The Cowboys lost in overtime to the Raiders en route to dropping their third game in the last four tries, but it wasn’t all bad. Yes, most of it may have been bad, but there were several individual players who played great.
As has been the common refrain all year, rookie Micah Parsons was one such player. His fellow rookies all played well too, though it’s admittedly unfair to them to be be compared against the ridiculously high standard Parsons is setting. No matter how you slice it, this rookie class is looking good so far.
Micah Parsons, LB
We’re running out of ways to praise this kid. At this point, I have to wonder what Parsons would have to do to not win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. No rookie has made more of a difference on defense this year, and it hasn’t been especially close. You could even make the argument that no offensive rookie has made a bigger impact, though receiver Ja’Marr Chase and quarterback Mac Jones - among others - have a strong case.
As mentioned in last week’s rookie report, it’s time to really shift the conversation to this: Parsons has to be a legitimate contender for Defensive Player of the Year. He’s been the most productive and most consistent player on a defense that ranks near the top of the NFL in the most relevant categories. And on Thursday, he added to his résumé by breaking DeMarcus Ware’s franchise rookie record for sacks.
It’s hard to say which part is most impressive here. Is it that Parsons made this play in a clutch moment in overtime, that he did so by simply driving the offensive tackle straight back, or that he just broke a record previously held by one of the best pass rushers this sport has ever seen? Just check “All of the Above” and get back to counting your lucky stars that so many of us were so very wrong about this guy.
Kelvin Joseph, CB
After missing last week for a personal matter, Kelvin Joseph was back for Thanksgiving. That meant the rookie was back to playing on special teams, but unfortunately he got some screen time for all the wrong reasons. Joseph got into an altercation with Raiders special teamer Roderic Teamer and both were ejected as a result.
The Cowboys-Raiders fight video— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) November 25, 2021
(what did Kelvin Joseph do?)pic.twitter.com/faVnk1safv
It still doesn’t make complete sense why Joseph got tossed, considering Teamer was the one initiating all of the extra-curriculars. It also doesn’t make sense that this altercation even happened, since the league’s emphasis on taunting this year was supposedly designed to prevent these kinds of things from happening. Chalk this one up as one of life’s greatest mysteries.
Osa Odighizuwa, iDL
First things first, Osa Odighizuwa has played his tail off this year and done everything asked of him. It’s important to remember that Dan Quinn initially stated his plans to use Odighizuwa exclusively on pass rushing downs this year in an effort to get the most out of his quick penetration skills while the rookie worked on his conditioning. Things happen, and Odighizuwa has been tasked with carrying the load along the interior of the defensive line.
That needs reminding, because it sure does seem like Odighizuwa is hitting the rookie wall. He’s struggled to make much of an impact the last two games, and that continued against the Raiders. Of course, playing three games in 12 days doesn’t help either when you’re a young body that’s never faced that kind of workload before.
For the first time in quite a while, Odighizuwa didn’t lead the team in snaps at the interior defensive lineman spot. Trysten Hill and Justin Hamilton both out-snapped him. While they each had their moments, Dallas struggled overall to generate pressure on Derek Carr. With reinforcements coming along the defensive line, perhaps a return to a more defined role will help Odighizuwa bust out of his slump.
Chauncey Golston, EDGE
Last week, we talked about how Chauncey Golston seemed to be hitting a similar rookie wall to his fellow defensive lineman. But Golston responded well Thursday, having a fairly productive game despite not seeing many snaps.
Golston’s 32 snaps (good for 37% of the total defensive snaps) on Thursday were his third-lowest snap share all year, which is due to a combination of Dorance Armstrong’s return from injury and Golston’s slight decline in play. That may change yet again, though. Golston finished the day with four tackles and hit on the quarterback. His versatility to play multiple positions on the line has helped Quinn find opportunities for him as well.
Nahshon Wright, CB
After missing Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, Nahshon Wright was back on the field for Thanksgiving and hopped right back into his role as a core special teamer. Wright tied Malik Turner for the second-most special teams snaps on the day. He did, however, get called for a penalty (hey, who didn’t?) on a punt and he was also involved in the scuffle that led to Joseph’s ejection. It wasn’t a perfect day for Wright, but he continues to prove valuable on special teams.
Jabril Cox, LB
Jabril Cox is on the injured reserve with a torn ACL.
Josh Ball, OT
Josh Ball is on the injured reserve.
Simi Fehoko, WR
With CeeDee Lamb being ruled out for the game at the eleventh hour, Simi Fehoko got to dress out for the first time since Week 3 this year. Predictably, he saw all of his snaps (13 to be exact) come on special teams, but it must have been nice for the rookie to get in on some action again.
Quinton Bohanna, iDL
The Raiders ended up going with a pass-heavy attack on offense in this one, and that meant less opportunities for Quinton Bohanna. He did still get plenty of burn on the early down run situations, and Bohanna has continued to provide a strong anchor in the middle of the line in those instances. It wasn’t much, with just ten defensive snaps all day, but Bohanna does exactly what he’s asked to do.
Israel Mukuamu, S
Like Fehoko, Israel Mukuamu got a chance to suit up in this game since the Cowboys went with just 51 players on game day, thus reducing the amount of players they had to label as inactive. Mukuamu saw just 14 special teams snaps, to no one’s surprise, but it was nice to see him out there.
Matt Farniok, OG
In a bit of a surprise, Matt Farniok was one of the Cowboys’ three inactives for this game. He’s been a steady presence blocking for Greg Zuerlein’s kick attempts, but that wasn’t the case Thursday.