IRVING, Texas – Anthony Spencer's on track to play for the first time in more than a year this weekend.
The Cowboys' former Pro Bowler only played in one game last year – a Week 2 contest against the Chiefs – before a knee injury required microfracture surgery. If all goes to plan, he'll be able to join a defensive line in need of a boost against the Saints.
"To have Spencer back is great," said George Selvie. "He's a Pro Bowl guy who can rush the passer. We need somebody out there that can do that. With him coming back, we have a lot of rotation going on. Having him there is going to be great."
Spencer told reporters Thursday he plans to make his debut this weekend after practicing on a limited basis the past two days. That's a possibility that excites defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who hasn't gotten to see a fully healthy Spencer since he's arrived in Dallas.
The last time Spencer played more than one game in a season was in 2012, when he finished with a career-high 11 sacks. But Marinelli knows he can't wear Spencer out or expect that type of immediate impact the first time the defensive end steps back on the field after returning from such a major injury. [embedded_ad]
"That's probably No. 1, is make sure we don't overuse him," Marinelli said. "He's kind of on a pitch count. But, you know, he's had a good week of work. He hasn't played in a year, so he's practiced well. He's got all the stuff you want. Hopefully this week and every week after this he gets better and better, and now you look for matchups. Once you get a guy like that, then it starts helping everybody."
The defensive line has struggled to get much of a rush without Spencer through three weeks. The Cowboys are tied for 27th in the league in sacks, and only one of their three sacks came from the defensive line.
Marinelli said Spencer's capable of flipping around to either side of the line to exploit a matchup. He wouldn't commit 100 percent to having Spencer this weekend, but he sounds confident Spencer will get to play in some capacity.
"As far as I know, yeah," Marinelli said. "That's no guarantee."
The Cowboys are mixing and matching on their defensive line with Spencer likely back and Henry Melton dealing with a hamstring injury. Tyrone Crawford's bumped inside to tackle to help work around Melton's injury. Selvie hopes the addition of Spencer and the adjustments that have been made will help get the sacks going.
"That's what I'm hoping for," Selvie said. "Hopefully, they come in bunches. We've just got to start with one first."