Going on the road to face one of the best teams in the NFL, it seemed like things were looking up for the Dallas Cowboys on the injury front. Connor Williams returned to practice this week and could start Sunday. Unfortunately, as the Dallas Cowboys prepare to travel to New England to face the 9-1 Patriots this Sunday, it looks like they’ll have to do so without one of their most important pieces on defense.
Per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, starting Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is not expected to play Sunday after suffering a setback related to the neck injury he suffered earlier in the season.
Concerns have surfaced about Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch, who’s already missed one game in 2019 to a neck injury. He underwent an MRI today for further evaluation following a flare-up. He is not expected to play Sunday vs. Patriots, sources said.
Vander Esch, who has had issues with his neck since his time at Boise State, was forced to miss the New York Giants game in week nine. Unfortunately for the 2018 first-round pick and the Dallas Cowboys, this will have an immediate impact on this week’s game and could put him in doubt for the Thanksgiving Day game against the Buffalo Bills as well.
Vander Esch didn’t look quite like himself even after returning from injury against the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions. He didn’t seem to have the same fluidity to movement when attempting tackles and looked much stiffer.
For the Dallas Cowboys, it means more snaps for Sean Lee and Joe Thomas on the defense. Though Vander Esch hasn’t been the player he was in his rookie year, it’s still a big blow to a defense that will need to have players with range on the field against the Patriots. New England relies a lot on the short passing game and yards after the catch to move the football.
Updated at 8:45 pm Thursday, November 21st.
The news gets worse for Vander Esch as more information is coming out. Per Todd Archer of ESPN, Leighton Vander Esch “will be examined in a few weeks to see if the inflammation has calmed down.”
In Archer’s report, he mentions three weeks as the timeline for his next MRI, which would put the reevaluation sometime around the time the Dallas Cowboys travel to play the Chicago Bears or the following week when they host the Los Angeles Rams.
What initially seemed like a one-game issue, now has the potential to put Leighton Vander Esch’s 2019 season at risk.