Cowboys Expected To Start Backup on Defense vs. Lions: Report

Darian Thompson

Getty Darian Thompson

Addition by subtraction for the Dallas Cowboys.

On Sunday, the Cowboys are likely to do battle with the Lions sans the services of starting safety Jeff Heath, who re-aggravated dual shoulder injuries in last week’s loss to the Vikings.

Heath’s availability for the road trip to Detroit is now “in question,” according to Maven Sports’ Mike Fisher, who shared head coach Jason Garrett’s worry.

“I asked coach Jason Garrett about the concern level of Heath’s availability and he noted that Heath actually has problems with both shoulders. And yes, it’s a concern,” Fisher wrote Thursday.

Heath, whose shoulder injuries originated in Dallas’ Week 9 win over the Giants, was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. At best, he’ll be listed as questionable when the final practice report is released Friday. At worst, he’ll be ruled out.

It’s been another bumpy season for Heath, a lightning rod for criticism who’s reached meme-like levels within a frustrated fan base. Through nine games, he’s totaled 42 tackles and four pass deflections, continually exploited as the weakest link in a secondary which ranks sixth against the pass.

It, too, has been a particularly painful season for Heath, who needed 12 stitches to close a deep laceration in his knee area during Dallas’ aforementioned meeting with New York. He was able to push through the wound against the Vikings, logging an assisted tackle amid the 28-24 heartbreaker.

Heath, whom the Cowboys attempted to replace in their failed pursuit of Jets S Jamal Adams, is playing out the final year of his contract, scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in March.

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Cowboys Prepping Darian Thompson to Start

Thompson is the next man up and slides right into Dallas’ back end after starting the club’s Week 3 win over the Dolphins in place of then-injured safety Xavier Woods. Thompson is assuming first-string reps in practice, according to reports, as Big D braces for Heath’s absence.

A fourth-year pro in his second season with the Cowboys, Thompson logged two tackles and a pass breakup against Miami and isn’t a downgrade on Heath, especially in pass coverage. And he’s ready to put his skills on display … again.

“It’s another opportunity for our team to go out there and win,” Thompson said, per the Dallas Morning News. “I’ve been doing everything I can to make sure that I do my job and take care of my (part) in helping our team win.”

Rest of Injury Report

The Cowboys are hurting pretty much everywhere, but the injury bug appears to have bit hardest along the offensive line. Left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle), right guard Zack Martin (ankle/back/elbow), and right tackle La’el Collins (knee/back) are all plagued by issues, while left guard Connor Williams is sidelined indefinitely following arthroscopic knee surgery.

Smith was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday and should be fine for Sunday’s game. Martin was limited after sitting out Wednesday’s session, and the team hopes he’ll do more Friday. Collins was given DNP designations on Wednesday and Thursday; he must practice on a limited basis Friday to have any chance of playing.

Meanwhile, in the secondary, dime cornerback C.J. Goodwin (knee) was limited Thursday after he was sidelined Wednesday. Considering his and Heath’s respective statuses, the Cowboys may opt to dress rookie DB Donovan Wilson in the Motor City. They also have the option of promoting DBs Josh Jones or Donovan Olumba from the practice squad, though Dallas would need to clear room on the 53-man active roster.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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