It's tough to get a read on how good the pass rush can be, because we seemingly can never quite get to full strength. How much of a concern is that until Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence return from IR, and what's the true potential of the pass rush? — MIKE S / DALLAS, TX
Nick: I think it's a big concern because Randy Gregory was playing better than any other player on defense and that includes Diggs and Parsons. What Gregory was providing was more than just rush and so without him, and with Tank not back yet, it's going to be tough to replace. Parsons will help in some capacity as a rusher but if guys like Armstrong, Basham and Chauncey Golston are ever going to take that leap in their careers and turn into viable pass-rushers, now is the time.
David: It's definitely concerning. With Tank and Randy sitting out, you're leaning on two veterans with 10 combined career sacks and a couple of rookies. I think it's going to fall on Dan Quinn to get creative and find a way to generate pressure unconventionally for at least the next few weeks. The good news is that both Lawrence and Gregory should both be back at some point in December, which gives them a few weeks to rev up (hopefully) for the playoffs. If these two can hit their stride right in time for a possible postseason run, I think the potential is sky high.
I was a little surprised to see Leighton Vander Esch is third on the team in tackles since he seems to be having a quiet season compared to the big splash rookie season. Is he making impact plays that we miss because all eyes are on Micah Parsons, and is he playing his way to a second contract with the Cowboys? — JOEY ARNEL SAYSON
Nick: No, I don't think he's making plays that we're missing. Honestly, the middle linebacker should lead the team in tackles or at least be right there at the top. So being third isn't too far behind, but it's not much of a surprise to me. I think LVE has played pretty well this year but he's not having the splash plays we saw in his rookie season. As for the contract, I'm sure the Cowboys would like to re-sign him but it'll be interesting to see what his market value looks like. Remember this, if he doesn't sign with the Cowboys, they now have a pretty glaring void at linebacker all of a sudden and it would be a position to address in the draft or free agency. So I'd imagine the Cowboys would like to re-sign him at a good price and lock him up.
David: He is flying under the radar a little bit, isn't he? I think he's been solid this season. You're right that the splash plays haven't been there, but I think he's been good far more often than not – and he's also been healthy, most importantly. It's hard to answer the contract part. That's going to depend on how the season ends and what his market looks like among other teams. There are also internal factors. I don't think you can underestimate how big of a blow it was to lose Jabril Cox for the season, because that's a guy they're looking to as a possible future starter. Deciding whether or not to re-sign Vander Esch is going to hinge on the price, as well as how the front office feels about the options behind him.