If one thing is certain about the Dallas Cowboys so far in 2020 it's that they are dreadfully weak on defense. One reason for that is the absence of starting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, and today we got an update on his injury and potential return from head coach Mike McCarthy.
Vander Esch suffered a broken collarbone during Dallas' Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. At the time it was projected as a “6-8 week” injury and Leighton has now missed the Cowboys' last three games.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said LB Leighton Vander Esch (fractured collarbone on Sept. 13) is “going to start working his way in.” Not expected to practice, but he’ll begin his work on the rehab field.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 7, 2020
With HC Mike McCarthy’s announcement that LB Leighton Vander Esch will be working back into practice, I’m told he’s healed post surgery but issue isn’t the healing part it’s more of when he can hit someone.
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) October 7, 2020
This update doesn't necessarily change anything from the original expectation. But it's good to hear that Vander Esch is at least making progress toward a mid-season return.
While his absence has nothing to do with COVID-19, Leighton can benefit from the new rules regarding injured reserve that the pandemic created for 2020. He's already served the three-week minimum on IR so he can return as soon as his health allow.
The Cowboys also have Sean Lee, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown and other key defensive players on IR right now. All are expected to return at some point this year and there is an unlimited number of recalls in 2020 due to the new rules.
Leighton Vander Esch is arguably the guy that Dallas misses the most. They need his presence and play-making in the middle of the field and to help Jaylon Smith find himself. Smith has struggled greatly as the Cowboys' top linebacker so far this season.
It could be at least another 3-5 games before we see the Wolf Hunter back on the field for Dallas. But this is a glimmer of hope that Vander Esch will return and be ready to help the Cowboys try and secure the NFC East in November and December.