Sunday’s thrilling overtime win for the Cowboys on the road against the Patriots was probably the most quiet game we’ve seen from this rookie class so far this year. That doesn’t necessarily mean they played poorly, and in fact several of these young guns made critical plays throughout the game.
It’s more just a testament to how good these rookies have been so far. That a lack of splash plays from them is a surprise speaks to how impactful each of them have been thus far. But there was still plenty to be happy about with the rookie class on Sunday.
Micah Parsons, LB
For the first time in Micah Parsons’ young career, he played every single defensive snap on Sunday. He’d been close the last two weeks, playing on 97% and 93% respectively, but hit the mark this week. That Dan Quinn kept his talented rookie on the field for every play in what was the toughest game this team has played in a few weeks speaks to the trust level Parsons has earned already.
Parsons played well too, although perhaps a bit below the gaudy standards he’s set for himself. The former Nittany Lion tied with Trevon Diggs and Jayron Kearse for the team lead in tackles with five. Parsons didn’t see as much use as a pass rusher, though, instead showing a blitz quite often before dropping into coverage while Quinn sent guys like Kearse or Donovan Wilson as blitzers.
Parsons also got flagged for a horse-collar tackle that turned a two-yard tackle for loss into a first down, but Randy Gregory’s strip-sack a few plays later erased much significance from Parsons’ penalty. It was a fairly pedestrian game for Parsons, but again that’s because of the extremely high level he’s been playing at. The biggest story for him is being able to become the workhorse for this defense, a big step forward for Parsons.
Kelvin Joseph, CB
The Cowboys brought Kelvin Joseph back to practice earlier in the week, and the expectation is he’ll be added to the roster after the bye week. Whether he sees the field much at all will be interesting, but we’re starting to get close to seeing what the rookie can do.
Osa Odighizuwa, iDL
Osa Odighizuwa fell back to earth a bit after stringing together some incredible performances the last few weeks. Like Parsons, it was a solid performance from Odighizuwa that was only a disappointment because of how good he’s been playing.
Facing Mac Jones, whose average 2.33 seconds to throw was the lowest in the NFL this week before Monday Night Football, there weren’t a whole lot of opportunities to make an impact in the pass rush. Gregory’s two sacks were examples of his sheer burst, but Odighizuwa had a harder time. His pursuit also got exploited a couple of times in run support, but Odighizuwa finished with two tackles on the day and continues to be a core presence along the interior of this defensive line.
Chauncey Golston, EDGE
Chauncey Golston has made a rapid ascension from missing most of training camp to suddenly becoming an integral part of the defensive line rotation for Dan Quinn, and he continued that on Sunday. Golston came away with three tackles on the day, but like Odighizuwa, struggled to do much in the pass rush due to a quick passing game.
However, Golston made a big play by scooping up the ball after Gregory jarred it loose from Jones on his first monstrous sack of the day. Golston even returned the ball six yards. The takeaway led to a field goal by Dallas, and Golston’s move to get his hands on the ball was huge, even though Gregory deserves most of the credit for making such a big play.
Nahshon Wright, CB
Nahshon Wright, special teams ace. Once again, Wright finished second on the team in special teams snaps with 21. He also came up in a big way by recovering a fumble from Cedrick Wilson on an ill-advised punt return. Had Wright not fell on the ball, the Patriots would have been set up with prime field position. The rookie’s value on special teams is becoming hard to ignore.
Jabril Cox, LB
There was a hope after last week that Jabril Cox might find the field more on defense going forward, but Quinn opted to stick with Keanu Neal and Leighton Vander Esch rotating in next to Parsons. Cox did get one defensive snap, but his 19 special teams snaps tied with C.J. Goodwin for third-most on the team. He also made a great tackle on a kick return at one point in the game, making his presence felt even without defensive snaps.
Josh Ball, OT
La’el Collins is officially back with the team, meaning Terence Steele and Ty Nsehke are both backups again, and likely eliminating any desire to activate Josh Ball from the injured reserve.
Simi Fehoko, WR
For the third straight week, Simi Fehoko was inactive in favor of special teamer Malik Turner.
Quinton Bohanna, iDL
At this point, Quinton Bohanna may be the Cowboys’ most consistent rookie. His role is minimal, and he played just 14 snaps Sunday. But Bohanna made the most of those snaps, eating up blocks and redirecting runs. He also registered a tackle, his third on the year, while contributing to the team’s early down run defense.
Israel Mukuamu, S
Israel Mukuamu was, to no one’s surprise, inactive again. With Donovan Wilson returning to an already-crowded safety rotation, Mukuamu may not be active again this year.
Matt Farniok, OG
After several weeks of Matt Farniok earning special teams snaps over Brandon Knight, Dallas waived Knight with the expectation of signing him to the practice squad. For Farniok, it meant another week of blocking for Greg Zuerlein’s kicks, as the rookie tallied six special teams snaps.
Nick Ralston, FB
Nick Ralston is on the practice squad no more. With the rookie fullback out of standard elevations from the practice squad, Dallas signed him to a two-year deal in order to keep him playing on Sundays. He did just that, with 14 special teams snaps. However, Ralston was flagged for an illegal double-team block on the opening kickoff, a rare bad play for the rookie who’s quickly become a valuable special teams player.