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Three takeaways from the Cowboys’ snap counts against the Panthers

Diving into some takeaways from Week 4 snap counts for the Cowboys.

Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Cowboys continued to impress in Week 4. They handily defeated a Carolina team that came into the matchup with a 3-0 record. Today, we take a look at three takeaways from the snap counts from Sunday’s game against Carolina.

We’ll list the defensive snap counts below since they tend to change more week-to-week, but we will also look at one offensive snap count change that continued to be very beneficial.

Defensive Snaps (70 Defensive Snaps Total, Via Pro Football Focus)

Anthony Brown - 69
Micah Parsons - 68
Damontae Kazee - 68
Jayron Kearse - 67
Jourdan Lewis - 60
Trevon Diggs - 50
Chauncey Golston - 49
Tarell Basham - 43
Osa Odighizuwa - 41
Leighton Vander Esch - 40
Randy Gregory - 37
Justin Hamilton - 31
Brent Urban - 30
Malik Hooker - 28
Jaylon Smith - 28
Maurice Canady - 20
Quinton Bohanna - 17
Austin Faoliu - 13
Azur Kamara - 10
Nahshon Wright - 1

Three Takeaways

Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

1) Cowboys Continue To Ride Zeke

For the second straight week, the Cowboys went with a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott in the run game. Against a Carolina defense that had only allowed 45 rushing yards all season coming into the game, Elliott had his best statistical day since 2019.

The 26-year-old ran the ball 20 times for 143 yards and a touchdown. Elliott also ripped off a 47-yard run in the middle of the third quarter, his longest rush since his rookie year back in 2016.

Elliott’s last two games have been his best two-game stretch in quite some time. The former first-round pick has totaled 238 rushing yards, (6.4 Y/A), and scored three TDs in his last two outings.

The Cowboys might have the best running back duo in football, but they’ve made it pretty clear over the past two weeks who their number one guy is. This doesn’t mean Tony Pollard shouldn’t get snaps, but with the way Elliott is running the football, it’s going to be hard to take him off the field.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2) Micah Parsons Sees More Snaps Playing Linebacker

After playing primarily defensive end in the past two games, rookie Micah Parsons moved backed to his natural linebacker spot for most of the game against Carolina. Parsons played 52 snaps at the linebacker spot and 16 on the defensive line on Sunday, giving him 68 total defensive snaps on the day.

Even though he was primarily back in his linebacker spot, Parsons still did plenty of rushing the passer. The first-round pick had 18 pass-rush snaps and recorded a 76.9 pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus, the highest of any player in the game.

Parsons’ snap count percentage went up to 97.1% in Week 4, meaning he missed just two of the Cowboys' 70 defensive snaps in the game on Sunday. With Jaylon Smith out the door, Parsons playing 95% or more of the defensive snaps seems like it’s about the become the new normal.

Anytime you can get Micah Parsons on the field it’s a good thing. With the way the Cowboys’ pass rush is performing, Dallas can afford to play Parsons primarily at linebacker with him rushing the passer incrementally.

No matter where he’s playing or what he’s doing, getting Parsons on the field for nearly every snap is something we should get used to seeing with this defense.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

3) Rookie D-linemen Continue To Perform With Increased Opportunity

Four games into the season, rookie defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa is looking like a star. The former UCLA Bruin had another big day on Sunday, recording three QB hurries, two tackles for loss and notching his third sack of the season.

Odighizuwa is second in football, only behind his teammate Micah Parsons, in QB pressures among rookies this season, via PFF.

Also, Odighizuwa’s seven QB hits through four games are more than any Dallas defensive tackle had in the entire 2020 season.

With Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill still sidelined, Odighizuwa has gotten consistent playing time. The rookie is averaging 38 defensive snaps a game, and so far he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Odighizuwa wasn’t the only rookie defensive lineman that had a nice day on Sunday. In his second game of the season, third-round pick Chauncey Golston made an impact. The 23-year-old recorded five tackles, a QB hit, and a half-sack.

Golston became the third member of the Cowboys rookie draft class to record a sack in four weeks.

Golston actually played the seventh-most defensive snaps (49) on the team on Sunday. With Parsons back primarily playing linebacker the rookie pass-rusher figures to continue to get plenty of snaps and chances to disrupt the quarterback.