© Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It's quite evident that the Dallas Cowboys defense wasn't the reason for the 19-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11, just as clear as it is how well Dan Quinn has done at coordinating a unit (in his first year with them, no less) that hasn't been whole at any point during the 2021 season. It appears the latter might soon change though, with All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence leading the charge as the Cowboys ready for the most important portion of their season, and he's not the only one nearing a return.

Lawrence, who has been absent since suffering a broken foot in the days ahead of the team's matchup in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers, is expected to be designated to return from injured reserve this week. 

That will start the 21-day practice window on Lawrence, and the Cowboys will either have to activate him to the 53-man roster by the 21st day or revert him back to IR, but sources tell CBS Sports that barring a setback of some sort, he's on track to potentially suit up in Week 13 -- when the Cowboys visit the Saints in New Orleans. The two-time Pro Bowler has already been seen doing work in a helmet and cleats, and will now ramp things up with the hopes of rejoining the team at the beginning of December.

It's possible he'll be joined by Randy Gregory, who suffered a calf strain in the Week 9 loss to the Denver Broncos that wasn't deemed severe by the team, but severe enough to land him on IR after an MRI was done. Gregory will be eligible to return to the practice on Monday, following the battle with the Raiders, but the Cowboys will do their due diligence before designating him to return -- i.e., making sure he's ready to do so.

They'll have to wait a little longer for backup defensive lineman Brent Urban and starting defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, the two currently recovering on IR from a triceps and elbow injury, respectively, and "have a little more work to do," as described on Monday by head coach Mike McCarthy. Gallimore has yet to take the field in 2021 after suffering a hyperextended elbow in the preseason and given his position, the Cowboys want to first make sure his arm is 100% healthy before activating him, a wise move that will help prevent a potentially devastating setback.

After all, defensive linemen depend on their ability to strike and swim, so rushing Gallimore's injury is not an option.

It's an exciting time for a defensive unit that's top-10 (8th) in the league in points allowed per game (21.4) to be on the verge of seeing their best two defensive ends return to the field, and knowing that might only help rookie sensation Micah Parsons -- who has eight sacks himself through the first 10 games -- reach another level as the Cowboys begin to approach the postseason. It's something team exec Stephen Jones is already working up a lather over, and everyone in the build shares his energy.

"I think [Parsons is] only going to show up more as we get Randy Gregory back and DeMarcus Lawrence back, which hopefully is right around the corner," Jones told 105.3FM the Fan on Monday. "And it should just make our defense all the more dynamic when you have your pass rushers and you have Micah added to that.

"It should be a handful for the quarterbacks that we're going to be playing down the stretch."