Dallas Cowboys may be getting needed help on defense

FRISCO, Texas - With a struggling defense, the Dallas Cowboys could start to get some help on that side of the ball with the returns of defensive end Randy Gregory, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and cornerback Anthony Brown over the next few weeks.

Gregory is on the commissioner's exempt list as he works back from a suspension that has kept him off the field since a 2018 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Wednesday will be his first on-field work with the team. He was conditionally reinstated last month, but he has only been able to take part in meetings and work out.

Mike McCarthy said he is "very anxious," to see what Gregory, who had six sacks in 2018, can do. A series of violations of the substance abuse policy and injuries led Gregory, a second-round pick in 2015, to miss 56 of a potential 84 regular-season games.

"Just heard a lot about him from [executives Jerry and Stephen Jones], and so just excited for him for everything he has gone through to get to this point and prepare himself," McCarthy said. "I think everybody, to a man, is excited to see him take that first step."

Vander Esch, Dallas' starting middle linebacker, suffered a broken collarbone in the first quarter of the season-opening loss to the Rams. He had surgery and was placed on injured reserve, but sources said the healing has gone well.

McCarthy was not sure if Vander Esch would do anything but rehab work off to the side on Wednesday. While he is likely not going to play this week, he could be back for the Oct. 19 game against the Arizona Cardinals on ESPN's Monday Night Football.

Brown suffered broken ribs in practice after the season opener and has missed the past three games. He started the game against the Rams. He has worked off to the side with the rehab group over the last week, and the team is so confident he could play this week against the New York Giants that they released veteran defensive back Brandon Carr on Tuesday.