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The three biggest unsung heroes of the Cowboys season so far

A lot has to go right for a team to begin the season 5-1, but these standouts in particular deserve a lot of appreciation for the Cowboys’ hot start

NFL: OCT 17 Cowboys at Patriots Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are riding a five-game win streak as they take some well-deserved time to recuperate during their bye week. In order to reach 5-1, you can bet a lot of different players have had to contribute to the overall success. But while names like Prescott, Elliott, Lamb, Parsons, and Diggs might be easier to ID, they aren’t the only ones who deserve a hand for their performance this season.

3. Osa Odighizuwa

The Dallas defensive line has had its share of injuries in the early part of the season with guys like Neville Gallimore, Dorance Armstrong, and DeMarcus Lawrence missing significant time, but “Digh’s” presence and pressure in the middle has been a revelation from the defensive tackle position.

Micah Parsons might get a lot of the rookie shine, and deservedly so, but Odighizuwa’s not far behind with his impact. Through six games he has 10 tackles, three sacks, and 19 quarterback pressures, per PFF. That’s third among rookies, trialing only Parsons and Odafe Oweh.

Odighizuwa’s impact has been undeniable, filling the void of anticipated impact players like Gallimore, who should be returning in the near future, and the oft-forgotten Trysten Hill. Even when that help does return, however, expect Odighizuwa to continue making plays, cementing himself as one third of the three-headed monster of the Dallas defense alongside Diggs and Parsons.

2. Dalton Schultz

Dalton Schultz has become Dak Prescott’s security blanket in the first quarter of the season, totaling 31 catches and three touchdowns on the young season. In 2020, Schultz found himself thrust into the starting role following a season-ending knee injury for Blake Jarwin in the opener.

Schultz’s 2020 had its share of ups and downs but he did log 63 catches and four touchdowns in sixteen appearances. That means Schutlz has already accounted for more than 49% of his total production in 2021.

More importantly, however, he managed to establish himself early as a go-to target for Dak on third down—with great results to boot.

It hasn’t all been perfect for Schultz, however. He has had his share of ugly drops, and his game against Carolina was almost the thing of nightmares, with one fumble being overturned by review, another, very clear fumble being blown dead due to questionable forward progress being stopped, and then a two-point conversion dive that fell inches shy of the goal line. Three reviewed plays in the span of four passes thrown your way is quite remarkable.

In all though, Schultz finished the polarizing day with six catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, proving his QB’s faith in him never wavered despite the turbulence.

1. Tony Pollard

Tony Pollard’s “yang” to Zeke’s “ying” has been invaluable to the Dallas offense. While Weeks 1 and 6 saw Dak throw 58 and 51 times respectively, Weeks 2 through 4 saw him average just under 27 passes per game. Throughout that stretch, including the three-game home stand, the Dallas run game established itself in a big, big way.

Through five weeks, both Pollard and Elliott were in the top 10 in rushing in the league, and both on pace to exceed 1,000 yards. Elliott has accounted for 59% of Dallas’s total rush attempts at 102, while Pollard has logged 61 attempts for 366 yards. That’s six yards per carry for the former Memphis running back.

A big part of Elliott’s production this season has been Kellen Moore’s balanced use of Pollard, keeping his top back fresher while maximizing the explosiveness of his back-up.

Were Elliott seeing 20-25 carries per game as he has in past years, the returns would likely have begun to diminish, reducing the potency of the Cowboys’ unstoppable offense.

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