With DeMarcus Lawrence missing time due to a foot injury, the Cowboys rookie pass rushers proved they can shoulder the burden.
When the Dallas Cowboys selected Micah Parsons in the first round, fans questioned their intent with the Penn State linebacker. Would he be used as nothing but a traditional off-ball linebacker like the top LB picks who came before him (Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith) or will Dallas use him to his fullest, moving him around and rushing the passer?
Dan Quinn gave us the answer in Week 1 when he sent Parsons after the passer 13 times (10 off the edge). His impact paled in comparison to DeMarcus Lawrence but his pass-rush win percentage (a fairly stable statistic) rated in the top-5 of NFL rookies (15.4%).
Joining Parsons on the NFL’s leader board is fellow rookie, Osa Odighizuwa. Osa, the defensive tackle filling in for the injured Neville Gallimore, did more than fill a void in the line-up, he made plays. The third round pick built on his preseason success and performed admirably against one the NFL’s best O-lines last week, clocking a 11.5% pass-rush win rate.
Cowboys Starting Safeties Donovan Wilson, Damontae Kazee Dealing With Injuries - Matthew Lenix, Inside The Star
In a week that has been full of injury reports, the Cowboys face additional uncertainty as the two starting safeties are questionable for Sunday’s matchup against the Chargers.
Starting safeties Donovan Wilson and Damontae Kazee showed up on the Cowboys injury report on Thursday which puts their ability for Sunday up in the air.
Wilson’s groin issue isn’t new territory. The former Texas A&M missed two games in 2020 with the same injury. Much like hamstrings, groin issues can linger throughout an entire season. Wilson has missed the last two days of practice with the issue, and if he can’t go, look for veteran Jayron Kearse to fill in at strong safety. He was tied for the team lead with 11 tackles in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kazee’s thigh injury made him a limited participant in Thursday’s practice. In his Cowboys debut in Week 1, he was credited with two tackles and had a huge forced fumble on Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin late in the fourth quarter. If Kazee is a scratch for Sunday then look for prized free-agent addition Malik Hooker to get the start at free safety.
The Cowboys get good news this week with Malik Hooker set to make his Cowboys’ debut, but his ability to make an impact is in question.
Regardless of how they choose to play it, the Cowboys’ safety depth looks likely to be tested against an explosive Chargers passing attack.
The obvious name to know is Malik Hooker, who has yet to make his Cowboys debut. The coaching staff raised eyebrows last week when they elected to make Hooker a healthy scratch against Tampa Bay, but McCarthy said the fifth-year veteran has come along nicely since the end of training camp.
“I thought Malik has had a really good week of practice,” he said. “I think it really started last week, to see that he’s comfortable with what we’re asking him to do.”
Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said this week that he expected Hooker to be active for this road trip. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cowboys use him, particularly if Kazee is healthy enough to play. Both veterans tend to function more in the free safety role, but McCarthy said they can tailor things to fit the players they have available.
While the concerns at right tackle continue, Cowboys fans should all be happy that Ty Nsekhe seems to be recovering.
The string of misfortunes continues for the Dallas Cowboys. The team will already be missing right tackle La’el Collins due to a suspension and their options for replacing him in Sunday’s game against the Chargers just got slimmer. Veteran tackle Ty Nsekhe will be unavailable after being hospitalized with heat-related exhaustion after Thursday’s practice.
“He suffered some heat illness symptoms after practice yesterday,” McCarthy said. “The medical staff felt it was best that he spent the evening at the hospital.”
Nsekhe was released from the hospital Friday morning, but McCarthy confirmed that he will not play in Sunday’s game in Los Angeles. Apparently his symptoms were noticeable in the training room after Thursday’s practice. The temperature in Frisco reached a high of 90 degrees on Thursday, and it was the “heavy practice work” day of the week.
The Cowboys need a clean game on both sides of the ball this week if they are going to take down Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Cowboys have to protect Dak Prescott every single game including this one. Last week, this offensive line only allowed one sack to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was a major accomplishment for this group. Remember, this team was also without arguably their best lineman, Zack Martin, who was on the COVID reserve list.
Last season, this Buccaneers defense ranked as one of the best at getting to the quarterback. They averaged 3.0 sacks per game and 48 total sacks, which was the fourth-best in the league. Additionally, Tampa Bay has the same starters on defense from a season ago.
The Cowboys did all they could to protect their franchise quarterback. However, they have to do it once again without one of their top linemen, tackle La’el Collins. Collins was suspended five games by the NFL for violating the substance abuse policy.
Dallas’ main priority this week will be to block defensive end Joey Bosa. Bosa is one of the games best when healthy, so the Cowboys will have their hands full for this contest. The former Ohio State star was the only Chargers player to record a sack in Week 1.
At the end of the day, the Cowboys probably have to let Prescott be as comfortable as he can be in the pocket especially after his gruesome injury. If they can protect him and allow Bosa nowhere near him, they can be in good shape for this game.
Amari Cooper has adopted the mentorship role with the young Cowboys receivers, teaching them how to overcome adversity.
“Things happen,” Cooper told reporters this week, referring to the Cowboys’ rash of bad luck that has La’el Collins suspended, Randy Gregory on the COVID list, DeMarcus Lawrence recovering from foot surgery, and fellow wideout Michael Gallup shelved with a calf injury… all within the same week. “Just got to keep pushing forward, keep adapting. I feel like everything is going to be cool. That’s what we practice for.”
Cooper has always been one of the more thoughtful and cerebral players in the Dallas locker room. But trying to give some perspective to the extreme adversity he and his teammates are already wading through just two weeks into the season (after an entire year of it in 2020), the four-time Pro Bowler is rapidly approaching Jedi Master status.
“The game’s got a way of humbling you.” That’s what Cooper told CeeDee Lamb after the second-year receiver suffered a few glaring drops in last Thursday’s season opener, just before rebounding to snare Dak Prescott’s first touchdown throw of the season.
The philosophical kernel stopped Lamb cold on a hot and humid night in Tampa.
“He was like, ‘That’s, like, the realest thing you ever told me,’” Cooper relayed. “It’s just how it is sometimes. It just reminds you to concentrate on the small details.”
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