FRISCO, Texas – Barry Church returned to practice for the first time in a month on Sunday, though the Cowboys were without five defenders.
It's been almost a month since Church broke his forearm in the Oct. 30 win against Philadelphia, and his return to practice couldn't have come at a better time, given that J.J. Wilcox sat out with the thigh contusion he suffered against the Redskins last week.
Injuries in the secondary have been a theme for the past month or so. In addition to Church and Wilcox, the Cowboys are still coping with the loss of Morris Claiborne – who is still recovering from the groin injury he suffered in the Eagles game.
The Cowboys have to be hoping that Church's return can bolster a secondary that is giving up an average of 372 passing yards per game over the last three weeks. Although coach Jason Garrett said Sunday said there are a variety of factors contributing to the defensive play other than just injuries.
"I think if you look at the individual plays when we've given up big plays it's team defense," he said. "There are a lot of examples of us playing really good team defense over the last couple or three weeks and there's some examples where we didn't, whether we didn't tackle well or we weren't playing with the right leverage or understanding what our coverage responsibility was and executing that. You can point to those in the passing game."
The defense might have its back against the wall in more ways than one, as there were three other key defenders absent for the first practice of the week. Justin Durant injured his hamstring in the win against Washington and was rehabbing the injury with the Cowboys' athletic training staff during Sunday's practice.
The reasons are currently unclear, but defensive linemen David Irving and Jack Crawford were also absent from practice.
Sunday was a healthy day for the offensive, however. The only offensive player to sit out was Chaz Green, who has been limited in practice since injuring his foot Oct. 2 in the win against San Francisco.