Things did not go the Cowboys’ way on Sunday in their 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It was a rare loss for a team that’s been hard to beat all year long. Even in those few defeats, Dallas has generally still seen positive performances from their rookies.
That wasn’t necessarily the case this time around. Micah Parsons, who really shouldn’t count as a rookie anymore, was still great. The rest of this rookie class? The few who actually suited up and played had their fair share of struggles, although that could be said of almost any player wearing white and blue this week.
Micah Parsons, LB
Micah Parsons continues to prove just how different he is than your average rookie. His stat line - five tackles, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit - isn’t what we’ve come to expect from the Defensive Player of the Year candidate. But Kyler Murray is a hard quarterback to bring down, and Parsons was making an impact in several ways despite not getting any closer to the rookie sack record.
Cowboys LB Micah Parsons had no sacks Sunday vs. Cardinals. Just your standard game with a touchdown-saving tackle, two TFLs combining for minus-10 yards and a bevy of play-wrecking QB pressures, including one foiling a two-point conversion and another nearly resulting in an INT. pic.twitter.com/WCuuFMUyVa— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) January 3, 2022
Parsons is too good to put into words, and yet we try every week. He just makes plays in whatever he’s doing, which makes him extremely valuable to this defense and this team. The fact that he’s a rookie - and that he sat out his entire last season at Penn State - makes it all the more impressive.
Kelvin Joseph, CB
Kelvin Joseph made his first career start last week on short notice and looked great. Dan Quinn still went with Jourdan Lewis in the slot this week, though, with Anthony Brown moving back to the outside. But Joseph did get onto the field at cornerback about midway through the game, playing a total of 19 defensive snaps.
Joseph made two tackles on the day but also displayed a few missteps in coverage and when trying to tackle in open space. It wasn’t anything to cause legitimate concern about Joseph’s long-term prospects, but it was a reminder that this is a rookie who hasn’t really played all that much yet. There’s a reason the Cowboys didn’t leave him on the field for more snaps throughout the game.
Osa Odighizuwa, iDL
The Cowboys have already been missing Brent Urban, who’s done for the year. Earlier this week, they lost Justin Hamilton from their practice squad and saw Quinton Bohanna go on the COVID-19 reserve list. That meant more playing time for Osa Odighizuwa, who’s seen his snaps scaled back a bit lately to keep the explosive rookie fresh.
Odighizuwa led all interior defensive linemen in snaps this week and came away with two tackles. He didn’t make too much of a splash as a pass rusher, and his facemask penalty on first down after Dak Prescott’s fourth-quarter fumble gave the Cardinals 15 free yards and, ultimately, a field goal. It wasn’t a banner day for the young defensive tackle.
Chauncey Golston, EDGE
Chauncey Golston had begun to settle into a new role with the return of both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, mostly serving as a rotational run stopper on the edge and situational pass rusher inside. But Sunday, his four defensive snaps were good for just 5% of all available snaps.
This easily marked a season low for the rookie, who also played the most special teams snaps he’s played all year. One has to assume that this was a situational decision based on the matchups against Arizona, as Golston has been a reliable cog in this defense all year long despite his fluctuating responsibilities.
Nahshon Wright, CB
Nahshon Wright’s career thus far has been filled with special teams snaps. The actual experience of those snaps has been a rollercoaster ride. One week, he cost the Cowboys a chance at possession after muffing a blocked punt. The next week, he recovered a blocked punt in the endzone for a touchdown.
This week, Wright was once again on the wrong side of a big special teams play. When the Cardinals ran a fake punt, they threw the ball Wright’s way and the rookie cornerback was flagged for pass interference. The Cardinals player actually made the catch, an incredible feat on its own, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way because of Wright’s penalty. It still doesn’t erase the valuable role he’s carved out this year.
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
Simi Fehoko returned from the COVID-19 reserve list but was inactive in this game.
Quinton Bohanna, iDL
As mentioned above, Quinton Bohanna was on the COVID-19 reserve list and did not appear in this game.
Israel Mukuamu, S
Israel Mukuamu was inactive for this game.
Matt Farniok, OG
Matt Farniok was inactive for this game.