EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Help may be on the way for the somewhat undermanned Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants heading into their NFC East showdown on Monday night.
Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup and Giants outside linebackers Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux seemingly are ready to make their 2022 debuts after missing the opening two games.
All three were projected starters, but injuries have had them inactive on game days.
“Nobody wants to be on the sideline, but I think that’s the part of team sports; you’ve really got to be humble,” said Thibodeaux, the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. “I can’t win a game, and I can’t lose a game. All I can do is contribute to the outcome. So, for me, even when I’m not on the field, (it’s) figuring out how I can contribute to the guys I’m playing with."
Those days seemingly are over. All three players took team reps in practice this week and are expected to play even though they have been listed as questionable.
Gallup has been rehabbing a torn ACL from late last season. Ojulari started camp on PUP with a non-football related hamstring injury and then hurt a calf before their preseason finale.
Thibodeaux sprained his knee on Aug. 21 in a preseason game against Cincinnati.
Both teams could use the reinforcements.
Dallas (1-1) will be without quarterback Dak Prescott, starting left guard Connor McGovern and possibly tight end Dalton Schultz, who hurt a knee last weekend and practiced on Friday on a limited basis. He is questionable, but less likely to play.
Gallup would give the Cowboys the ability to help stretch the field in the passing game.
Cooper Rush, who threw for 235 yards and a touchdown in his first start replacing Prescott, said it's awesome to have Gallup back.
“You kinda forget how big he is,” Rush said. “He walks in the huddle and you’re like, Oh 13 is back in the huddle. Looks good out there. Made a few plays today. I mean seems to me he’ll be working his way in. But I think we’re all happy where he’s at.”
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Gallup won't be an every-down player, but one who will get situational use coming off the injury.
The Cowboys also have concerns about linebacker Micah Parsons' availability. He's expected to play as Dallas goes for its 10th win in 11 games against New York.
The surprising Giants (2-0) probably will not have top defensive lineman Leonard Williams. He hurt a knee in the win over Carolina last weekend and his streak of 21 consecutive starts for the Giants is in danger after not practicing this week. He has not missed a game in his eight years in the NFL.
When he went down in the third quarter, the Giants used a defensive formation went featured two linemen and combination of linebackers and cornerbacks.
Ojulari and Thibodeaux are edge rushers who are strong enough to play the run, so they would help fill the hole up front.
"I hope so,” said coach Brian Daboll, who is looking to lead New York to its first 3-0 start since 2009. “I’m happy for the players that they’re getting better. I’ve been hopeful the last couple of weeks. They’re two good players for us. You’d like to have every player you can available. So, I’m excited if they’re ready to go. It’ll be good to have them out there.”
Cornerback Aaron Robinson (appendix) and receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) are going to be sidelined for the second straight week.
The game will be a chance for the Giants to show they have started to turn things around after five straight losing seasons. For the defending NFC East champion Cowboys, this game means not falling behind a division foe by two games just three into the season.
“This is an important game,” McCarthy said. “It’s a division game. It’s our first division game. It’s ‘Monday Night Football.’”
AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this report.
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