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Cowboys Fighting Injuries, But Reinforcements Will Come In Waves

Dallas has had more than its share of injury problems, but things should be improving soon as players begin to return to the field.

The Kraken is gong to be joining the team soon.
The Kraken is gong to be joining the team soon.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2014 was a remarkably healthy season for the Dallas Cowboys. Apparently, that did not please the football gods, or perhaps the dreaded goatmouth, because this year has seen the injuries come seemingly without pause. The latest one was the concussion suffered by DE Jeremy Mincey, who now joins the large contingent who will miss the game against the Atlanta Falcons. Additionally, it looks like guard Ronald Leary will miss a second week despite his attempts to come back from a groin problem. Stephen Jones announced during a radio interview that La'el Collins will get his first start at left guard. That seems a clear indication that not only is Leary not ready to go, but that the team was happier with what he did in the last game than with the performance of Mackenzy Bernadeau - probably for good reasons.

But hopefully (knock on wood, find a four leaf clover, get your lucky rabbit's foot, hang a horseshoe above you door, open end up), things are going to get better. With the exception of Terrell McClain, all the players who have been hurt will be back. Here is a rundown of when various players are expected back.

September 27 (Atlanta Falcons). Yes, there is one player expected to return after missing the Eagles game, tight end James Hanna. While this may seem a minor development, Hanna plays a large role in the running game as a blocker. Since that aspect of the offense has not exactly gotten off to a hot start, having him back may be a bigger boost than most realize. With the team having to rely on Brandon Weeden while Tony Romo recovers, every bit of improvement in the ground attack is important.

October 4 (@ New Orleans Saints). Leary should be back by this game, and unless Collins just absolutely blows the coaching staff away, the veteran will step back into the line. It is also likely that Mincey will be cleared after his concussion to bolster the defensive end position.

October 11 (New England Patriots). The big one. Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain will both be done with their suspensions. While it is uncertain just how fast they will be up to full speed, the team will likely benefit from whatever snaps both can take. In the same interview mentioned above, Stephen Jones talked about how the team feels McClain is going to be able to contribute right away.

"We feel as good about Ro as we've ever felt," Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan's Ben and Skin show [KRLD-FM]. "I think he's in the best shape that he's been in since we've had him. I know he's ready to go play football."

October 25 (@ New York Giants). This is the first game after the bye week, and it is when Randy Gregory is being projected to return. Before he was injured in the first Giants game, he looked like the best pass rusher on the field. Having him back is going to be very important, especially in the second game against one of the division rivals.

And he may not be the biggest return.

There has been a sometimes heated debate between various parties on just how long Dez Bryant will be out. Some, who will remain nameless (cough) Ian Rapoport (cough) have thrown out 10-12 weeks, but the Dallas area beat reporters all are hearing that six to eight weeks is what the team is getting from the doctors who actually are involved in Bryant's treatment. Even if he misses what looks like the best case scenario, he could be back for the home game against the Seattle Seahawks the following week, or the visit from the Eagles the next. Whenever he gets back, he will be a very welcome addition, not just for his obvious talent but for his emotional spark.

November 22 (@ Miami Dolphins). The even bigger one. This is the first game Tony Romo will be available after his stint on injured reserve. He will have had two weeks of practice by then. This will be the official start of the stretch run for the team.

The Cowboys still have to hope that further injuries are avoided or at least are not severe, but these returning players will still be a help. The best case is that the team is at the nadir now, and will get incrementally better as players get back in uniform. So far, the depth seems to be holding up well. The Falcons game is going to be a stiff test as we face a winning team for the first time this season, but there are flaws on the Atlanta team as well. They also are missing Tevin Coleman, their best running back. Dallas has been excellent, even outstanding against the run, and not having to worry as much about that should allow the rushmen to pin their ears back getting after Matt Ryan. That in turn should limit his ability to get the ball to Julio Jones and Roddy White. Injuries are a part of life in the NFL, and it is how teams overcome them that usually determine success or failure.

For the Cowboys, things should start looking up very soon.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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