An offense nearing full strength isn't the only thing the Cowboys are anticipating for Thursday night.
Demarcus Lawrence is expected to play versus the Saints after recovering from a foot injury that held him out the last 10 games. The Cowboys pass rusher suffered a broken foot during a Sept. 15 practice ahead of Week 2, and his return comes at an ideal time for a Cowboys team that has lost three of its last four.
"He's one of the best edge rushers in the NFL," Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons said about Lawrence, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. "He's dynamic. The energy he brings to the table is great. We're all very, very happy to have him back.
"He's been hungry all year. He wanted a big year but the foot injury. I can't wait to see what he does."
Parsons has been the main benefactor of Lawrence's absence. The rookie was called upon by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to make an in-season position switch as a pass rusher in place of Lawrence, and Parsons has since led the team in sacks (nine), tackles for loss (15) and forced fumbles (two).
The idea of Lawrence and Parsons as a pass-rushing duo is intriguing, and where they line up will be a decision made by Quinn, who will be the Cowboys interim head coach for Thursday with Mike McCarthy out after testing positive for COVID-19.
Lawrence returned to the practice field for the first time last week, but cornerback Trevon Diggs explained that his presence as a leader never waned over the course of his long absence on the field.
"He's still our leader out there," Diggs said. "Still vocal, still making sure everyone's doing what they're supposed to out there. He's a great leader, showing us the way and leading us out there."
Diggs, who is the NFL's interception leader with eight, portends to get more opportunity at maintaining that lead with a bolstered Cowboys pass rush. The forthcoming return of Randy Gregory, who was placed on injured reserve in early November with a calf injury, only furthers that cause as the Cowboys (7-4) aim to capture the NFC East.
Of course, Thursday night's road tilt against the Saints will also see a Cowboys passing attack nearing full strength. Quarterback Dak Prescott hasn't had either Amari Cooper or CeeDee Lamb at his disposal the past two games, and the Cowboys offense has sputtered as a result. With Lamb off the injury report and Cooper questionable to play one day after being activated from the reserve/COVID list, the Cowboys offense looks to get back on track with December football underway.
"It's a blessing," said Diggs. "I'm so happy. We're finally getting our guys back, and we get to go out there and compete with everyone, with our guys. Just continuing our success for the defense with their presence."