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Hankins 'hard-pressed' to be available vs. Bills


FRISCO, TX — The upgraded run defense in Dallas will be tested in a major way when the Cowboys go up against the Buffalo Bills in Week 15, and not simply because of the dynamic ability of running back James Cook and the running prowess of Josh Allen, but also because it's unlikely to see Johnathan Hankins take the field.

The big-bodied nose tackle suffered an ankle injury in the blowout victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14, and didn't return to the game thereafter. His injury has been labeled a high ankle sprain, but of the minor variety, which will likely keep him sidelined for a couple of games.

On Wednesday, head coach Mike McCarthy all but ruled him out against the Bills.

"Johnathan will be hard-pressed to go this week," said McCarthy.

This thrusts the spotlight onto rookie first-round pick Mazi Smith, who has spent time this season both in rotation with Hankins at times but also in packages that have placed him shoulder-to-shoulder with him.

The onus to fill the void created by the injury to Hankins won't fall squarely on the former Wolverine, however, because the Cowboys planned ahead for such an occasion when they signed former third-round pick Carl Davis to the practice squad at the end of November.

Expect Davis to be elevated for the first time this weekend to help Smith and others mount up against the Bills offensive front.

"I think both guys are good, young players," McCarthy said. "Mazi keeps getting better with every opportunity. You can just see the confidence and the understanding [improving], and this is all normal for rookies. He's not thinking about the calls, and so forth. And Carl is doing a really good job since he's been here, it's a big opportunity for both of these guys."

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