They landed another gutsy victory when they fought off the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8, but the sixth consecutive win for the Dallas Cowboys came at a price. Jabril Cox, the talented rookie fourth-round pick, went down on a punt late in the third quarter and did not return to the game. One day later, an MRI revealed the 23-year-old has suffered a torn ACL, sources confirm to CBS Sports, ending his first year in the NFL one day before the calendar flipped to November.
Cox was expected to see a ramp-up in his defensive reps following the release of Jaylon Smith, but the Cowboys will now have to move in a different direction. That audible will likely involve Francis Bernard, another talented linebacker whose looming return is both timely and fortuitous for the Cowboys -- Bernard having been designated to return from injured reserve last week. His return to practice began his 21-day window to be activated to the 53-man roster and, assuming he's ready over the next 13 days or sooner (he returned to practice on Oct. 25), he'll be looked upon to step in and fill the void left by an injured Cox.
As for the latter, it's now all about rest and recovery after surgery to repair the injury.
"Love this team. It's all a part of God's plan," he said, via Twitter. "Watch how I shake back!"
Head coach Mike McCarthy had nothing but praise for the progression of Cox over the past few months.
"Just hate to see that for Jabril," he said. "He was taking some steps every week. I thought he was playing very well for us on special teams. He had the one ticky-tack penalty there against the Chargers but I thought he's done a really nice job there. You could see he's really taking a lot of steps in the sub packages defensively. So, it's exactly what you're looking for for a rookie.
"He was challenging, competitive, just doing a good job on both teams. So, just frankly prepared himself, and if it ever got to him, we would have been very confident with him in there. So, sad to see that last night."
The 23-year-old began his collegiate career at North Dakota State, where he earned honors as MVFC Freshman of the Year and Second-Team All-MVFC (2017), MVFC Defensive Player of the Year (2018), two-time All-MVFC (2018, 2019), two-time FCS All American and three-time FCS champion. A 6-foot-3, 232-pound prospect with a great skill set, Cox went on to take his talents to the LSU Tigers in 2020 and continued to make plays in the SEC, showing off his elite coverage skills by finishing the year with three interceptions on the year -- along with five pass deflections in his 10 games played.
Cox has also always been more than willing to get his hands dirty on special teams, and that's an added attribute the Cowboys used in spades, given his ability to tackle and on-the-field speed. They look forward to him returning for Year 2, to continue the progress he was making as a rookie.
Bernard, a former undrafted free agent of the Cowboys in 2020 who is a former First-team All-Pac 12 talent, will get a chance to rebuild the momentum he established with a fantastic 2021 training camp -- halted initially by a preseason hamstring injury.