Linebacker Keanu Neal was already unlikely to play on Monday night after entering the COVID protocol earlier this week. Now he's definitely out for Week 3 after testing positive, and his status for Week 4 is highly questionable.
The Cowboys' defense is already shorthanded with several defensive line injuries and another COVID absence from DE Bradlee Anae. With LB Micah Parsons already expected to do a lot of pass-rushing work against the Eagles, this means more playing time for Leighton Vander Esch and perhaps Jaylon Smith and Jabril Cox as well.
Cowboys LB Keanu Neal won’t be available on Monday vs. Eagles, Mike McCarthy said. He has tested positive after entering protocol as a close contact.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 25, 2021
Neal joined the Cowboys this year after a five-year run in Atlanta as a safety. He converted to linebacker and has played on over 74% of the team's defense snaps so far in 2021; the most of any linebacker or defensive linemen.
For Vander Esch, who's only played 37.5% of those snaps, this is an opportunity to show some things in a critical contract year. Leighton is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2022 after Dallas declined to pick up his 5th-year option.
If Dallas is going to get the win on Monday Night Football they'll have to do it without Keanu Neal. At least they were already prepared for this scenario, but hopefully they have what the need to overcome it.