Donovan Wilson

Cowboys Designate DeMarcus Lawrence For Return

The Cowboys have designated defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence for return, as Doug Kyed of The Athletic tweets. The two-time Pro Bowler is back on the practice field today, and his 21-day activation window is officially open.

Per ESPN’s Ed Werder, Dallas is targeting next Thursday’s matchup with the Saints for Lawrence’s return to game action (Twitter link). Lawrence suffered a broken foot in practice after the club’s Week 1 loss to the Bucs, and he has been on injured reserve ever since.

Lawrence, 29, has yet to replicate the double-digit sack totals that he posted across the 2017-18 seasons, but he remains a key component of Dallas’ defensive front. He is a highly-effective run-stopper, and despite the drop-off in sack numbers, Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics have consistently pegged him as a top-tier edge defender. His return, and the imminent returns of fellow D-linemen Randy Gregory and Neville Gallimore, will be a massive boost to the Cowboys’ playoff push.

Dallas has lost another defender to injury, however. The team announced that it has placed safety Donovan Wilson, who is dealing with chest and shoulder ailments, on IR.

Wilson, a 2019 sixth-rounder, started 10 games for the Cowboys last season, notching 71 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and three passes defensed. He suffered a groin injury in training camp this year and aggravated the injury in Week 1, which forced him to miss the next four games. He was gradually eased back into action, and he started both of Dallas’ last two contests. On the season, he has 18 tackles and a pass defensed, and he presently ranks as Pro Football Focus’ 46th-best safety out of 91 qualifiers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DB Notes: Hughes, Surtain, Bears, Cowboys

The Vikings punted on Mike Hughes‘ contract year, sending the former first-round cornerback to the Chiefs in a pick-swap trade involving late-round selections. They felt comfortable doing so because of their additions at the position this offseason.

Mike is a terrific kid; he’s been injured an awful lot,” Mike Zimmer said, via ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin (Twitter links). “With the way that everything is now, we were fortunate to get a couple corners last year in the draft, we signed Patrick Peterson in free agency, so I think that gave us the opportunity to make the trade.”

Minnesota signed Peterson to a one-year, $10MM deal and reunited with former second-round pick Mackensie Alexander on a one-year pact. The Vikings drafted two corners high last year — first-rounder Jeff Gladney and third-rounder Cameron Dantzler — but a Gladney arrest earlier this year could affect his NFL future. Taken 30th overall in 2018, Hughes has only played 24 regular-season games during his career. The Chiefs have now taken fliers on two recent first-round corners — Hughes and DeAndre Baker — at low-cost rates.

Here is the latest news surrounding NFL secondaries:

  • Despite Justin Fields remaining on the board, the Broncos selected Patrick Surtain II at No. 9 overall. After seeing the last of their Super Bowl-winning No Fly Zone cogs depart in 2020 (Chris Harris) and Bryce Callahan encounter another injury, the Broncos moved aggressively at corner this offseason. Surtain, Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller now join Callahan. With the three veterans perhaps in line to be Denver’s top corners in Week 1, Surtain may be eased in gradually. However, he is viewed as an impact prospect who should be expected to help in 2021. Vic Fangio said the Broncos will train the 6-foot-2 cover man on the outside and in the slot, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post.
  • Formerly possessing a high-end cornerback contingent, the Bears have seen two of those cogs — Callahan and Fuller — rejoin Fangio in Colorado. The Bears cut Fuller this year after releasing slot man Buster Skrine. They signed Desmond Trufant, but the former Falcons Pro Bowler has missed 17 games over the past two years. Chicago has Jaylon Johnson locked in as a starter but did not draft a corner until Round 6 this year (Thomas Graham Jr.). Nevertheless, new Bears DC Sean Desai does not believe the team needs outside help here. “We’ve got enough depth where we’ll be able to solve that problem,” Desai said, via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. Desai mentioned 2020 fifth-rounder Kindle Vildor, who played 135 defensive snaps last season, as a player who could be elevated into regular duty — either outside or in the slot. The Bears have, however, checked in on Steven Nelson, joining several other teams in doing so.
  • Although the Cowboys signed former first-round safety Keanu Neal, they are planning a hybrid role for the standout tackler. At safety, the team may well be set to turn to the other ex-Falcon cover man they signed this offseason. Damontae Kazee and Donovan Wilson look like the favorites to start at safety, per Jon Machota of The Athletic (subscription required). A 2019 sixth-round pick, Wilson started 10 Cowboys games last season. Kazee replaced Neal as a full-time starter in 2018 and ’19, when Neal suffered early-season injuries. But the former fifth-round pick is coming off an Achilles tear himself, which could impact his path to the starting lineup.

Cowboys Hosting S Jayron Kearse

Malik Hooker and Damontae Kazee won’t be the only two safeties visiting the Cowboys. ESPN’s Todd Archer reports (via Twitter) that Dallas will also be hosting defensive back Jayron Kearse. Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News tweets that the auditions will take place tomorrow.

The 2016 seventh-round pick had spent the first four seasons of his career with the Vikings, missing only a pair of regular season games over that span. He ultimately started five of his 62 games for the organization, compiling 79 tackles, 0.5 sacks, eight passes defended, and one interception.

Kearse signed a one-year, $2.75MM deal with the Lions last offseason. He was later suspended for the first three games of the 2020 campaign for violating the substance-abuse policy, and he ultimately saw time in 11 games (seven starts) for his new squad, compiling a career-high 59 tackles. He was waived by the Lions late in the season and spent the rest of the season on the Ravens practice squad.

Now, the 27-year-old will have an opportunity to catch on with the Cowboys. Watkins notes that the Cowboys interest in Kearse, Hooker, and Kazee (along with the signing of Keanu Neal) doesn’t mean the team is done with Donovan Wilson, who started 10 games for the Cowboys last season. Rather, the team’s just looking to improve their defensive backs corps.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Sign Most Of Draft Class

The Cowboys have most of their draft signings out of the way. Everyone in Dallas’ draft class has agreed to, or signed, their rookie deals, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter), save for third-round guard Connor McGovern.

The following Cowboys rookies are now in the fold:

Hill, a 6’2″, 315 pound defensive tackle, left UCF on a sour note and openly complained about his lack of playing time in the team’s Fiesta Bowl loss to LSU. Throughout the year, Hill clashed with coaches and started only once in the team’s eleven regular season games. Still, the Cowboys see big potential in this supersized lineman.

Pollard, meanwhile, offers upside as a runner and as a receiver. Last year, he saw 78 carries out of the backfield and averaged 7.1 yards per try. He also caught 39 passes for 458 yards, showing that he is a multi-talented threat.