Most teams’ rookie classes are headlined by their first pick, and that’s certainly looking to be the trend for this year’s Cowboys. Micah Parsons obviously has the trust of Dan Quinn; the rookie wore the green dot on his helmet in his NFL debut against Tom Brady, and a week later he was taking the majority of his snaps as an edge rusher in an attempt to replace the injured DeMarcus Lawrence.
That Parsons handled the task as well as he did is a testament to how good of a pick he’s already looking to be. But he wasn’t the only one as the Cowboys got some good performances out of their other rookies in Sunday’s thrilling win over the Chargers.
A moment of appreciation is needed for Micah Parsons. That still may not be enough. Parsons just played in his second full football game since December of 2019, and then was asked to play almost exclusively on the edge as a pass rusher. The last time he did that, Parsons was still in high school. But he took the challenge head on and utterly dominated, logging two tackles, a sack, four quarterback hits, eight pressures, and a 40% pass rush win rate. For context, that 40% rate would have been tied for the fifth-highest among all edge defenders last week, and the last rookie to have eight pressures in a game was a guy by the name of Nick Bosa.
Now, before we start calling Parsons an elite edge rusher, we have to keep in mind that he was mostly going up against a backup offensive tackle in Storm Norton. Quinn tried Parsons on the other side, squaring off against fellow rookie Rashawn Slater, and quickly abandoned that experiment. Counting on Parsons to do this again is ill-advised, but the Cowboys are fortunate enough to get Randy Gregory back at least. Still, Parsons had himself one heck of a game, and looked every bit the type of player the Cowboys believed they were getting when they took him 12th overall this summer.
Kelvin Joseph, CB
Kelvin Joseph is still on the injured reserve list and won’t be eligible to return until after the Cowboys take on the Eagles on Monday night.
Osa Odighizuwa, iDL
Parsons got all the attention, and rightly so, but Osa Odighizuwa had himself a game as well. Against the Buccaneers and Tom Brady’s quick trigger, Odighizuwa was limited in what he was able to accomplish. But against the Chargers, Odighizuwa flashed the pass rushing skills that made him a Draft Twitter favorite, tallying five pressures and four quarterback hits. Perhaps even more exciting is his contribution to the run game:
Last one for now, rookie Osa Odighizuwa finished with DAL's best run defense grade (per PFF's initial review).— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 19, 2021
Odighizuwa was supposed to feature as a pass rushing 3-technique on nickel downs, but with Neville Gallimore’s injury he has been given more responsibilities. For Odighizuwa, in just his second game, to be able to register such an impact in both the pass rush and run support is extremely promising. If Odighizuwa can continue this type of play, the Cowboys may have a true difference maker on the interior for the first time in quite a while.
Chauncey Golston, EDGE
Chauncey Golston is still working back from an injury that kept him on the PUP list for most of the preseason, and as such was inactive Sunday. The Cowboys remain very excited about his potential, so it’ll be interesting to see how he’s used whenever Golston makes his NFL debut.
Nahshon Wright, CB
Just like last week, Nahshon Wright is earning his keep on special teams. In a bit of a surprise, the rookie corner led the Cowboys in special teams snaps with 14 total. Until Wright sees the field on defense, this is where he’ll have to contribute. And the fact that John Fassel trusts him enough to be used that often is an encouraging sign.
Jabril Cox, LB
Jabril Cox is in the same boat as Wright, and special teams is the name of the game for him right now. After being in on 11 special teams snaps, Cox tied for third-most special teams action on Sunday. Like Wright, Cox is showing his value to this team even when he’s not able to play on defense.
Josh Ball, OT
Josh Ball, like Joseph, is on the injured reserve and won’t be in any conversations for at least another week.
Simi Fehoko, WR
Noah Brown returned this week but Michael Gallup was out, which meant Simi Fehoko again found himself on the active gameday roster. And like last week, it was nothing but special teams work for the rookie. He was in on six special teams snaps and that was it for Fehoko. But he did get the neat opportunity to reunite with his cousin Breiden Fehoko, who is on the Chargers practice squad, after the game.
Our grandfathers came from a small village in Tu’anuku, Tonga with no money and no english. They worked their a$$ off and hoped their younger generation would live the American dream. Love you bro, We livin it. #FEHOKO @Simi_Fehoko pic.twitter.com/yFOMFgoWHw— Breiden Fehoko (@breidenfehoko4) September 20, 2021
Quinton Bohanna, iDL
Quinton Bohanna had a very similar game to his Week 1 performance, which was a rotational role on early run downs. After logging 20 snaps last week, Bohanna had 20 snaps again on Sunday. With his size, Bohanna is a hole-plugger in the middle, and he’s pretty good at that role.
The rookie nose tackle didn’t record a tackle, but he was influential in redirecting traffic on certain run downs. And while Bohanna was only one piece of the puzzle, it should be noted that Los Angeles’ running backs were limited to just 74 rushing yards in the game.
Israel Mukuamu, S
After being inactive last week, Israel Mukuamu suited up for Sunday’s game with injuries sidelining both Donovan Wilson and Darian Thompson. However, Mukuamu was one of three active players to not see a single snap for Dallas, alongside Cooper Rush and Brandon Knight.
Matt Farniok, G
Last week, Matt Farniok was the primary backup on the interior of the offensive line due to Zack Martin and Brandon Knight being out. With both back, Farniok still saw some action, taking the field to block for Greg Zuerlein’s field goals and extra point attempts. That totaled four special teams snaps for Farniok. but it’s curious that he saw those snaps ahead of Knight.