IRVING, Texas– For about three weeks in training camp, we got a chance to see it.
But when the regular season began, we weren't able to witness it again until now. And as the Cowboys find themselves on a three-game losing streak and trying to rely on the defense even more with two key offensive starters out, the return of this dynamic couldn't come at a better time.
The Cowboys' all-star lineup of defensive linemen should be on the field together for the first time since the preseason. And even then, the schemes were rather vanilla as they were trying to hide the packages and rotations.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has been waiting for this. And as the Cowboys return to the field this week in preparation for the Giants, he'll finally have a full repertoire of pass-rushers to send at Eli Manning this Sunday.
Greg Hardy, DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey are all expected to play together for the first time this year.
That, of course, hinges on Gregory's return from a high-ankle sprain that he suffered in the first game against the Giants. The rookie rusher from Nebraska practiced last week and is expected to be ready for the next game.
The two quarters Gregory played against the Giants were enough to see what kind of ability he has, especially off the edge. And that was without Hardy on the other side or rushing from the tackle spot.[embeddedad0]
"Yeah, it'll help to get everyone back," Marinelli said. "You always want all of your guys. And when we're healthy, I think we have a chance to be really good. We just have to keep working. But, it's a good group."
Right now, the Cowboys are hoping the defensive line becomes better than good.
With the changes on offense this week, including Matt Cassel to start over Brandon Weeden, and possibly a switch at running back where Christine Michael is expected to get more carries, the defense will be leaned on more than ever.
While the bye week is typically a time to work on new wrinkles, just having these five guys together will provide looks the Giants shouldn't be able to fully prepare for.
In his first game as a Cowboy, Hardy did most of his damage against Tom Brady and the Patriots rushing off the edge at defensive end. He recorded two sacks and attacked the pocket all day, getting the future Hall of Fame quarterback to the ground several times.
Against the Giants, we might see Hardy more from the inside, as the Cowboys could use Lawrence and Gregory as outside rushers and let Hardy and Crawford work the inside at the tackle spots. That could leave Mincey out on some pass-rushing situations, but as we saw last week, the Cowboys used a variety of defensive packages.
They even showed a three-man attack that had Mincey on the inside at times, so don't expect him to be sitting too much on Sunday.
Whatever the combination the Cowboys use, it'll be with the mindset of creating havoc and trying to get turnovers. The Cowboys have not forced a turnover in each of the last three games and with just three takeaways all year, they are tied for last in the NFL.
"It's really the most significant statistic in football as we know, something we emphasize a great deal on our team to secure the football and go get the football," head coach Jason Garrett said. "And it's been a significant factor in our season up to this point, we were one of the best teams in the league at it last year, and up to this point, we have three takeaways and a lot of games where we don't have any takeaways, and it's not to say we don't have opportunities.
"If you keep hitting the ball hard, good things are going to happen. That's what we believe with that, and we keep emphasizing it because we know the importance of it."
Typically, the more pressure applied relates to more turnovers.
The Cowboys are certainly expecting more pressure this week and can only hope the turnovers will follow.