FRISCO, Texas – Defensive co-captain Orlando Scandrick has missed the first two days of practice this week with a back injury that could sideline him Sunday against the New York Giants.
If so, the Cowboys will continue to rely more on their three rookie cornerbacks – Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods and Jourdan Lewis – as they begin a December push for the playoffs.
Last Thursday against Washington, the trio played extensive snaps in the same game for the first time all season.
Back from a nagging hamstring injury, Awuzie made his first career start at left cornerback and broke up three passes in 53 snaps, nearly equaling his workload in the first 11 games combined.
"I saw a lot of energy," defensive coordinator Rod Marinell said of the rookies. "You can see the talent Chido has. He's a long, long corner and he can really run. I just think the next step, each day he has an opportunity to keep playing and play in the game, he's going to get better and better."
Woods is technically listed as a safety but has played more slot corner as the season has progressed, including the Cowboys' 38-14 win over Washington. Marinelli said he likes Woods' instincts at the position.
With Scandrick currently sidelined, Marinelli said he would let the other corners rotate in practice and then make a decision on playing time at the end of the week. Lewis, second-year pro Anthony Brown and Bene Benwikere are part of that competition.
The Cowboys knew at some point they would need their young corners to step up. They drafted Awuzie (second round), Lewis (third round) and Woods (sixth round) after veteran starters Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne left in free agency.
Nolan Carroll, a veteran free-agent addition replacement, was released in early October. The coaching staff moved Awuzie into the starting lineup over Brown last week. Now Scandrick's injury – two transverse process back fractures – leaves his status in doubt for Week 14.
The time for the young guys appears to be now.
"We all have confidence in ourselves and confidence in each other," Woods said.