The regular season opener for the Dallas Cowboys in Los Angeles against the Rams is just around the corner. As Mike McCarthy’s team is preparing for the season that awaits, there is still work to be done.
Roster cut downs have begun, but more are needed before the Cowboys get to their 53-man squad to start the year. Cutting players and getting ready for the regular season are among the biggest priorities, but the current challenge for McCarthy and the organization are injuries. For Thursday’s practice, there was a number of players who didn’t participate, which is starting to get concerning. WR Amari Cooper, OT La’el Collins, LB Sean Lee and DBs Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods were all missing from team drills.
Chidobe Awuzie (knee) returned to do individual drills in practice. No practice for La’el Collins, Jourdan Lewis, Sean Lee, Luke Gifford and Xavier Woods. Lewis was at practice, no longer wearing a walking boot
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 3, 2020
That list includes the names of four players who are would be starters. Awuzie is one of the team’s best, if not the best, corners and he hasn’t practiced in full since August 24 and draft classmate Lewis hasn’t been on the field since August 20. Lewis isn’t a starter, but he’s a player who the team has counted on in to play a lot of snaps in the last two seasons. With Anthony Brown getting the majority of snaps at outside corner, it’s reasonable to believe Lewis would be the top slot option early in 2020.
Woods is Dallas’ best safety and his absence isn’t a great sign for a position still in flux as the defense tries to find the best combination. The team has not seen what they were looking for out of free agent Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and losing Woods, who has started the last two years, early on could be problematic.
Collins took some time to work himself into shape, but had been practicing until missing Thursday. It’s been an odd training camp for Collins, who doesn’t seem concerned about the time he’s missed. However, the offensive line hasn’t had much time to gel in camp with injuries limiting the amount of work the projected starting unit has gotten together.
Lee hasn’t practiced at all in camp and it’s tough to expect much from the veteran LB when the team lines up against the Rams. McCarthy continues to praise Lee’s work ethic and knowledge of the game, but at some point he needs to practice in order to play.
The biggest mystery, however, remains Cooper, who also didn’t practice again.
Cowboys have downplayed situation involving WR Amari Cooper. And indeed, perhaps he will be full go in next Sunday’s opener vs. Rams. But it is notable he’s been a limited to non-participant the past four practices (since Aug. 28). Worked today on resistance cords with trainer.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 3, 2020
There hasn’t been an official injury designation for Cooper and publicly no one seems to be concerned, which is a good sign.
Despite the injury report, there’s no need to panic. None of the injuries appear to be long-term worries and McCarthy did mention everyone is probably fighting through something at this point in camp.
Some of the players who are hurt are also on the way back. Lewis shed his walking boot, Awuzie was at least able to be a limited participant and Collins had been practicing before the miss.
We also know Cooper is as tough as they come. The veteran WR fought through significant foot problems last season and wound up playing in all 16 games and posted a 1,000 yard season.
The Cowboys might be using extreme caution with some of their injuries and they don’t have to play a game this Sunday. The goal is to be ready for when the regular season begins and there’s still time for that to happen.
You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi
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