Cowboys searching for stars as injuries wreak havoc on roster
Dez Bryant tops a list Dallas starters unlikely to return to practice until after the preseason opener at San Diego.
So say hello to receiver Lucky Whitehead, cornerback Byron Jones and running backs Lache Seastrunk and Gus Johnson, among others.
Coach Jason Garrett steadfastly declines to say whether any of the injured will sit for the visit to the Chargers on Thursday night, including cornerback Brandon Carr, who has a broken right hand.
But logic says two more days of practice, plus two travel days and the game, give the veterans plenty of time to heal and perhaps return to practice next weekend.
"It's going on to varying degrees across the league," executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said Sunday. "Everybody, when you get two weeks into camp, you have to work with it. Every situation is different. A veteran player getting hurt is different than a younger player."
And the list of injured veterans for the Cowboys is growing.
Bryant has been out since straining his left hamstring in practice Thursday, the same day Carr broke his hand engaging a receiver in a passing drill. Carr returned to the Dallas area, where he was expected to have surgery Monday before coming back to California.
Orlando Scandrick, the other starting cornerback alongside Carr, had missed a couple of days with a sore knee. And the Cowboys are bringing 2012 top 10 pick Morris Claiborne along slowly after his season was cut short last year by a torn patellar tendon in his left knee.
Jones, the first-round pick this year, is likely to see plenty of playing time against the Chargers because the Cowboys are working him at cornerback and safety in practice.
Tyler Patmon, one of the surprises of last year's camp, might be slowed by a hip issue, leaving Corey White, Robert Steeples, Joel Ross and Jason Wilson to get most of the work the rest of this week.
Garrett says his philosophy has always been to get players lower on the depth chart plenty of work in the two weeks before the preseason opener.
"And sometimes that's challenging," Garrett said. "You want to get the ones out there. But you really build your football team by giving younger guys and backup players an opportunity early on to see where they are, to see them compete on as level a playing field as possible."
With Bryant unlikely to play and Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley figuring to get limited snaps against San Diego because of their growing value, undrafted rookie free agent Lucky Whitehead will get a chance to follow up on a strong start to camp.
But a bunch of other receivers need looks as well: Reggie Dunn, George Farmer and Deontay Greenberry, not to mention 2014 fifth-round pick Devin Street and A.J. Jenkins, a first-round choice by San Francisco in 2012.
Running back Joseph Randle has been healthy all of camp, solidifying his status as the front-runner to replace NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray.
His two primary challengers, Lance Dunbar (ankle) and Darren McFadden (hamstring), are out. Lache Seastrunk, a second-year player, and undrafted rookie Gus Johnson will get plenty of carries against the Chargers.
"There are some many different opportunities, hurdles, obstacles that we have when we evaluate these guys," Garrett said. "And hopefully you've prepared them along the way to take the next hurdle. And we'll see if they have."