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USATSI

The injury bug is starting to chew away at the Dallas Cowboys roster. With an offseason that lacked minicamp and preseason, as well as an April start to offseason conditioning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it's no surprise teams around the NFL are dealing with a rash of injuries to start the year. The Cowboys had mostly avoided the bad luck in August, but September isn't nearly as forgiving. Having already moved starters Blake Jarwin (torn ACL) and Leighton Vander Esch (fractured clavicle) to injured reserve, they'll now be without another starter going into their Week 2 battle with the visiting Atlanta Falcons after sending cornerback Anthony Brown to IR on Saturday.

The team announced the move in the same breath as the activation of offensive tackle Eric Smith from the practice squad. Smith, a four-year pro, was signed to the 16-man unit in early September to bolster offensive line insurance. 

Brown, who will be eligible to return to play in three weeks under the new injured reserve rules, popped up on the team's injury report on Friday with a rib injury and was listed as questionable after participating in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. In assessing it all, it feels like a bit of chess being played in Dallas. This isn't to say Brown isn't injured, but it's impossible to ignore all of the pieces on the board here.

With starting right tackle La'El Collins already on injured reserve to start the year, backup swing tackle Cam Erving joining him after suffering a sprained MCL in Week 1, and perennial All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith labeled a game-time decision with a neck injury that cropped up in individual drills this week, the Cowboys need all the insurance they can get on the edges against a Falcons team that boasts Grady Jarrett and a hungry Takkarist McKinley. Moving Brown to IR gave them the room to promote Smith to the active roster in a week where they'll see the return of ballhawking corner Jourdan Lewis, who missed the season opener with an ankle injury. 

If Lewis isn't ready, it makes you wonder if he would be heading to the IR instead of Brown, seeing as the team desperately needs an additional body at tackle this week. That being said, it's Brown who'll be shelved for three weeks and Lewis enters as one of the best on the team in both coverage and takeaways. Therefore, it's not a downgrade for the Cowboys, but it does harm depth in the secondary, which could see a rookie like Reggie Robinson II escape the inactives list this week.