FRISCO, Texas -- Justin Durant has not played a snap since Oct. 8 against the Green Bay Packers. With Sean Lee likely out Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles -- maybe the Dallas Cowboys' next three games -- Durant will be asked to step into a large role.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to stay on top of my conditioning and keeping my eyes on everything that’s been going on in the past few weeks.”
When Lee missed two games earlier in the season against the Rams and Packers, Durant played in 75 of the 110 snaps -- the most action he has seen all season. The coaches have credited him with six tackles, a tackle for loss and a pressure on the season.
When Lee returned Oct. 15 against the San Francisco 49ers, Durant took a backseat in part because of a groin injury, but the last two games he has been a healthy scratch.
“I think he understood the situation he might be in over the course of the year, depending on the availability of the other linebackers,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He comes to work every day, he prepares as if he’s going to play and play the whole ball game. He gets himself ready physically, mentally and emotionally. If he has an opportunity to play this week, we’re certainly confident he’s going to be ready for it."
Durant played a key role in the sub packages a year ago, playing in 13 games and finishing with 54 tackles and one sack. In 2014, he was the weak-side linebacker to open the season after Lee suffered a season-ending knee injury in the spring.
If the Cowboys learned anything from Lee’s absence early in the season it is that they don’t want to over-work Jaylon Smith. He has played better with limited snaps and been more exposed the more he has been asked to do.
Since Durant has not been playing, he has looked to do more in practice, running on the side during scout-team work or even taking scout-team snaps in order to be ready when needed. He said being inactive the last four games has not been difficult.
“I knew I was sort of an insurance-type thing, so I’ve been all right,” Durant said.