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Cowboys 2021 rookie report: Kelvin Joseph’s memorable first career start

Also, Micah Parsons inched closer to that rookie sack record.

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Cowboys were forced to place starting slot corner Jourdan Lewis on the COVID-19 list Friday afternoon, offering them little time to get their ducks in a row to replace the guy who’s been having a career year. It also meant that rookie Kelvin Joseph was in line to make his first career start after playing exclusively on special teams this year.

What happened next - a 56-14 beat down of the Washington Football Team - may have obscured just how good Joseph was on the night. But he played extremely well, and offered yet another positive endorsement of this rookie class.

Micah Parsons, LB

Micah Parsons continues to prove just how good he is each week. He had another such performance, finishing with three tackles, a sack, and two hits on the quarterback. Parsons also demonstrated his continually improving skills in coverage on a few opportunities. But his sack was a notable highlight:

Parsons just makes it look easy, from the way he beats the guard to how he throws Taylor Heinicke to the ground like a rag doll. Making it his 13th sack of the year, Parsons is now sixth in the NFL in sacks and just two away from breaking Jevon Kearse’s all-time record for sacks by a rookie. Major props to whoever put money on Parsons winning Defensive Player of the Year back in August.

As if that wasn’t enough, Parsons flashed some extra sauce later in the game. In the fourth quarter, Parsons decided to remind everyone that he worked out with DeMarcus Ware back in training camp by busting out Ware’s patented fake spin move:

He very nearly got to the quarterback, too, but still sped up the play enough for it to result in an incompletion on third down. Parsons is the rare rookie who gets better every week and makes impact plays literally everywhere on the field. It’s great to have him on the Cowboys and not anywhere else.

Kelvin Joseph, CB

Not only did Kelvin Joseph make his first career start, but he led the team in defensive snaps. That’s mostly because Dan Quinn pulled most of the starters late in the game while leaving Joseph out there to earn more experience.

Joseph didn’t have any one signature play - although he very nearly snagged an interception - but played extremely well. He finished with three tackles and two passes defensed, as well as a tackle for loss coming on a play where Joseph blew up a screen pass.

It was very promising for a rookie making his first career start, especially considering how little notice he had about this change to the starting lineup. Joseph probably didn’t do enough to permanently replace Lewis or Anthony Brown - who moved back to the slot in nickel formations Sunday - but it does offer a very positive glimpse into the future of the Cowboys’ second-round rookie.

Osa Odighizuwa, iDL

Osa Odighizuwa returned to the team after missing last week with COVID-19. Most of his snaps ended up coming later on in the game, as Quinn pulled starters like Neville Gallimore and gave more playing time to Odighizuwa and fellow rookie Quinton Bohanna.

As a result, Odighizuwa didn’t get many chances to really stuff the stat sheet. He finished with one tackle and one hit on the quarterback, exhibiting the explosiveness that makes the rookie appealing in situational passing downs. But that was mostly it for Odighizuwa this week.

Chauncey Golston, EDGE

Chauncey Golston surprisingly saw a lot of burn early on in the game, and he was highly productive. Golston generated two tackles, a half sack with Jayron Kearse, and a hit on the quarterback. But Golston’s biggest play came on that punt block, made by Corey Clement. Golston was lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time.

Golston became the second rookie this year to score a touchdown off a blocked punt, after Nahshon Wright did so earlier in the season. The touchdown didn’t really make a world of difference, expanding Dallas’ lead from 35 to 42 points, but it was a nice moment for a rookie who’s done everything that’s been asked of him this year.

Nahshon Wright, CB

Nahshon Wright missed the last two weeks after testing positive for COVID-19, but returned to the field Sunday night for a full workload. Wright was back to his top role on special teams, tying C.J. Goodwin, Luke Gifford, and Darian Thompson for most special teams snaps on the night.

He also got 12 snaps at cornerback late in the game when Quinn pulled most of his starters. Like Joseph, it was nice to get Wright some valuable in-game experience at cornerback, and he finished with two tackles for his efforts. Next week, though, it will likely be back to a lead special teams job for Wright, who’s been great on that end all year.

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

Simi Fehoko was placed on the COVID-19 list prior to this game.

Quinton Bohanna, iDL

Last week, Quinton Bohanna saw an expanded role late in the game with Dallas nursing a safe lead. The same happened this week, although with a much more pronounced lead. That led to Bohanna easily posting a record-high defensive snap share, tying with Neville Gallimore, Carlos Watkins, and Donovan Wilson to play on 40% of all defensive snaps.

Bohanna came up with one tackle on the game, largely playing his same style of football by eating up space in the middle of the defensive line. Bohanna was also in on the sack that was given to Golston and Kearse, but he didn’t get credit for it. All in all, Bohanna has had a well-deserved chance to show what he can do in a larger role after doing his largely thankless job very well all year.

Israel Mukuamu, S

Israel Mukuamu was inactive for this game.

Matt Farniok, OG

Matt Farniok continued his regular role of blocking on Greg Zuerlein’s kick attempts, which meant he was very busy Sunday with all of the scoring going on. Farniok also played seven snaps on offense near the very end of the game when Dallas pulled their starting offensive linemen because, well, it was that kind of game.

It’s always nice to be winning by so much that you get to pull your starters, and it benefited what’s shaping up to be a very good rookie class for Dallas.