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.
The @dallascowboys have some youth who can get after the QB.— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) October 14, 2021
Most QB Hits among Rookies this season:
Micah Parsons 10
Osa Odighizuwa 8
Jayson Oweh 8
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka 5
Jaelan Phillips 5 pic.twitter.com/bXkvAItzCq
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.
Highest pass rush win % among rookie Interior DL through six weeks— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) October 22, 2021
Christian Barmore - 12.6%
Osa Odighizuwa - 11.9% pic.twitter.com/GgcKaXxuVa
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.
Dalton Schultz has really become one of Dak Prescott's comfort targets. He trusts him.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) September 28, 2021
Dak has targeted Schultz four times on third down this season and has converted all four third down opportunities.
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.
Cowboys paces:— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) October 18, 2021
Dak Prescott 5,335 pass yards
CeeDee Lamb 1,408 receiving yards
Amari Cooper 1,057 receiving yards
Dalton Schultz 1,017 receiving yards
Ezekiel Elliott 1,476 rush yards
Tony Pollard 1,037 rush yards
Who is going over, who is going under?
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.
Yards per carry leaders this season:— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) October 18, 2021
1. Lamar Jackson, 6.1
2. Tony Pollard, 6.0
3. Chase Edmonds, 6.0
4. Nick Chubb, 5.8
5. Jalen Hurts, 5.7
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.