The Dallas Cowboys couldn't ask for a better Week 8 injury report. Safety Juanyeh Thomas was the lone player listed on Wednesday's initial report, but only for clarification that he was a full participant with a hamstring injury that caused him to miss Week 6.
Thomas and the Cowboys reaped the benefits of the Week 7 bye, so they won't have any built-in excuses to lose to the 3-4 LA Rams on Sunday.
Last time out, Dallas' defense turned in a needed rebound performance against the Chargers after they were pummeled by the 49ers the week prior. That said, the unit is still leaking oil, specifically in the defensive backfield as the three-headed monster at safety hasn't performed up to expectations this season.
Namely, Jayron Kearse has been a major disappointment. Even Donovan Wilson and Malik Hooker have had tough moments both in coverage and defending the run. It speaks volumes the defense has performed as well as it as amid these struggles, but it's time for Thomas to get more snaps now that he's back healthy.
In other significant news, left tackle Tyron Smith is inactive with a neck stinger he suffered in Thursday's practice. This is a surprising turn of events given both Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy expected Smith to play.
Cowboys Week 8 inactives: Juanyeh Thomas active, Tyron Smith inactive with neck injury.
Moving past Smith, Thomas has flashed whenever he's been on the field and his popularity among fans has skyrocketed as a result. The only problem? He didn't log a single defensive snap in Week 3 and saw nine snaps (his second lowest tally of the year) against the 49ers in Week 5 despite being healthy. Ironically, the Cowboys lost both games.
It's a limited sample size, but Thomas is Pro Football Focus' fifth-highest-graded safety with a 87.4 player grade. That grade is fourth-highest on Dallas behind DeMarcus Lawrence, Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa. He also has two pass breakups on three targets and hasn't allowed a reception in coverage.
Again, Thomas has only logged 80 snaps, but the production speaks for itself. He plays with a competitive fire that occasionally goes missing on Dallas' defense. He hasn't missed a tackle (which has been an issue in the open field for Cowboys DBs this year) and has a propensity for coming up big on third down.
Simply put, Thomas is too impactful to be restricted to special teams. He's experienced rare linear progression since the start of training camp. Nobody's saying he should outright replace Kearse, Hooker or Wilson in the staring lineup, but he should absolutely begin eating into their respective workloads.
Anything less would be detrimental to the Cowboys. The name of the game is putting your team in the best position to succeed, is it not? Thomas needs to see the field a lot more on defense against the Rams and beyond.