Dallas is just 2-1, with only one dominant win so far. But they've already done twice what they failed to do at all last season -- win games without ever falling behind. They also have a top-10 scoring offense (#5 27.7 ppg), and a top-10 scoring defense (#9 18.3 ppg).
But what's really interesting about the Cowboys start is that a lot of the guys who are really stepping it up most people would not have considered to be factors coming into the year. For example, here's a "Magnificent Seven" of unexpected heroes:
2. Barry Church. Rated by PFF as the #1 safety in the NFL so far. Who thought undrafted free agent Barry would come off major surgery and show up in such a big way? If the Cowboys can get great safety play, their defense could become dominant.
3. George Selvie. PFF gave him a negative grade Sunday, despite his sack, and he's still ranked as the #10 DE in the NFL after 3 games. The Cowboys found this guy on his couch after training camp started, having previously been on 3 different teams. All he's done is cover for 1) Anthony Spencer's balky knee, 2) Tyrone Crawford season-ending injury, and 3) Ben Bass's season-ending injury. Amazing.
4. Nick Hayden. He doesn't get the love from PFF that the guys above have received, but he's done a bang-up job of holding up in the middle. No one has run consistently on Dallas yet, though the last drive in KC hurt and helped cost us that game. For a guy who wasn't in football last season, he's another find.
5. Ron Leary. It's a great thing that Dallas finally signed Brian Waters to help hold down the right guard spot (and motivate Mackenzy Bernardeau to play a lot better), but Ron Leary's ability to move from being cut and on the practice squad last year to full-time starter at left guard this year has been HUGE! We wasted a whole lot of money on Nate Livings, but because of Leary, the fact that Livings was physically done after only 1 season has not cost us dearly. Leary hasn't matched Livings' grades yet, but he's improved each week and got into the plus column against St. Louis.
6. JJ Wilcox. He was a 3rd round draft pick, so Dallas invested something to grab him, but he's still the first rookie safety to start for Dallas since 2006. And considering he only played safety for 1 year in college for Georgia Southern, it's a meteoric rise.
7. Orlando Scandrick. He's been with Dallas since we drafted him in the 5th round in 2008, the same year we spent our second first round pick on Mike Jenkins. He's never been ranked very highly by PFF, nor played that many snaps. But this year, coming off an injury, he's played exactly the same number of snaps as Brandon Carr, and he's ranked just behind him -- 7th in the NFL -- by PFF. Given Mo Claiborne's various injury issues -- the knee that kept him out of pre-season and the separated shoulder that he has to deal with now -- having Scandrick able to jump right in and play BOTH outside and slot CB interchangeably has been a tremendous boost to the D.
A lot of credit for this great play no doubt needs to go to the coaches. But it's exciting to see this kind of production out of guys you just hope will be role players. And it sure makes up for some things -- like the Livings signing, for example -- that don't work out so well.