The Dallas Cowboys can’t seem to catch a break.
But they remain undeterred.
One week after playing without five starters due to injuries, COVID-19 and a suspension in a 20-17 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, the team is preparing to play in Monday’s home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles without at least three starters in defensive end Dorance Armstrong, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and linebacker Keanu Neal.
Cowboys coach Mike McMcCarthy said Armstrong and Watkins have already been ruled out with ankle and knee injuries, respectively.
Neal is on the COVID-19 list as a close contact. He didn’t test positive. But because he is unvaccinated, he has to stay away from the facility for five days.
If he continues to test negative, he will be available to play Monday night but likely on a limited basis after being out for five days.
Safety Donovan Wilson, who missed last week’s game with a groin injury, still has yet to return to practice.
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is out at least another four games with a fractured foot and right tackle La’el Collins has four more games to serve on a five-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
And backup tackle Ty Nsekhe is out at least another week after missing the Chargers game with a heat-related illness.
McCarthy said the team is going to be cautious in bringing him back.
“It’s an illness,” McCarthy said. “There’s a plan to bring him back. Just got to be smart. This is a long year.”
The good news is defensive end Randy Gregory is back after missing last week’s game on the COVID-19 list.
But even though Gregory is back, the Cowboys are still down two defensive ends without Lawrence and Armstrong.
Does this mean rookie sensation Micah Parsons will play defensive end again as he did Sunday against the Chargers, or his primary linebacker position?
McCarthy said the Eagles offense, with quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is more a runner, and the speed they have in the backfield and at receiver, will likely dictate a different game plan.
But he’s not telling what the plan is going to be.
“I think it’s clearly why you play chess all week,” McCarthy said. “You play the different combinations. You want to have foresight on what move you want to make next. When you get into the game, you want to be playing checkers. You want to be playing fast and things like that. That’s no different with Micah or what personnel groups match up the best against their offense, too.
“This offense is about speed and space. A big athletic offensive line but five perimeter players that can really, really go. So we’re really focused on speed and space and what we need to do to combat that.”