IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys didn't come out of their regular season finale completely unscathed, as it looks unlikely they'll have Henry Melton for their wildcard matchup against Detroit.
"He hurt his knee, and we don't anticipate him being available certainly this week," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "We'll find out more specifically as we go. It's his knee and the area right below his knee. So we'll get some specifics to you, but he could be out for a little bit."
Melton injured the knee – his right knee – after just six plays in the Cowboys' 44-17 win against Washington. If there's any good news to be gleaned, it's neither an ACL injury, nor is it the same knee he injured in 2013, ending his season in September.
Melton could return if the Cowboys make a run deeper into the postseason, but itt doesn't look likely he'll be ready to return in time for Sunday's wildcard game.
"We'll see as we get more of the tests back what his availability will be," Garrett said. "Don't anticipate him practicing this week. We'll be more conclusive with what his diagnosis is here shortly."
The 2014 free agent signee hadn't been much of a factor recently when he injured the knee. He seemed to find his footing at the midpoint of the season, as he continued to recover from that 2013 ACL tear. In Weeks 8 and 9, he combined for five tackles and 3.5 sacks – by far his best output of the season.
In the seven games since then, he has combined for five tackles and no sacks.
Meanwhile, if injuries create opportunities, then Terrell McClain looks most likely to benefit from the news. McClain had arguably his best game as a Cowboy against the Redskins, as he notched four tackles and a sack, and he stripped Robert Griffin III, resulting in a Dallas touchdown by Anthony Spencer.
"Yeah, Terrell has done a nice job with his opportunities the last couple of weeks," Garrett said. "Again showing up as a run defender, he's affecting the quarterback – tackles for loss. He made a big play in the game with the sack-fumble that Spence picked."
The health of the rest of the defensive line will be a factor to watch as the week progresses. Garrett said Monday the Cowboys had hoped to play Josh Brent against the Redskins, but they feared he couldn't make it through an entire game after testing his injured calf during warmups.
Garrett said he was hopeful Brent would be available this week. If he isn't it would leave the Cowboys with Nick Hayden, Tyrone Crawford and McClain at defensive tackle. That scenario could see the team elevate either Davon Coleman or Ken Bishop from the practice squad against the Lions – though that remains to be seen.
What does look certain is that the Cowboys need to beat Detroit if Melton is going to have a chance to play another game this season.