Dallas Cowboys: If Micah Parsons is 3/4ths of Bobby Wagner … Greatness - Kenneth Wilson, The Landry Hat
Parsons talent is off the charts and he could do great things for this team.
The Dallas defense is now run by former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. He was made famous by what he was able to do with the Seattle Seahawks as a defensive coordinator from 2013-2014 during his second stint with the team.
It was there that Quinn led a defense that was comparable to one of the most legendary defenses the league has ever seen, the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Seattle led the league in most of the key defensive metric categories including the fewest points allowed, the fewest yards allowed, and the most takeaways by a defense. So it was no surprise when the Seahawks ended the 2013 season with a Super Bowl title.
Can Quinn recreate that kind of defense in Dallas? And is Parsons his centerpiece?
Fringe players are trying to stake their claim to a roster spot.
What is important is the development of players and adding either starting talent or depth to the roster. And these three players have stood out during the preseason to date.
3. WR/KR Johnnie Dixon
It’s another opportunity for the former Ohio Buckeyes’ wideout. Via Andrew Lind of SI.com, Johnnie Dixon was an undrafted free agent who latched on with the Houston Texans in 2019 but did not make the team. He joined the Arizona Cardinals a year later and spent 2020 on the practice squad.
Now he is a member of Mike McCarthy’s club and has seen his share of action in the preseason clashes with the Steelers and Cardinals. It’s been less about his pass-catching prowess and more about his work on special teams. He took two kickoffs back 25 yards apiece in the Hall of Fame Game vs. Pittsburgh. He handled punt return duties as well in both contests.
With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, among others, the Cowboys are stacked at wide receiver. But a little help on special teams is certainly welcomed.
Cowboys injury roundup: Neville Gallimore could miss Week 1, Dalton Schultz expected for regular season opener - Patrik Walker, CBSSports
The Cowboys main focus is to get these guys healthy before they see the field.
As the legendary Michael Scott once noted, you might not be superstitious, but it’s OK to be a little stitious. So when the Dallas Cowboys took the field against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday the 13th, it played out exactly as you’d think it would. They lost a total of five players to injury, headlined by starting defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, who left the game in the first quarter with what turned out to be a hyperextended elbow. The MRI results showed a near best-case scenario though, sources tell CBS Sports, with Gallimore having suffered no tears and only a minor structural issue.
He’s expected to miss the remainder of the preseason and potentially Week 1 as well — his timetable being 4-6 weeks — but the 10-day span between the Cowboys first two regular season games gives him a shot at being available when they travel to take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 19.
And because he won’t be lost for significant time to start the season, barring a setback, the Cowboys aren’t suddenly pressed to go after a talent like free agent Geno Atkins. This isn’t to say they aren’t keeping an eye on Atkins (they are), but it would be a much different story if Gallimore were lost for most or all of the season. But, as it stands, he isn’t, and it opens the door for rookie third-round pick Osa Odighizuwa to dig his heels in.
Another casualty of the battle with the red birds was tight end Sean McKeon, the rapidly-developing second-year talent injuring his right ankle after a seeing it rolled up on by a defender during a tackle in the second quarter. He was also helped off of the field but then carted to the locker room, and sources list his injury as a high ankle sprain that could sideline him the same length of time as Gallimore — 4-6 weeks being the initial prognosis.
Armstrong has played well but he needs to keep it up.
Indeed, Armstrong was a stud that night with two sacks and a near interception off his own tipped pass. And with both Lawrence and Gregory out, these plays were coming early in the game and against starting offensive lineman for Arizona.
While the Cowboys expect to have both Tank and Randy fully ready to go for Week One and beyond, we know that depth is critical at defensive end. This is especially true with two starters who have had availability concerns in the past.
Armstrong is now the clear front-runner for being the primary backup. Tarell Basham and third-round rookie Chauncey Golston are both hurt and missing camp and preseason, leaving prospects like Bradlee Anae and Ron’Dell Carter as Dorance’s only competition.
But clearly, he isn’t just claiming this job by default. It sounds like Armstrong’s performance would have him leading the pack regardless.
As a fourth-year player finishing out his rookie deal, Dorance had little job security from a contractual standpoint. Dallas could get back a little under $1 million cap space by releasing him with almost no dead money.
That might have been an issue for Armstrong had he remained in the shadows this summer. But now he’s emerging as a valuable rotation piece and perhaps someone Dallas will make an effort to get on the field.
Hard to predict but this roster after cuts may not be settled.
Interior defensive line (5)
So, the good news with Neville Gallimore is that his injury, a dislocated left elbow, is not going to be season-ending and doesn’t require surgery. The bad news is that he’ll miss roughly six weeks (or more) because of it. Gallimore was coming off a promising rookie year and an offseason in which he got into considerably better shape, and was gearing up for a big role on this defensive line. Now, Dan Quinn will have to find someone else to step up as they will likely have to IR Gallimore for some portion of the season.
That bodes well for Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins, both of whom have flashed in training but received little action in preseason thus far. Rookies Osa Odighizuwa and Quinton Bohanna have popped off the screen quite a few times as well, and may end up being thrust into bigger roles much like Gallimore was last year.
Traditionally, Quinn has gone with five intrerior defensive linemen and five edge defenders, so the assumption here is that he’ll do the same this year. If that’s the case, there’s one more spot up for grabs. Both Trysten Hill and Chauncey Golston (who’s technically an EDGE but will get some play on the interior as well) are still on the PUP list, but could be candidates if they’re activated soon. And Dallas could also look to a veteran free agent like Geno Atkins. But for now it’s Justin Hamilton, a forgotten name who’s quietly looked good this camp and could be a benefactor of these injuries.
Oh, the times they are a changing.
According to Pro Football Focus Zeke was just 21st in the NFL in missed tackles forced per attempt, 28th in yards after contact per attempt, and 43rd in stuff rate. He had a net loss in expected points (he hurt the team more than helped the team when he touched the ball) as opposed to Pollard who clocked a positive EPA for the season.
Some will argue teams feared Zeke more, so his yards were more well-earned, but the numbers just don’t support that narrative either. Tony Pollard actually played against more men in the box last year, facing an average of 6.75 defenders while Zeke saw just 6.5. To put it another way, 59 players in the NFL faced more men in the box per snap than Zeke did last year, so the idea teams fear him just doesn’t bear out.
Tony Pollard’s breakaway run rate (5%) was over three times more than Ezekiel Elliott (1.5%) last year and again, that’s with more men in the box for Pollard. For his career Pollard tied for the NFL best in yards after contact average (4.0) and best broken tackle rate (0.25). I’ll remind you, they played behind the same cruddy offensive line…
Pollard outperformed Zeke is just about every major category that the running back himself can control. Zeke got the volume stats but those don’t mean a thing. Those are counting stats for casuals (as they say), not the numbers educated NFL fans/players/coaches follow. The O-line impacted the volume stats but Zeke’s bad year had more to do with him than the guys in front of him. He earned his ridicule.
So Zeke dedicated himself in the offseason. Perhaps driven by public scrutiny, Zeke entered camp in noticeably svelte shape and has possibly regained that explosiveness Cowboys Nation hasn’t seen since his rookie season.
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