There are animals all over the Dallas Cowboys defense. Every defender made an impact during the 22-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Elite defenses lean on one another and work as a cohesive unit. Someone has to be the pride leader, and the Cowboys have their lion.
Here is the roster power ranking heading into Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Honorable Mentions: CB Trevon Diggs and RBs Tony Pollard/Ezekiel Elliott
While Trevon Diggs was the reason why the Rams had 10 points in Sunday’s game, he was also the reason why the Rams scored 10 points on Sunday. You can look at it as a glass half full or half empty. Diggs was in perfect position on both throws to Tutu Atwell and Cooper Kupp. Matthew Stafford placed the ball in the exact spot it needed to be.
Outside those plays, the Rams offense had nothing for the rest of the game. Diggs stiffened up his coverage and showed something he’s not known for—being an aggressive tackler. Multiple times, the Dallas corner went low on Rams running backs and up-ended them. It’s not a part of Diggs’ game that fans usually see, but it is another showing of him becoming a well-rounded cornerback. He also ended with six tackles which were tied for leading the team.
The offensive game plan became evident right around the second quarter. Play keep away, and run behind the combination of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Even though Pollard only had eight carries to Elliott’s 22, he broke off a 57-yard run, which was the offense’s only touchdown. Pollard remains the team’s homerun hitter when they need big things to happen.
As for Zeke, he was chipping away all day to get his 78 yards rushing. Elliott broke off a few runs for over ten yards but consistently got three, four, and five-yard gains. When the Cowboys needed to control time of possession for their final three drives, Elliott got the ball nine times. Keeping both backs in rotation throughout the season will keep them healthy for the games that matter.
10. Carlos Watkins, DT
Like DaRon Bland last week, Watkins was called up to take the place of injured defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna. With Watkins plugged into the lineup, the defense didn’t miss a beat. The team looked better defending the run with him, and he recorded three pressures on Stafford.
It’s easy to forget that Watkins was a starter for most of last season. The Cowboys opted to go with younger players instead of No. 91 but kept him around for moments like this. Watkins does not show up in the game’s box score, but watching the game again, he was active and all over the field. His play also speaks to the depth the front office has built for the defense.
9. Malik Hooker, S
A few of Jerry Jones’ guys will be on this list. Hooker is the first one. After not making the right read on the Tutu Atwell play, Hooker did not make the same mistake twice. Having someone roaming in the right spots on the back end takes the deep shot away from Stafford. That’s why many of his throws were quick or short passes.
Hooker also had the critical interception that took away any hope for the Rams to make a comeback. He was in the right spot and made sure the ball never hit the ground and didn’t try to run the ball back. Some safeties would try and make something happen after an interception, but there’s always the chance to fumble the ball and give it back to the Rams offense. It was a selfless play that shows the culture Dan Quinn has built, with the sum of the defense being greater than the individual parts.
8. Sam Williams, DE
PFF grades can sometimes be misleading and not tell the whole story of a player’s effort on the field. However, if you look at Sam William’s overall defensive grade from Week 1 to Week 5, it reflects how he’s played on the field.
His grades are 28.5, 34.8, 48, 63.1, 91.6. Williams had his best game of the season against the Rams. He finished with two tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass deflection, and a quarterback hit. Most of the rookie’s snaps came when Micah Parsons was out of the game. Williams made the most of his opportunities and showed there shouldn’t be much drop-off if Lawrence or Parsons is out of the game.
7. Connor McGovern, LG
Los Angeles moved Donald all over the line but spent most of it against Tyler Biadasz and Connor McGovern. The thought might have been that McGovern would be an easy target coming off a high ankle sprain and a rough week against the Commanders. He didn’t seem to struggle versus the All-Pro defensive tackle.
McGovern is more of a mauler than an athlete at left guard. Power on power seemed to be a better matchup against Donald. McGovern blocked Donald on the Pollard touchdown, allowing the running back to break free. If he doesn’t hold in his protection, the play probably never leaves the line of scrimmage.
On top of his impressive performance, he was reportedly dealing with an arm injury sustained in pregame warmups. Dealing with two injured limbs, McGovern certainly held his own against the All-Pro pass rusher.
