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6 Days to Sunday: Ash Signed to 53-Man Roster; 49ers Must Avoid Slow Starts

(Editor's Note: Each week, the staff of will present "6 Days to Sunday" for the upcoming game, presenting a daily update for each team as they head into the upcoming contest. This week, the Cowboys come off the bye week and try to get a win in the Bay Area.)

WHAT: Dallas Cowboys (2-3) at San Francisco 49ers (0-5)
WHEN: Sunday, 3:05 p.m. (Central)
WHERE: Levi's Stadium
TELEVISION: Fox (Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman & Erin Andrews) 


*With an open roster spot following Stephen Paea's decision to retire, the Cowboys signed defensive tackleRichard Ash* from the practice squad Saturday. Ash was signed off Jacksonville's practice squad late last season, and he went to training camp with Dallas this year. If active Sunday against the 49ers, he'd provide depth behind starter Maliek Collins. The Cowboys have also used David Irving at tackle since he has returned from suspension and also have Brian Price for depth purposes.


* *While the 49ers are getting outscored in the first three quarters, they do have a sizeable advantage against their opponents in the fourth quarter. The 49ers have outscored teams 46-32 in the final 15 minutes of the game. The problem for San Francisco has been too many slow starts. The 49ers have been outscored in the first quarter 37-13. On the flip side, the Cowboys have also had slow starts, getting outscored 23-13 in the first. In the fourth, they have just a 40-39 scoring edge.


* *The Cowboys are expecting to have their quarterback on defense back in the lineup on Sunday. Sean Lee has missed the last two weeks with a hamstring injury, and has been sorely missed. The Cowboys scored 30 points at home in consecutive weeks and still lost. Not only that, but the defense has allowed 100-yard rushers in both games. Lee's presence will not only be felt, but it marks the first time all season the Cowboys will have both Lee and Anthony Hitchens in the lineup together. Not only that, but both of them should be able to give Jaylon Smith a needed rest. 


*Linebacker has been a hot topic in San Francisco as well, especially after the somewhat-surprising release of longtime veteran NaVorro Bowman, who had a scheduled visit with the Cowboys before deciding to stay in the area and sign with the Raiders. But it was clear the 49ers are looking more towards the future, which includes first-round draft pickReuben Foster*. The former Alabama standout has been out of the last five games with an ankle injury. He's questionable to play this week against the Cowboys after being limited in practice all week, as his fellow linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, who has been limited with a shoulder injury. (Full Injury Report)


*The Cowboys will likely have to monitorTyron Smith* and his back issues for most of the year, but they were able to get a full dose of their left tackle on Thursday. While Smith hasn't missed a game action with a nagging back injury that has bothered him on and off for about two seasons, he has been missing practices during the week, including Wednesday despite having the bye week to rest. Smith should be a full-go again at left tackle against the 49ers. If there is a domino-effect to the Cowboys giving him rest, Jonathan Cooper is getting more work at left guard and should start his third straight game. Smith's injury puts Chaz Green at left tackle in practice, which opens the door for Cooper to get more reps at guard, a spot Green started the first three games of the season.


*If there's one player on the 49ers defense that should have some extra emotions heading into Sunday's game, it could be rookie defensive linemanSolomon Thomas*. Not only has he been one of the 49ers' best players, but he grew up just a few miles away from the Cowboys' former headquarters at Valley Ranch. In fact, Thomas was a standout at Coppell High School during some of the times the Cowboys would practice at the school's indoor facility on weather days. Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has been nominated for the Pepsi Rookie of the Week award three times in six weeks so far, including last week against the Redskins when he had nine tackles and his second sack of the year.


* *Rookie defensive back Chidobe Awuzie was listed once again as "Did Not Practice" on Wednesday with a hamstring injury that has bothered him since training camp. Awuzie was on the field with the team early in the session but didn't participate in the team drills. He missed more than two weeks of camp and then returned for a game, only to re-injure his hamstring in Week 2 against the Broncos. After missing two more games, Awuzie returned to face the Packers, where he lined up at both cornerback and safety. It'll be interesting to see if the Cowboys were limiting Awuzie for Wednesday, only to ease him into action later this week. (Full Injury Report)


* *If Cowboys punt returner Ryan Switzer is ready for another breakout runback, this might not be the best game for it. While despite being 0-6, there some things the 49ers do rather well and punting the ball, and better yet, fielding it, is one of them. The 49ers lead the NFL in opponents' punt return average at just 1.7 yards a return. Punter Bradley Pinion is averaging 44.8 yards a punt, and just 44.0 on his net returns. San Francisco has had plenty of opportunities to punt the ball, but its doing a fine job of getting down the field and making stops, with 13 yards being the longest return against them this year.


* *Despite playing just five games, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence continues to lead the NFL in sacks with 8.5. He's already surpassed his previous career-high in a season with eight, his final total in 2015. That year, Lawrence ripped off seven sacks in the second half of the season, so the Cowboys can only hope the best is yet to come from D-Law. But for now, his start to 2016 is already one of the NFL's best ever. With another sack this Sunday, it'll mark just the 10th time in league history for a player to begin a season with a sack in six straight games. The only Cowboys player to accomplish that feat was DeMarcus Ware (first seven games) en route to a 20 sack season in 2008.


*After being inserted into action midway through Sunday's game in Washington, rookieC.J. Beathard* will get his first NFL start Sunday against the Cowboys. Beathard, a third-round pick (104th overall) from Iowa, has been the 49ers' backup QB behind Brian Hoyer, who was benched midway through last week's game. First-year head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Monday that Beathard would be the starter moving forward, telling reporters he is "excited with how he played" against the Redskins. "I knew he had been getting better (in practice)," Shanahan said. "I knew he was about ready. Definitely at the time I thought he gave us best chance to win, and I think that going forward, also."


*Coming off the bye week, the Cowboys have some depth issues at linebacker, which is why they scheduled a visit with veteranNaVorro Bowman*, who was recently cut by the 49ers after seven-plus seasons with the team. However, Bowman canceled the visit on Tuesday after signing a 1-year deal with the Raiders, which obviously keeps him in the Bay Area. The Cowboys have struggled with injuries at the position all year but should get Sean Lee back after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Anthony Hitchens missed the first four games with a knee injury, so Sunday's game in San Francisco should mark the first time both Hitchens and Lee will play together this year. That should lighten the work load for Jaylon Smith, who leads the team in tackles with 54, but is still working back into action after missing all of last year with a knee injury.  


* *Once again, the 49ers found themselves on the wrong end of a close game. This time, they came up short on the road in Washington, where the Redskins staved off a last-second drive to win 26-24. It not only kept the Niners winless on the season at 0-5, but they became the first team in NFL history to lose five straight games by three points or less. The streak started in Seattle, where the 49ers lost 12-9, followed by a 41-39 defeat to the Rams. Then it was a pair of road overtime losses to the Cardinals (18-15) and Colts (26-23) before a third straight road game saw them fall short again to the Redskins.

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