For the second straight week, Dan Quinn and the Dallas defense held their opponent under 20 points (one Eagles score came on a turnover), and came away with multiple takeaways. It was a little more impressive last week against Justin Herbert, but smothering Jalen Hurts and the Eagles still means something.
Perhaps most impressive about the defensive performance on Monday night was how many members of the Cowboys’ rookie class got involved. With DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Carlos Watkins, and Bradlee Anae all out, it meant Quinn had to ask a lot out of his young guns. They responded better than anyone could have hoped for.
Micah Parsons, Weapon
Micah Parsons is like an El Camino. Is he a linebacker? Is he a pass rusher? There’s not a wrong answer here, and like the El Camino, Parsons is undeniably awesome. For the second straight week, Parsons spent most of his time up on the line of scrimmage as an edge rusher. This time, he was going against Lane Johnson and backup left tackle Andre Dillard.
If anyone thought last week’s success was an aberration due to it being against a backup tackle, Parsons proved them wrong. The rookie routinely beat both tackles, and Johnson drew holding penalties a couple of times because he just couldn’t handle Parsons’ burst. He finished the game with four tackles, split credit for a sack with Osa Odighizuwa (more on him in a bit), batted down a pass, and tallied four pressures, three hurries, and one quarterback hit.
Through three games, Parsons has done more than enough to prove the Cowboys were right to take him 12th overall in the draft. His sheer versatility has made him a unique weapon that has opened up so many more things for Quinn as he coordinates this defense. It will be fascinating to see how Parsons is used once guys like Lawrence and Armstrong return.
Kelvin Joseph, CB
With Week 3 over, Kelvin Joseph is eligible to be activated off of the injured reserve list. It’s unclear where he’s at in his recovery, though, and what his timetable for seeing the field would be when he does get activated.
Osa Odighizuwa, iDL
After quietly playing well through the Cowboys’ first two games, Osa Odighizuwa announced himself on the big stage Monday night. He tied with Parsons for the team lead in pressures with four, and registered 1.5 sacks on the night. Odighizuwa also showed off his versatility throughout the game:
#Cowboys rookie DL Osa Odighizuwa - 4 QB Pressures, 2 Sacks last night vs PHI... So damn quick upfield!— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) September 28, 2021
And lining up all over the place! Last night alone:
19 Snaps - DT
10 Snaps - DE
4 Snaps - NT
...definitely didn't see that coming! https://t.co/AkgoKkpWxN
Like Parsons, Odighizuwa has showcased versatility and athleticism that has allowed him to make a difference on this Cowboys defensive line. He’s consistently generating pressure, making an impact in the run game, and seems to be just be scratching the surface of his potential.
Chauncey Golston, EDGE
One rookie that the Cowboys staff seemed to be really high on in training camp was Chauncey Golston, who has the ability to play on the edge and on the inside. After not playing the first two games due to missing most of the preseason with an injury, Golston made his debut Monday night. It came just in time, what with the sudden absences of Anae and Watkins.
Perhaps out of necessity more than anything, Golston saw a lot of action. He played 30 defensive snaps - for comparison, Odighizuwa played 33 and Parsons 37 - and also saw six special teams snaps. It was quite the debut for the rookie, as he tallied three tackles, two pressures, and two hurries. Pro Football Focus awarded him a high grade for the game.
As this front seven gets healthier, it will be interesting to see how his role evolves. Lawrence will naturally command a lot of snaps, and Dallas has gotten good things from Tarell Basham, Armstrong, and Anae when they’ve played. But Golston flashed a lot on Monday night, so it would be a good idea to keep him involved as the season progresses.
Nahshon Wright, CB
Once again, Nahshon Wright saw most of his action on special teams. The rookie registered 20 special teams snaps, which was the fourth-highest on the team. He did, however, get onto the field on defense for four snaps at the end of the game when Dallas pulled most of their starters. Still, Wright’s role for right now is helping on special teams, and he’s doing a good job in that regard.
Jabril Cox, LB
For those who were hoping Jabril Cox might get onto the field in this game in an effort to prevent Jaylon Smith from matching up against Jalen Hurts, it was a night of disappointment. Like Wright, Cox did see four defensive snaps at the end of the game.
But special teams was still the name of the game, and Cox’s 21 snaps there was tied for the second-most for Dallas. The Cowboys clearly like Cox, but there’s a logjam at the position for now. As a result, the rookie has settled for being a special teams ace instead.
Josh Ball, OT
Josh Ball is now eligible to be activated from the injured reserve, but there may not be a compelling reason to do so. Terence Steele played another solid game against the Eagles’ stout pass rush, and La’el Collins will be back from his suspension in three weeks. Assuming things are better for Ty Nsehke after missing the last two games, Dallas is in surprisingly good shape at tackle right now.
(aggressively knocks on wood)
Simi Fehoko, WR
Simi Fehoko is another rookie being relegated to special teams so far, with seven snaps there on Monday night. But he too saw four offensive snaps when the Cowboys sent Cooper Rush onto the field at the end of the game. That’s a first for Fehoko.
Quinton Bohanna, iDL
The Cowboys seem to have settled into a groove on their usage of the hulking Quinton Bohanna; he had 20 defensive snaps in each of the first two games and logged 21 on Monday. That’s a reflection of the Cowboys’ satisfaction with Bohanna, who has played his role to near perfection thus far. He even showed some juice as a pass rusher in the game:
Once again, Bohanna functioned as a massive space-eater in the middle of the line, frequently diverting plays and freeing up guys like Odighizuwa or Golston for one-on-one matchups. He also recorded the first two tackles of his career on Monday, a hallmark for Bohanna.
Israel Mukuamu, S
Israel Mukuamu played on eight special teams snaps and then four defensive snaps in garbage time. His limited usage is a direct reflection of the Cowboys safeties, which are suddenly good? It’s a strange feeling, but definitely a welcome one.
Matt Farniok, G
Here’s a rookie who didn’t see the field in garbage time. Matt Farniok recorded six special teams snaps, all on kick attempts from Greg Zuerlein. It continued the trend from last week of Farniok seeing special teams snaps ahead of Brandon Knight, although Knight did get on the field for the offense right at the end.
Nick Ralston, FB
There was some considerable excitement when the Cowboys called up Nick Ralston from the practice squad for the game, but it turned out that Ralston’s role was just for special teams. That’s because Kellen Moore decided to reveal the glory that is Fullback Connor McGovern, which was insanely fun.
For his part, Ralston played on 15 special teams snaps, seventh-most on the team. It speaks volumes that the team called him up and immediately used him so much, and Ralston proved his merit by making a tackle on a punt return late in the game.