DeMarcus Lawrence is back, and he's starving. The All-Pro defensive end hasn't played a snap since the regular-season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, having suffered a fractured foot in preparation for Week 2. Immediately placed on injured reserve after undergoing surgery to repair the injury, Lawrence was designated to return from IR last week and now that he's ramped up fully in practice, he's officially been activated to the Cowboys roster -- the team announced -- and will start when they take on the New Orleans Saints on "Thursday Night Football".
His return is expected to provide a massive boost to a Cowboys pass rush that has been dominated by rookie sensation Micah Parsons but is also without the services of starting right defensive end Randy Gregory. It also comes at a much-needed time for Dallas, having lost three of their last four games and desperately looking to right the ship to both keep their NFC East rivals far in the rearview while remaining in striking distance for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
And with Gregory on track to potentially return in Week 14 against the Washington Football Team, along with starting defensive tackle Neville Gallimore -- who himself was designated to return from IR this week -- soon the Cowboys will be as whole as they've been on defense at any point this season. That's made impressive by the fact defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had the unit ranked in the top 10 in points allowed per game prior to their Week 12 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. With an influx of firepower like Lawrence now funneling in to start the all-important month of December, Quinn might be able to take the Cowboys' defense to an even higher level.
That mission begins in New Orleans, though, where Quinn is also handling duties as interim head coach after Mike McCarthy tested positive for COVID-19 early this week. In a game that sees the Cowboys not only returning Lawrence, but also two star receivers in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, the shorthanded Saints will have their hands more than full.
That said, in a season that's proven anyone can lose to anyone, Lawrence needs to hit the ground running to help lead the Cowboys to a game they feel they have to win. Lawrence's bullseye will be painted on Taysom Hill, who received the nod as starter this week over Trevor Siemian, as head coach Sean Payton banks on Hill's escapability in the face of the recovering Cowboys pass rush.