By Shawn S. Lealos
Through most of the 2015 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys have remained relatively healthy outside of two major losses in quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant. However, Bryant is back and Romo will return next week. Unfortunately, the game with the Philadelphia Eagles took out a number of players and the Cowboys have their biggest injury report of the season this week.
Dez Bryant, who looked back to full strength last week, sat out some practice this week with knee problems. His previous injury was a broken foot, so this is a new one. However, he will play and the rest was just to allow him to remain strong. On the other hand, fellow wide receiver Brice Butler is out this week with a lingering hamstring problem. With Bryant back, the Cowboys look better on offense, and if they can somehow stop their losing streak this weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they have an outside chance still at the playoffs.
The biggest problem is that they have to get past the Bucs with numerous injuries on defense. The Cowboys could have beaten the Eagles, but their defense stars started falling one-by-one. Heading into the Tampa Bay game, Dallas has all three starting linebackers injured, as well as their starting cornerback and two of their defensive ends.
Sean Lee is out with a concussion, but hopefully Dallas can get him back for the Miami Dolphins game the next week. The scary part is that this is Lee’s second concussion of the season; this could hurt his availability the rest of the season if his concussion protocol goes badly.
Rolando McClain injured his hand and foot, and he did not practice in full on Friday, so there might be a chance for him to miss the game.
Anthony Hitchens, the other linebacker, is also questionable with an ankle injury. Hitchens practiced on Friday, but in a limited capacity, so his availability is up in the air. This will likely throw veteran Kyle Wilber into the startin glineup and give Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar more playing time as well.
Cornerback Brandon Carr has a shoulder injury, safety Barry Church has an ankle injury, and Jeff Heath has a shoulder injury, but they are likely to play. On the defensive line, three linemen are hurt. Jack Crawford has a hand injury and DeMarcus Lawrence has a back injury, but they are reserves and should play, albeit in smaller roles. Nick Hayden, the starting left defensive tackle is questionable with an ankle injury but he said that he will probably play.
The only other injuries are to Matt Cassel, who hurt his knee against the Eagles but he will start this week anyway. Both of Darren McFadden’s backups at running back, Christine Michael and Rod Smith, are sick but the Cowboys have been riding McFadden hard and they aren’t needed unless something happens to McFadden. Both should be available.
Dez Bryant, WR (foot/knee)
Brandon Carr, CB (shoulder)
Matt Cassel, QB (knee)
Barry Church, S (ankle)
Jack Crawford, DE (hand)
James Hanna, TE (ankle)
Jeff Heath, S (shoulder)
DeMarcus Lawrence, DE (back)
Christine Michael, RB (illness)
Rod Smith, RB (ilness)
Nick Hayden, DT (ankle)
Anthony Hitchens, LB (ankle)
Rolando McClain, LB (hand/foot)
Brice Butler, WR (foot/knee)
Sean Lee, LB (concussion)
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. Examiner.com.