, DE (ankle)
Dez Bryant, WR (foot)

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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos.