Dak Prescott is going to have yet another weapon soon, and it's a big one. Michael Gallup, the other resident 1,000-yard receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, was officially designated to return from injured reserve on Monday. Gallup has been on injured reserve since early September due to a calf injury that's cost him all but one game in 2021 -- the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- and returning to practice this week means the Cowboys will have 21 days to either formally place him back on the active roster or to revert him back to IR going forward.
In the absence of Gallup, the expectation was the Cowboys would see either Cedrick Wilson Jr. or Noah Brown step up, and both did, with Wilson stealing the show a time or two over the past five games. But for as talented as Wilson and Brown are, neither equates to what Gallup brings to the table: a physical downfield threat who can both attack the ball and would be defenders with pure violence that's reminiscent of what Dez Bryant was able to do in his prime.
Even in a down season fueled by Prescott's season-ending ankle injury, Gallup was able to rack up 843 receiving yards on 59 receptions (14.3 yards per catch) with five touchdowns, and 252 of his receiving yards came after contact -- showing he's just as prolific at running through the defense as he is at running past them. It's unlikely (albeit not impossible) he'll take the field against the Minnesota Vikings on Halloween, but that's a decision the Cowboys will make as the week rolls along and they see what manner of workload Gallup is prepared to handle in his first few days back at practice.
But whenever he is given the green light, the three-headed hydra of Gallup, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb will again be made whole, and with Wilson and Brown again showing their value, Prescott will have an embarrassment of riches at the WR position -- in a year wherein Gallup is also starving to put on a show with contract talks on the horizon.
He's not lacking for motivation, to say the very least, and seeing as his chemistry with Prescott is A1, Gallup is expected to do very real damage once he gets back onto the field.
The offense in Dallas (one that is also seeing the return of starting right tackle La'el Collins) isn't the only side of the ball potentially getting some reinforcements, by the way. They designated rookie second-round pick Kelvin Joseph to return in Week 6, and with his 21 days rapidly nearing its end (thanks to the bye week), there's a good chance he'll make his debut soon for the Cowboys, something that could come as early as Week 8 in Minnesota; contingent upon how he looks in practice this week.
And for those keeping count at home, Joseph's 21-day clock started on Oct. 13, meaning the Cowboys have to make a decision on him no later than Wednesday, Nov. 3. In other words, if there are no setbacks, Joseph could potentially be available no later than the Week 9 matchup against the Denver Broncos on Nov. 9, adding a defensive talent opposite the record-setting Trevon Diggs in the secondary.
Also returning to practice is linebacker Francis Bernard and former second-round pick Trysten Hill -- the latter having began camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform list) and has remained there since as he works his way back from a season-ending torn ACL suffered in 2020. It'll be an uphill battle for Hill to carve out playing time once he's activated, considering his starting role was initially awarded to Neville Gallimore, who presumably will regain his crown once he returns from IR (after suffering an elbow injury this preseason), and the emergence of rookies Osa Odighizuwa, Quinton Bohanna and Chauncey Golston.
Speaking of Gallimore, both he and All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence aren't quite ready to return to practice, but the Cowboys are optimistic both will be in tow for the final critical stretch of the regular season and, should they continue their current trajectory, into the playoffs. There is a bit of a roster window for Hill to climb in through, though, and it's in looking at the inconsistency between veterans Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins. Hill finally started to find his groove before getting injured in 2020, but he must now impress Dan Quinn, his third NFL defensive coordinator in his three-year career.
Bernard will likely have an easier path back at linebacker. The 26-year-old showed a lot of promise in training camp before going down in the preseason, a former First-team All-Pac-12 talent who re-enters an LB room that no longer houses Jaylon Smith. That not only elevates rookie fourth-round pick Jabril Cox (apparently on a graduating scale), but also creates more room for Bernard to make a case for defensive snaps.
It's an LB room now captained by rookie first-round pick Micah Parsons with depth that not only includes Cox but also Leighton Vander Esch, but some uneven play this season from Vander Esch keeps the door cracked for the Cowboys to take an in-game look at Bernard in the near future. For while talented, Luke Gifford has only been able to siphon away four defensive snaps all season and is mostly relegated to special teams -- having recently blocked a punt by the New England Patriots in Week 6 -- so the stage is set for Bernard to try and regain the momentum he saw slip away when he was moved to IR.
And so it goes that the 5-1 Cowboys are actually getting stronger as the season rolls along, while many other teams head in the opposite direction as the calendar turns to November.