It has been since the days of Darren Woodson that the Dallas Cowboys could feel truly comfortable with their safety position. Granted, they do not currently have a Woodson like, Hall of Fame-type player on their roster at the moment. What they do have is a very deep group from top to bottom that features playmakers, hard-hitters, and athleticism, that the Cowboys feel really good about for the first time in a long time.
The main cogs in that unit are Malik Hooker and Jayron Kearse, both of which bring a different element to this defense, but both are capable of complementing each other perfectly in the back end. The problem at the moment is the injury of Jayron Kearse. Kearse injured his knee in week one and is set to miss at least a couple weeks.
This is where the depth of the group will truly be tested. Players such as hard-hitting rookie Markquese Bell, and a ballhawk play-making second-year player Israel Mukuamu. Kearse has been viewed as one of the units most important pieces as they use him as a hybrid linebacker and mismatch-maker on tight ends across the league, so filling his shoes will be a challenge, but that challenge can be filled and met by this week’s underrated star.
Week 2 underrated star
Look for Donovan Wilson’s role to expand on Sunday afternoon, and with the expected increase in opportunities it lends itself to the possibility of an underrated star performance. Coming off a week one where he saw 51 defensive snapsand tallied five tackles and an interception, the Cowboys are hoping to build off that performance for an even bigger role in week two. The difference here is that Wilson and Kearse are not the same kind of player. For starters, they have very different body frames with Kearse being a longer, more athletic player, meanwhile Wilson is a more compact downhill box safety type. However, they both can provide exactly what Dan Quinn and the defensive staff are looking to accomplish against the Bengals. Look for Wilson to play down by the line of scrimmage with the linebackers on some occasions, while also having the ability to cover tight ends and defend the third level of the defense with Malik Hooker. He could provide Quinn another mismatch chess piece they can deploy on the defense.
The Cowboys are going to need to control Joe Mixon and the rushing attack, while also being disciplined in their assignments knowing that Burrow and company can take the top off at any moment. Where Wilson can really shine is in his physicality. Long ago were the days of the safety that made you pay for going over the middle, but Wilson brings a little bit of that swagger back to this Cowboys defense. Wilson is a sure tackler and someone who is unafraid to break on a ball and stick his nose in the mess. Wide receivers across the league will tell you they are very aware of a lurking, big-hitting safety, and Wilson certainly fits that bill.
Donovan Wilson is such a fun player. Listed at 6-feet and 204 pounds, he consistently plays above his weight class against the run, as he's unafraid to take on blockers who have a 100-plus-pound weight advantage over him. He's also not bad in coverage. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/AbwDtTclBt— John Owning (@JohnOwning) June 9, 2022
Winning Sunday afternoon will not be easy, and the Cowboys defense is going to have to be virtually perfect to give this offense a chance. While that seems like an unachievable task, elevated play for the likes of Donovan Wilson can help get them one step closer to that.