It would be amazing to see the full Cowboys defensive line on display. They have done a pretty good job this year despite a multitude of injuries. When are DeMarcus Lawrence, Neville Gallimore and Randy Gregory due back and what are your expectations for this defense when we get everyone on the field again? – TODD COLBERT / CLEVELAND, TN
David: We get more questions about this than anything else, and I totally get it. Particularly for Gallimore and Lawrence, it's been a long wait since they first got hurt. I feel comfortable at this point saying it's probably going to be December. Mike McCarthy said Monday he doesn't expect anyone to start practicing this week, and I doubt they're going to bring those guys back on a short week for Thanksgiving. That's not the end of the world, though. Even if they don't make it back until mid-December, there will still be plenty of games to play – especially when you consider the fact that this team absolutely needs to be thinking about the big picture of the playoffs.
Nick: The expectations are obviously much higher than what we've seen. More sacks, more turnovers, more pressure and less yards/points. What else can you expect when Gregory, D-Law, Gallimore and anyone else like that return to the field? I think having both ends return after Thanksgiving (which is something I'm hoping for) can add a much-needed boost to the defense. Gallimore should give the defense more athleticism in the middle and don't forget about Trysten Hill. He wasn't bad in his first game back in over a year.
To my eye, Carlos Watkins and Justin Hamilton deserve some credit for their disruptive play in the interior of the defensive line. Brent Urban was solid, but I seldom saw his number chasing the quarterback or making solo tackles at the line of scrimmage. Suddenly the defense looks better. Can't it be argued that hard work in the trenches leads to the flashy plays that are getting others so much attention? – JAMES RAMSEY / GREENSBORO, NC
David: The Cowboys don't have the best front in football, but it's pretty remarkable what they're getting from their DTs when you consider that they haven't had Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill all year. Watkins and Hamilton definitely deserve credit, but so do Osa Odighizuwa and Urban. Throw the linebackers in there for working with those guys. This was an awful aspect of the Dallas defense in 2020, and that hasn't been the case this year – even despite being short-handed. It's an underrated aspect of this team.
Nick: Yeah, we don't talk much about Hamilton but he provides some beef in there. We talk a lot about the 3-technique guys like Hill, Odighizuwa and Gallimore, but Hamilton has done a nice job with Watkins. What they need to do is take up space and blocks and let the linebackers go hunt and that's what they've done this year. They're not talked about a bunch, but that's the nature of the position usually.