The Dallas Cowboys celebrated a decisive 49-17 victory against the New York Giants on Sunday, maintaining their undefeated record at home. However, the triumph was tempered by significant setbacks on the defensive front that may impact the team’s performance for the rest of the season. In a report by Michael Gehlken from the Dallas Morning News, it was revealed that cornerback and key special teamer C.J. Goodwin will miss the remainder of the season due to a pectoral injury sustained in week five against the 49ers, requiring surgery. Additionally, hopes for linebacker Leighton Vander Esch’s return have dwindled, with the possibility of a second neck surgery looming.
The gravity of any neck-related injury for Vander Esch is heightened, given his history of a bulging disk that led to a fusion procedure in early 2020. Although he made a swift recovery and demonstrated improved performance upon his return, the specter of a second surgery now poses a challenging decision for the 2018 first-round pick regarding his football future. The need for another surgery to address the current matter remains undetermined at this time, according to a source close to the situation.
Despite these setbacks, the Cowboys have managed the losses effectively so far. Nashon Wright stepped in admirably, playing over half of the team’s special teams snaps in the first game without Goodwin against the Chargers. The coaching staff has also experimented with Sam Williams as a gunner on punt coverage. However, the absence of Goodwin, a reliable veteran, is a significant blow to the special teams unit, acknowledged by special teams coordinator John Fassel.
C.J. Goodwin, following a recent setback, has confirmed plans to undergo surgery on Friday to repair a torn left pectoral muscle, effectively ending his season. In Vander Esch’s case, the neck injury that forced his exit from the October 8 game is proving to be a lingering issue. A source familiar with the matter indicated on Monday that Vander Esch “most likely” will miss the remainder of the season.
In Vander Esch’s absence, the Cowboys have discovered a promising linebacking duo in Markquese Bell and Damone Clark. Despite losing rookie DeMarvion Overshown for the season, the team’s long-term outlook at this position appears robust. However, concerns persist about how the team will fare physically against run-first power offenses without Vander Esch’s seasoned presence.
The defensive strategy has adapted with Bell and Clark offering versatility that allows defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to deploy various defensive schemes. Defensive tackles Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore, and Mazi Smith have stepped up to set the tone upfront, mitigating the loss to some extent. Nevertheless, for a team aspiring to reclaim Super Bowl-contending status, losing a battle-tested player like Vander Esch for the entire year is far from ideal.
After early hope they might return in 2023, Cowboys CB C.J. Goodwin to undergo season-ending pectoral surgery, and LB Leighton Vander Esch “most likely” won’t be back this season. More details: https://t.co/pwpZz56TKM— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 14, 2023
Looking ahead, C.J. Goodwin’s contract is set to expire at the end of this season, while Leighton Vander Esch remains under contract through 2024.