FRISCO, Texas – DeMarcus Lawrence returned from a 10-game stint on injured reserve last Thursday against the Saints.
Randy Gregory started his 21-day IR practice window Wednesday with the possibility of returning to the lineup as early as this Sunday at Washington.
And Micah Parsons has been the constant force for all 12 games, emerging as the NFL's most dynamic rookie defensive player.
Finally, the Cowboys' top three pass rushers are back together on the field -- just in time for the critical December stretch run.
"It's scary. The three-headed monster, you could say," Parsons said. "It's going to be exciting to all play together, but I think that's the great part about having a good practice week. You've got an opportunity to learn how to all play with each other.
"We played with each other one time all year, so all week in practice and early on in practice, just kind of worked on timing and things like that, just to kind get back to used to being around each other. Once we get that stuff down, I think we're going to be really good."
Parsons is right. He, Gregory and Lawrence have barely played together this season -- only 28 snaps, all in the opener against Tampa Bay, according to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Lawrence broke his foot during a practice drill in Week 2 and missed the next 10 games following surgery. Gregory (5.0 sacks in seven games) sat out Week 2 at the Chargers because of COVID protocols and has been on IR with a calf injury the past three games.
In their absence, Parsons has brought stability to the pass rush as a part-time defensive end, part-time linebacker. His team-best 10 sacks are tied for eighth in the NFL and fast approaching Jevon Kearse's NFL rookie record.
"I'll certainly be looking forward to getting Randy and Micah and Law all together," Quinn said Monday. "I think if you had told me the three of those would have been together on the field for only 28 snaps heading into whatever it is, Week 14, that's not going to go good. But at the end of it, having guys play multiple roles and doing different things, I think that only adds value to what you're doing. We'll continue to add to the package with those guys."
Defensive tackle Neville Gallimore is also close to returning from an elbow dislocation that sidelined him all 12 games. And defensive tackle Trysten Hill is back from a one-game NFL suspension.
A full-strength defensive line will make everyone's individual jobs easier.
"When you have five dominant rushers up front, it's hard to send chips, it's hard to slide the whole line," said Lawrence, who was productive in 37 snaps against the Saints. "Now it's basically five up protection – one-on-ones. That's where I'm most comfortable at, with the one-one-ones. Because in all honesty I feel like no man in this world can beat me one-on-one, and that's how I approach life. Having those guys out there, man, it's a blessing to me – but also, having me out there is a blessing to them."
Where everybody lines up in Quinn's system remains to seen. The key, Parsons said, is practice time together, learning each other's strengths and figuring out the best way to defend the upcoming quarterbacks on the schedule, starting with Washington's Taylor Heinicke.
"Everybody's been excited about it, but at the end of the day you've got to work at it," Parsons said. "You've got to learn how to fit us all in at the same time and you've got to figure out how we're going to play and how we're going to create those challenges and mismatches."
"We've just got to find those details to make the offense think and work. We've just got to get the job done."