Cowboys hope to maintain momentum against reeling Texans

While the discussion over whether to sign Odell Beckham Jr. continues to swirl around the Dallas Cowboys, they are about to get a critical offensive piece back as they look to catch the Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East.

Eight-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Tyron Smith returned to practice Wednesday, opening his 21-day window to return after suffering a torn hamstring with an avulsion fracture before the start of the regular season.

“Anytime Tyron’s on the field, it’s a good day for the Dallas Cowboys,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’ll be great to have him back out there.”

Smith could make his season debut Sunday when the Cowboys take on the Houston Texans in Arlington, Texas.

“He’s out there striking guys,” Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott said Wednesday of Smith’s return. “Felt bad for those D-ends he was going against. … Definitely good to have Tyron back out there.”

When Smith returns, rookie Tyler Smith, who has been playing left tackle, will move to left guard, shoring up that spot in the Cowboys’ offensive line.

The Cowboys (9-3) are looking to continue the momentum they’ve built since the return of quarterback Dak Prescott from a fractured right thumb that kept him out for five games.

Since Prescott’s return, Dallas is 5-1 and averaging 37.2 points per game — best in the league during that span. The Cowboys have averaged 411 yards per game during that stretch, behind only the Chiefs.

With Dallas’ high-profile pursuit of Beckham dominating headlines recently, receiver James Washington’s return has been overshadowed.

Washington was signed in the offseason after spending four years with the Steelers but suffered a foot fracture in training camp.

“I think clearly he’s physically ready,” McCarthy said Wednesday.

While the Cowboys’ quarterback spot has been solidified with Prescott’s return, the Texans’ remains a bit in limbo.

Houston (1-10-1) is turning back to Davis Mills, after Kyle Allen replaced him for two starts without much success.

In losses to Miami and Cleveland, Allen completed 59 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and four interceptions and a lost fumble.

“We don’t give out lifetime jobs, we’ll start with that. It’s about performance each week,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “When Davis was the starter, sometimes you need a relief pitcher to come in, and that’s what it was.”

The Texans offense has been sluggish regardless of who the quarterback is, as Houston has scored more than 20 points in a game just once this season. Only Denver has scored fewer points.

Mills was 1-8-1 with a 78.1 passer rating in 10 starts before Allen replaced him.

“I think the second time around, you kind of appreciate the position you’re in a little bit better,” Smith said. “I know that’s the case.”

Mills could be without two of his top targets Sunday. Receivers Brandin Cooks (calf) and Nico Collins (foot) have both missed time in practice in the lead-up to the matchup with the Cowboys.

Cooks missed last week’s loss to Cleveland while Collins had three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown in the 27-14 loss.

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