OXNARD, Calif. — The Dallas Cowboys were already expecting to be down one starting receiver in their season opener.
Now, they expect to miss two key members of the corps when Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit on Sept. 11.
Cowboys receiver James Washington suffered a right foot fracture Monday in practice, multiple people with knowledge of the MRI confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly disclose the information.
Washington is scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday. He is expected to need six to 10 weeks of recovery, a timeline that spills over into the regular season.
Washington’s injury adds a question to a position group already among the team’s most perplexing.
During a 7-on-7 drill in the team’s first padded practice, Washington ran down the left sideline aiming to outpace cornerback Trevon Diggs in coverage. The two collided as Diggs nearly intercepted the ball — Diggs had his hands on it, but didn’t secure the target — after which Washington landed awkwardly. He stayed down momentarily and then limped on his left foot to the sideline, where he kneeled.
Washington was subsequently carted off the field and taken for further evaluation. Team officials feared a fracture, and an MRI confirmed it.
Washington joined the Cowboys in free agency after four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Washington collected 114 catches, 1,629 yards and 11 touchdowns in 60 career games. But he trailed off in recent seasons, his last two years’ production combined for less than his 735 yards in 2019. Washington reached the end zone a career-high five times in 2020.
He could do more in Dallas, he believed.
“I feel like with everything that transpired at Pittsburgh, I didn’t really get to show my full self,” Washington said on March 24. “We had a crowded room at the receiver. But nothing against anyone else, I feel like there’s a lot of meat left on the bone. I didn’t really get to fully develop myself and make strides like I wanted to.
“I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity in Dallas. Do what I can so that they get 110% of me and I can reach my full potential.”
Washington’s usage in Pittsburgh hovered between 44 and 68% of a season’s offensive snaps. With the Cowboys, he was expected to start immediately — and needed to, as Michael Gallup’s recovery from ACL surgery trends toward completion a month into the season. Quarterback Dak Prescott touted Washington’s speed last week.
“He’ll stretch the defense and make plays,” Prescott said. “He can definitely help this offense.”
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The Cowboys traded star receiver Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns in March. They lost Cedrick Wilson in free agency to the Miami Dolphins. The duo combined for 1,467 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
On Saturday, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones cited Washington and rookie Jalen Tolbert as reasons he wasn’t concerned with the receivers’ ability to perform as strongly as they did last year.
“I like our boy from Oklahoma State a lot. A lot,” Jones said of Washington. “And I like these young ones. And so knowing where else we can go with the ball, I like our receivers.”
The Cowboys expect CeeDee Lamb to be their featured receiver this season. Gallup, Tolbert and Washington were next in contention for starting when healthy. The Cowboys also brought back receiver Noah Brown, who has played 50 games for Dallas but contributed just 425 yards and no touchdowns in that time. Last week, they signed USFL MVP Kavontae Turpin, with visions of his dynamism in both the return and receiving games. Rangy young receivers TJ Vasher and Simi Fehoko have turned heads in training camp.
Outside the receiver-by-name group, Prescott will rely on tight end Dalton Schultz and running back Tony Pollard for opportunities.
The Cowboys were already looking to Prescott to elevate a group in which the team is investing fewer resources than previous years. Now, the seventh-year quarterback must do even more.
“The youth of our football team will factor early in our season,” McCarthy said last week. “And it will probably be at the wide receiver position. I think you have to anticipate that. That’s the way we’re training our team, and that’s the formula that is going to be part of our success.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: James Washington injures foot, likely to miss start of Cowboys season