The 7-6 Dallas Cowboys will be taking on the 6-7 Oakland Raiders on Sunday night in Oakland, California. Both teams are still in the hunt in their playoff pictures and must win out if they want a chance at playing football in January.
Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett said Friday that David Irving (concussion) and Orlando Scandrick (back) would miss a third day of practice each, which was followed by the team listing both players as out for Sunday night's game against the Raiders. This will be the second straight game that both defenders will be inactive due to injury.
Both players suffered their injuries in the Washington Redskins game just three weeks ago and have yet to practice since. In their absence, rookie Lewis Neal and newly signed Datone Jones will get a lot of work at the three-technique position to fill in for David Irving.
Datone Jones, Lewis Neal
Against the Giants, Jones was credited with two tackles and one run stuff, according to ESPN.
Along with Datone Jones, Lewis Neal will also get playing time at defensive tackle. Of the two players, Neal is the better pass rusher and he's shown that in the limited playing time he's received.
Neal is an undersized defensive tackle that I evaluated as a 3-4 defensive end in last year's draft process. His explosive first step and ability to convert speed to power makes him a tough matchup for offensive lineman when rushing the passer.
While I would prefer to have David Irving on the field, a combination of Lewis Neal and Datone Jones can get the job done and make some big plays while doing so.
The other player the Cowboys will be without this weekend, is starting cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Just like David Irving, Orlando Scandrick has yet to practice in the last two weeks. His replacement, Chidobe Awuzie has been phenomenal while filling in for the 10th year veteran.
Against both the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, Awuzie has gotten the start at left cornerback. In those two games, Chidobe Awuzie was targeted eight times, and in those eight targets, he gave up only two completions for 19 yards. He also has five passes defended and six tackles over the two-game span.
He has performed excellently after spending most of his rookie season on the sideline nursing a hamstring injury.
Chidobe Awuzie was targeted 5 times against NYG. Allowed only 2 catches for 19 yards. Eli had a 51.3 passer rating when targeting him, per PFF#DallasCowboys
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) December 11, 2017
Normally, when the Cowboys' defense looks to be without two of its better players, Cowboys Nation starts to panic, but you shouldn't this week. I have faith in Lewis Neal, Datone Jones, and Chidobe Awuzie to hold down the fort and you should too.
Look for #33, #58, and #66 to make a ton of plays in both the running and passing game this Sunday night against the Oakland Raiders.
What are the Cowboys' chances against the Raiders without Irving and Scandrick?
Let me know below!