6. Brett Maher, K
When the long snapper goes down with a season-ending injury, it goes under the radar. You can find a serviceable one anywhere. In practice this week with Jake McQuaide out and Matt Overton in, Maher missed three field goal attempts.
On Sunday, the special teams unit was not in sync after the Lawrence touchdown, as Overton snapped the ball to Bryan Anger before he was even ready for it. Instead of Dallas being up 7-0, it was just 6-0.
That problem was quickly corrected as Maher was money for the rest of the day, going 3-3 in his field goal attempts and adding ten points to what was already a close game. Maher currently sits second in the NFL in points with 45. His resurgence continues to be a welcomed storyline for the Cowboys 2022 season.
5. Osa Odighizuwa, DT
Odighizuwa had the best game of his short career against the Rams. He is known for being more of a pass-rushing three-technique, but he was strong in the middle defending the run. He’s a big part of why the Rams only had 38 rushing yards.
In just 34 snaps, No. 97 led the team in pressures with seven, produced four quarterback hurries, two tackles for loss, one sack, and two tackles. He also pressured Stafford on the interception to Hooker, which helped seal the game.
John Owning on Twitter put out a fantastic stat. Pre-Monday Night Football, Osa Odighizuwa ranks second among interior defenders in pass-rush win rate, behind only Aaron Donald.
4. Cooper Rush, QB
Rush did not have the best statistical outing for a quarterback. Justin Fields and Daniel Jones were better on Sunday. In the NFL, winning four games in a row with a backup quarterback is not supposed to happen.
The Cowboys are having so much success because he is not a liability in the turnover battle. Dating back to Jon Kitna, the Cowboys backups who started more than four games have a combined 31 interceptions, with a minimum of four apiece. Rush has one in his career, and that was from last year’s Minnesota game.
If he gets to start Sunday night against the Eagles, it will be the toughest test he’s faced all season. If he wins the game for Dallas, Rush will make a lot of money this off-season.
3. DeMarcus Lawrence
A switch has turned on for Tank since the game against the Giants. He is playing at a Pro Bowl level for the Cowboys. In the mic’d-up video that the Dallas Cowboys put out every week, Lawrence is on the sidelines talking to Micah Parsons about performing a twist stunt that would release him on Stafford. That’s exactly what happened on Parsons’s first sack in the third quarter.
Not only is Lawrence a great pass rusher right now, but he is a selfless leader. That’s what a true leader does. They do their job and help the success of others like Parsons. In seven games last season, No. 90 had 30 pressures. Through five games, Lawrence already has 22. If he keeps getting sacks and stacking numbers, the Cowboys might have two All-Pro pass rushers on this defense.
2. Dorance Armstrong, DE
When the Cowboys lost out on the Randy Gregory deal, it seemed like Armstrong was their backup plan. Well, it worked out better than the front office could have imagined. Armstrong is second on the team in sacks with four and continues to be a force on special teams.
His strip sack that led to the Lawrence touchdown set the tone early for the Rams in that it was going to be an uphill battle all day. When Los Angeles tried to get something going on the second drive, he blew past the long snapper for a blocked punt. Armstrong has a blocked punt and field goal in the same season, and the Cowboys aren’t even at the bye week yet.
1. Micah Parsons, DE/LB
For a few weeks, Parsons has been lower on this list. In his defense, he was dealing with the flu in New York and double teams against the Commanders. There will be no disrespect this week. Not only did Parsons finish the game with two sacks, but he could have gotten about three or four penalties called by how he was being held.
The offensive line for the Rams did not have an answer for Parsons all day. He was applying pressure on Stafford from beginning to end, even on one leg. No. 11 injured his groin in the first quarter but refused to come out of the game. He was clearly in pain on the sidelines and in between snaps. That didn’t matter. He was there when the Cowboys needed him on third down to rush.
At the end of the game, there was a shot of him being waived off the field to rest, but he refused the coach’s request. When talking with Tom Rinaldi, Parsons said, “I just can’t be denied. I just love this game.” Well, all of Cowboys nation loves you too, Micah.