Washington missed the majority of offseason workouts (ankle) and training camp (fractured foot) which extended into him missing nearly three months of the regular season.
But Wednesday was a positive day for Washington, who was allowed to practice with the Cowboys, starting his 21-day practice window before an official return to the 53-man roster.
The Cowboys would need to make a roster move before elevating Washington from injured reserve.
“For a while there I thought I was getting old,” the 26-year-old Washington joked after Wednesday’s practice. They’re a lot of guys older than me and still doing it. So I had to put that picture in my head.”
In Washington’s four NFL seasons with Pittsburgh, he’s missed no more than two games in a single season, 2018 and 2021, yet his absence has lasted 11 games in 2022.
What Washington brings, whenever he’s officially elevated, is another deep play threat for quarterback Dak Prescott. Washington will play the same position as Michael Gallup, X-receiver.
“I can do whatever they want me to do,” Washington said. “We have a lot of good receivers on this team. With all of us together, the sky is the limit.”
In the offseason, Washington signed a one-year contract to become the No. 3 receiver but health issues prevented him from gaining some chemistry with Prescott and pushed younger receivers such as Jalen Tolbert and Dennis Houston up the depth chart.
“I mean, obviously, James has a lot of tape from his time at Pittsburgh,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We still feel the same about him, why he’s here, but we really want to see him work.”
Basham gets cut
A logjam at defensive end pushed the Cowboys to cut Tarrell Basham. After suffering a thigh injury in the season-opener versus Tampa Bay, Basham missed the next seven games before returning against Green Bay. Basham lasted nearly two seasons with the Cowboys, playing in 19 games. His absence allowed rookie Sam Williams to emerge along with veteran Dante Fowler.
The Cowboys have five defensive ends and that’s not counting Micah Parsons, who plays linebacker and end.
“It’s a catch-22,” McCarthy said. “You’re in a roster position with guys who are getting healthy, but you have 53 spots. I think it really came down to numbers and trying to forecast what’s in front of us.”
The Cowboys currently have an open roster spot and that might get filled by James Washington.
Micah meets Luka
Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons exchanged jersey’s with the other under-25 pro star in the DFW area.
“I’m still shocked,” Parsons said. “To this day we’re the same age (23) and the things you’re accomplishing and doing in this league pretty phenomenal. It was great to meet him and (Mark) Cuban and all those guys back there. It was a great experience for me.”
Two missing for illness one returning from it
Wide receiver Michael Gallup and cornerback Trevon Diggs missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness. However, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins returned to practice after missing last week’s game with a similar illness.
“I’m feeling much better now man, much better I should be able to go this week,” Hankins said. “I had to stay away from the family. I didn’t want no one else to get sick and then team just told me to rest so I can be better for this week. I’m over it now, thank God.”
Linebacker Anthony Barr (hamstring), safety Jayron Kearse (shoulder) and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (foot) were limited in practice but all are expected to play Sunday night against the Colts.
Tyler Smith with his hands full
Rookie left tackle Tyler Smith will face Colts end Yannick Ngakoue on Sunday. Ngakoue has 8 ½ sacks, six tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits this season. He also has six sacks and three tackles for loss the last six games.
If you don’t believe the two will see plenty of each other, Smith hasn’t missed an offensive snap all season, playing in 728 in 2022 tops among Cowboys’ offensive linemen. Ngakoue is second on the Colts as he’s played in 72.7% of the defensive snaps.
“He’s a talented athlete and he’s a speedy guy,” Smith said. “High effort, high motor a great change of direction. You definitely look at guys like that. You tailor your approach to your strengths and I’m still going to do what I’m good at and I’m not going to change anything though.”
The Colts have 31 sacks and 36 quarterback hurries this season. Overall, the Colts are ranked 13th in total defense.