When the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals take the field on September 18, both teams will be missing several starting players after Week 1 took a toll.
The teams released updated injury reports on Wednesday. The Cowboys will be without four starters and will once again field a make-shift offensive line, while the Bengals will be short two players, including one of the team’s brightest offensive weapons.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy unsurprisingly ruled out quarterback Dak Prescott (thumb injury) and offensive linesman Tyron Smith (hamstring injury) for Sunday.
Prescott underwent surgery Monday to repair a Bennett fracture in the thumb of his throwing hand, while Smith is recuperating from an avulsion fracture that will likely keep him off the field for most of the 2022 season.
The Cowboys’ brass is hopeful that Prescott could return in as few as four weeks, though the injury may take as long as eight weeks to heal fully.
Adding to the Cowboys’ woes, left guard Connor McGovern (ankle injury) and safety Jayron Kearse (knee injury) will not participate.
With both Smith and McGovern out, duties will fall to a handful of largely untested and inexperienced players tasked with giving backup quarterback Cooper Rush an opportunity to be successful against a ferocious Bengals defense.
It will be the first start of the season for Rush and the second of his career that dates back to 2017.
The Cowboys expect to start Tyler Smith in place of Tyron Smith at left tackle.
The first-round pick in 2022, Tyler Smith, was drafted as the hopeful future for the Cowboys at the position, but the severe hamstring issue that Tyron Smith suffered in practice ahead of Week 1 has forced the coach’s hand.
Tyler Smith held up well in his first outing against Tampa Bay, but he faces a significantly greater challenge this week against a faster and more dangerous defense.
Matt Farniok will replace McGovern at left tackle. McGovern was injured during the Week 1 game against the Buccaneers on the first Cowboys drive, and he was replaced by Farniok for the remainder of the game.
Farniok was a seventh-round selection in the 2021 draft as a center after playing right guard and tackle in college, but O-line injuries will once again require him to pivot to a new position this week.
The injury to Kearse greatly reduces the Cowboys’ secondary threat, at least on paper. After Kearse went down in the third quarter of Week 1, a combination of Donovan Wilson and Malik Hooker stepped up to fill the vacancy. Wilson recorded an interception against Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady in the game.
Along the defensive line, the Cowboys are also likely to be without Tarell Basham, who suffered a thigh contusion in Week 1. After a stellar preseason, Basham appeared poised for a breakout season but has been unable to practice this week.
The Bengals injury report is much cleaner than the Cowboys, though it lists more players, many of whom were limited in Week 1 but have been full participants in practice this week.
Bengals star wide receiver Tee Higgins is currently in the NFL’s concussion protocol but has been able to participate in some practice reps this week.
There is a slim chance that Higgins clears protocol and is available on Sunday.
Only two Bengals players were listed this week as unable to practice. Receiver Trent Taylor and defensive linesman Josh Tupou, neither of whom are vital to the Bengals success, both continue to work through injuries that have prevented them from being participants this season.
The biggest question going into the Week 2 matchup between two teams looking to rebound from trying losses in Week 1 will be how well the Cowboys coaching staff can reimagine the offensive line. If the Bengals can exploit the lack of experience on the Dallas O-line, it could be a very long Sunday for Cooper Rush.