Perhaps the only thing that wasn’t surprising about this year’s draft class was that the Cowboys went so heavy on defense. But missing out on both Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II was a surprise. The selections of Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Golston were relatively surprising too, though both were forgotten when the Nahshon Wright pick came in.
And yet this defensive rookie class continues to show up week after week for Dallas. Sunday night on the road in Minnesota, with Cooper Rush making his first career start, the Cowboys had to know they’d need their defense to step up. They did just that, highlighted by a career-best performance from Micah Parsons.
Micah Parsons, LB
After the Cowboys’ thrilling win over the Patriots, Micah Parsons was vocal about how his individual performance hadn’t lived up to his standards in that game. Credit to the rookie for coming out Sunday night and playing the best game of his young career thus far.
Parsons once again spent plenty of time on the field, missing just two defensive snaps all game, and he finished the game with 11 total tackles, four tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit. To put this in perspective, the Cowboys defense as a whole has had four or more tackles for loss in just two games this year. Parsons did it all on his own, and made himself some history in the process:
Cowboys LB @MicahhParsons11 is also the only player in NFL history with 40 tackles, 10 QB hits, and 2 passes defended through his first seven career games.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) November 1, 2021
The Cowboys defense has played well all season, but this was a game where they absolutely had to be on. Parsons wasn’t the only player who came up big Sunday night - far from it - but he played a pivotal role in the defense’s great night.
Kelvin Joseph, CB
With Maurice Canady landing on injured reserve, Kelvin Joseph made his NFL debut Sunday night and essentially took Canady’s role. Joseph played on 19 special teams snaps, amounting to 63% of total special teams snaps.
Joseph also came onto the field on defense for the final two snaps of the game after Trevon Diggs left with an injury. The Vikings didn’t seem to realize that, and didn’t throw in the direction of the rookie making his NFL debut. Overall, it wasn’t much for Joseph, but expectations weren’t exactly high. He’ll continue to contribute on special teams until Anthony Brown gives the coaches a reason to put Joseph out there.
Osa Odighizuwa, iDL
With Brent Urban landing on injured reserve during the bye week, and facing Dalvin Cook and a Vikings offense that likes to run the ball, Osa Odighizuwa was going to be counted on a lot in this one. Accordingly, his 49 defensive snaps were a career high, and his 74% snap share tied his career high.
Odighizuwa had a relatively quiet night in the box score, with just three tackles and a quarterback hit, but he was doing work all night. In run defense, Odighizuwa was holding his spot and not allowing big runs up the middle. On passing downs, he was executing plenty of stunts for guys like Randy Gregory, Tarell Basham, and Parsons. In short, the rookie continued to do exactly what was asked of him, which has been the trend all year with Odighizuwa.
Chauncey Golston, EDGE
For the first time all year, Chauncey Golston had a game in which he went largely unnoticed. Golston did finish with two tackles, but Dan Quinn opted to use more of Justin Hamilton, Carlos Watkins, and Dorance Armstrong to counter Minnesota’s rushing attack.
Golston played on just a third of all defensive snaps, which was easily a career low and the first time all year he’s seen less than half of the defensive snaps. This was likely just a matchup-based decision, considering how well Golston has played thus far.
Nahshon Wright, CB
Nahshon Wright is one of the most valuable special teams players on this team right now. His 23 special teams snaps were second-most on the team Sunday night, which has been the recurring trend for him.
It is intriguing that Wright, who has more experience than Joseph, wasn’t who the Cowboys sent out in place of Diggs late in the game. Whether that reflects more on the staff’s opinion of Joseph or Wright isn’t clear, but it’s something to note.
Jabril Cox, LB
Jabril Cox’s game, and his season, ended in tragedy Sunday night. During one of the kickoffs that Cox was on the field for, he went down grabbing his leg. The Cowboys confirmed it was a torn ACL. That will end the rookie’s season, in which he had become a core special teamer and was developing his game on defense.
Josh Ball, OT
Josh Ball remains on the injured reserve and there don’t seem to be any signs of that changing.
Simi Fehoko, WR
Simi Fehoko was once again inactive on Sunday, which is likely going to be the case going forward given Malik Turner’s special teams role and the impending return of Michael Gallup.
Quinton Bohanna, iDL
In a bit of a surprise considering the Vikings’ heavy run tendencies, Quinton Bohanna saw a drop in his snap share Sunday night. His 11 defensive snaps were the second-lowest on the team behind just Joseph. Is this a sign of things to come, or more of a decision motivated by certain matchups? Time will tell, but Bohanna has played well in his limited role up until Sunday night.
Israel Mukuamu, S
Like Fehoko, Israel Mukuamu was inactive for this game.
Matt Farniok, OG
With La’el Collins back on the roster this week, Matt Farniok was inactive for this game. That’s a bit of a surprise, since the rookie has been a mainstay on the field goal kicking unit all year.