The Dallas Cowboys‘ defense, already without linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, is that much weaker heading into Turkey Day.
As first reported by David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, Cowboys defensive tackle Antwaun Woods sustained a knee injury in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots and will not play Thursday against the Buffalo Bills.
Per ESPN’s Todd Archer, Woods is afflicted by a sprained knee, a possible relation to the MCL injury he suffered earlier this season. Either way, he’s expected to be ruled out, along with Vander Esch (neck), for the Week 13 showdown.
“The Cowboys’ practice report remains unchanged for the second straight day,” Archer wrote Tuesday afternoon. “La’el Collins (knee), Jeff Heath (shoulders), Zack Martin (elbow, back, ankle) and Connor Williams (knee) were limited. Leighton Vander Esch will miss his second straight game with a neck injury and Antwaun Woods is out with a sprained knee.”
The team’s starting nose man and a strict run-stuffer, Woods has provided 15 tackles in eight appearances. He originally went down in Week 2 and missed three games before returning to the lineup on Oct. 13.
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Plan to Replace Woods
As they previously did, Dallas will deploy a two-man rotation of versatile backup Christian Covington and second-round rookie Trysten Hill to make up for Woods’ absence. They’ll join starters DeMarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins against Buffalo’s fifth-best rushing attack, which averages 139.2 yards per game.
The No. 58 overall selection of the 2019 draft, Hill has rarely seen the field, notching just one tackle across four appearances. Normally a healthy scratch, Hill last dressed in the Cowboys’ Week 7 blowout of the Philadelphia Eagles. He went from the outhouse to the doghouse in October, falling asleep in a meeting while NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas addressed the squad. Hill was sent home by head coach Jason Garrett and, shortly after, apologized for the infraction.
It’s also possible, if not likely, that DE Michael Bennett kicks inside to help offset the loss of Woods. Like Quinn, Bennett’s been a revelation in his first year with the Cowboys, logging nine solo tackles and three sacks across 180 defensive snaps.
LVE Also Out vs. Bills
This news is less surprising, as Dallas handles Vander Esch’s neck stinger with the utmost care. Such injuries are nothing to play around with, and the club is simply hoping to preserve the sophomore ‘backer’s NFL longevity. The Cowboys are confident the issue will dissipate with time and rest.
Sean Lee will continue starting in LVE’s stead, opposite Jaylon Smith. The two have their work cut out in the pass-rushing department, facing a Bills offensive line that ranks 13th in sacks allowed (24) and a quarterback in Josh Allen who can win with his legs (387 rushing yards, seven touchdowns).
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