Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears will return to his starting spot on Sunday at Washington, despite missing all five preseason games with a sprained knee.
Spears returned to practice last week (OK, he practiced just Tuesday since that was the only work day last week) and took his turns on Monday as well. Jason Hatcher replaced Hatcher in the starting lineup in the preseason but will go back to his role in the nickel defense as a pass rusher. Spears said a few weeks ago he would likely need some breaks in snaps because of conditioning.
Because Spears is coming off the knee injury, Wade Phillips said he would not use the veteran as a backup nose tackle to Jay Ratliff. That job will fall to rookie Josh Brent but Spears could get some work there as the season moves along.
The Cowboys' run defense showed some leaks in the preseason games against San Diego and Houston. Spears is a big part of that unit and a lot of his work goes unnoticed since he comes off the field on third down. He is in the last year of his contract and the Cowboys have acknowledged he is underrated.