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Cowboys 2021 rookie report: Micah Parsons is just too good

The Cowboys’ rookie is playing unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

As has been the case pretty much every week in these rookie reports, today’s session is going to be a Micah Parsons appreciation piece. The Cowboys’ top rookie once again played at an unreal level in the team’s ugly win over the Saints on Thursday night.

The win was deemed ugly because of the offense, though, since the Dallas defense played lights out for most of the game. Parsons was a big part of that, but other Cowboys rookies have figured plenty into this revamped defense as well.

Micah Parsons, LB

Let’s just add some context to the year Micah Parsons is having. He was a defensive end in high school, moved to an off-ball linebacker role in college, sat out all of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft, and came to Dallas under a new defensive coordinator he hadn’t even met prior to being drafted.

Since then, Parsons has started every game for the Cowboys while playing off the ball, on the edge, in the middle as an A-gap blitzer, and even some defensive back. He broke DeMarcus Ware’s franchise rookie sack record last week and is now eighth in sacks, tied for first in tackles for loss, second in quarterback knockdowns, and sixth in pressures. All of the guys ahead of him in those various categories are full-time pass rushers, while Parsons is not.

That’s why it’s hard to overstate just how good he’s been this year, and is showing zero signs of slowing down. He registered his tenth sack of the year against the Saints, and nearly had a few others. Parsons also made a heads-up play to break up a pass to Kenny Stills that resulted in Jayron Kearse’s insane interception. I keep saying it but it’s true: Parsons has already wrapped up Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, and it’s time to start placing bets on his Defensive Player of the Year odds.

Kelvin Joseph, CB

With fellow rookie Nahshon Wright on the COVID-19 reserve list this week, Kelvin Joseph saw a big bump in special teams snaps, finishing second on the team in that regard. He ended up making a tackle alongside Francis Bernard on a punt in the third quarter, but was also called for offsides on the kickoff after Carlos Watkins’ pick-six, though it went largely unnoticed at the time.

Joseph also saw one defensive snap after Jourdan Lewis came off the field with an injury. Lewis was okay and came back on the next play, but Joseph has become the clear next man up for this cornerback room, in addition to handling special teams duties well.

Osa Odighizuwa, iDL

Osa Odighizuwa had a much more active game than he has in recent weeks, and hopefully it’s a sign of the rookie breaking out of a midseason slump. Odighizuwa didn’t see a big increase in his snaps, sitting at 56% of defensive snaps in this one, but he racked up four tackles, two of them for a loss, and registered a couple pressures on Taysom Hill.

It undoubtedly helped that DeMarcus Lawrence made a triumphant return to the field. With offensive lines focusing more attention on him and Parsons, that makes things that much easier for Odighizuwa. Dan Quinn also played Lawrence inside on several downs, allowing Odighizuwa more time to rest as opposed to the workhorse usage he had been getting earlier in the year. With Randy Gregory and Neville Gallimore both potentially returning next week, we could see Odighizuwa’s production spike again even as his snaps decrease somewhat.

Chauncey Golston, EDGE

Chauncey Golston seems to be making a comeback right now after a brief slump of his own. The versatile defensive lineman saw his second largest defensive snap share (60%) of the year and played the second-most snaps of any Dallas defensive lineman against the Saints. That’s sure to change as Lawrence works back into things, as well as Gregory and Gallimore returning, but it’s a positive sign that Golston can be counted on like that.

As for the game itself, Golston didn’t show up in the box score at all, but he was playing a lot inside and functioning as an edge-setter on run downs when he did move outside. In other words, Golston was asked to do a lot of thankless work on Thursday and he did it well.

Nahshon Wright, CB

As mentioned earlier, Nahshon Wright was out this week with COVID-19.

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

For the second week in a row, Simi Fehoko was on the active roster. He once again saw primarily special teams work with 13 snaps there. Fehoko also got in on the Cowboys’ final three offensive snaps of the game, but an otherwise quiet night for the rookie.

Quinton Bohanna, iDL

It was another usual day for Quinton Bohanna. His 15 snaps made up 21% of the total snaps available, about on par for him. Bohanna continues to be a strong interior presence on early run downs, and he came away with a tackle for his efforts on Thursday.

Israel Mukuamu, S

Like Fehoko, Israel Mukuamu was active for the second week in a row. He saw 17 special teams snaps on the day, which was all the action he got in this one. With Gregory and Gallimore expected back in the next game, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mukuamu and Fehoko find themselves inactive again.

Matt Farniok, OG

After being a surprise inactive last week, Matt Farniok was back this week and blocking for Greg Zuerlein’s kicks again, seeing five snaps on special teams.

Tyler Coyle, S

It came as a bit of a surprise, but Tyler Coyle was activated from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement for Terence Steele. He tied with Mukuamu for 17 special teams snaps, proving valuable in a pinch.