clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dallas Cowboys roster power rankings for Week 3: We have a new number one

A Week 2 victory was (mostly) unexpected. Can the best players carry the team to another win in New York?

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

What. A. Game.

Coming into Week 2, many media members left the Cowboys out to dry. All hope seemed lost after losing Dak Prescott to injury and the terrible loss to the Buccaneers.

Cooper Rush decided to change the narrative. The Cowboys backup quarterback started the game strong with an early touchdown and bookended the performance with a game-winning drive. Rush was not the only player to stand out.

It can be just as hard to pick ten names for this list when Dallas wins as when they lose. Here are the top 10 players that showed up and showed out against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Honorable Mentions: RB Ezekiel Elliott, LT Tyler Smith, DE Dante Fowler Jr., DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., LB Anthony Barr

Usually, honorable mentions are limited to two names. However, there were too many fringe players that needed to be recognized.

Elliott may not have been the best back on the team, but his veteran presence for the offense and hard running did not go unnoticed. The ball went to Elliott when the offense needed tough yards. He finished the game with 15 rushes for 53 yards.

Tyler Smith showed confidence and strength against the Bucs in Week 1. He matched that performance against the Bengals. There were times when the rookie was out of sync with guard Matt Farniok, but Smith held Trey Hendrickson in check. That is not easy to do.

With Tarell Basham going on injured reserve this week, the rotation of pass rushers needed to step up. Armstrong had a career game with two sacks, and Fowler was equally active. He finished the night with one sack, a forced fumble, a pass deflection, and two tackles.

Anthony Barr seems to have found his groove for only his second game in the Dan Quinn system. Not only was he on the field a lot, but he played with great instincts. Key stops were made by the veteran linebacker, who improves each week.

10. KaVontae Turpin, KR/WR

Turpin's name will not flash in the stat sheet, but he impacted drives that led to six points. Right before half-time, the Cowboys had one final drive that started with a punt return for 20 yards from Turpin. Dallas might not have gotten close to field goal range without his effort.

At the end of the game, when the Dallas defense stopped the Bengals on their final possession, Turpin gave Rush and the offense some extra breathing room. The former USFL MVP caught the ball and ran right, avoiding tacklers and using his speed to get to the sideline.

Every yard matters when getting an opportunity for a walk-off field goal. Turpin happened to get 10 of them, which made the difference.

9. CeeDee Lamb, WR

Lamb was not the leading wide receiver for the Cowboys, but he had a bounce-back game. He got better separation from cornerbacks and caught 7 of 11 targets for 75 yards.

Kellen Moore found better ways to get the ball in his No. 1 receiver's hands. Last week against the Bucs, Lamb struggled to find his groove and was out of rhythm with Prescott. He had 11 targets in that game but only two catches.

Week 2 was a different story. In the postgame interview last week, Lamb looked defeated and lost. He even got injured on a tackle from behind in this game but forced his way to stay on the field, even though he was hurt. That takes guts; hopefully, he can build on this in 2022.

8. Leighton Vander Esch, LB

My podcast co-host Jess Nevarez's list for Week 1 list included Vander Esch. One week later, the linebacker finds his way to this one. He was all over the field against Cincinnati. Out of 70 defensive snaps, the former first-round pick was on the field for 63 of them.

Vander Esch has been a force in the middle of the defense for a player who struggles to stay healthy. He re-signed on a one-year deal with the Cowboys in the offseason after the team declined his fifth-year option. It looks like his veteran presence is paying off so far.

He finished the game with seven tackles, one sack, and one pass deflection. Let the wolf hunter howl.

7. Donovan Wilson, S

Wilson has made this list in back-to-back weeks but drops down two spots. That is nothing against Wilson and his game on Sunday. It just means the top of this list is too good.

Wilson's new nickname is the human missile. The fourth-year player was all over the field once again. With Jayron Kearse out of the lineup, Wilson and Israel Mukuamu shared the extra workload.

He had eight tackles, six by himself, and set the tone from the beginning. The hit on third down over the middle to Ja'Marr Chase could have been a big moment. Even though it was for a Bengals first down, Wilson weaved through traffic to make the stop. Very similar to the play he made in Minnesota on Dalvin Cook in 2020.

6. Trevon Diggs, CB

Diggs was off of the list last week, but not because he had a historically bad game to justify it. The expectations heading into the season are high for him after finishing with 11 interceptions last season, and last week was underwhelming.

Diggs did not get an interception, but he did help hold one of the most explosive players in the NFL to just two catches for 16 yards. Ja'Marr Chase called out Diggs' play style during the week on how his play could be "hit or miss."

When it came down to making a crucial third-down tackle, Diggs' hit on Tyler Boyd did not miss. If the former All-Pro did not make that tackle, Boyd would have gotten a considerable gain, and the outcome of the game could be different. There is more than one way to be an impactful cornerback in this league. Chase found out that being athletic could lead to being shut down.

5. Tony Pollard, RB

Kellen Moore got Pollard on the field last week against the Bucs but used him in all the wrong ways. Double reverses and pass blocking are not the ways to get this player involved. The result was much better after Moore spent extra time in the lab this week.

Pollard was explosive from the start and totaled 98 yards of offense with one touchdown. His performance in Week 2 of 2021 felt similar to how he was used on Sunday. A jet sweep every now and then and quick tosses to get him moving outside.

Pollard's running is very smooth and can be a homerun threat with the ball in his hands. His longest catch of the night went for 46 yards and right to the goal line. If Rush can throw Pollard a cleaner ball out of the flat and get him in more one-on-one matchups, his production as a receiver could explode by the end of the season.

4. Noah Brown, WR

When figuring out the top ten last week, Brown's name was at No. 3 before changing it to sixth. It looks like last week's prediction was seven days early. Brown was not only the leading receiver in a game that featured Lamb, Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, but he had visible chemistry with Cooper Rush.

Rush and Brown came into the league together as rookies in 2017, so they have worked together for many seasons. Brown talked about how his familiarity with Rush gave him the trust to be at the right place when the ball was thrown.

On the game's final drive, Rush had a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and fluttered in the air. Brown jumped sideways in front of his defender and caught the ball for a first down. That's a determination to win the game.

On top of playing 85 percent of the offensive snaps as a wide receiver, Brown was the personal protector on every punt. Not many leading receivers are put in a position to do both.

3. Cooper Rush, QB

Cooper Rush does it again. When he was asked to start against the Vikings last season against a great team, he did enough to win the game. Against the defending AFC Champion Bengals, Rush did just enough to help the Cowboys win.

In his postgame press conference, he mentioned how a collective team effort led to a victory. Rush is correct, but it all starts and ends with the play of the quarterback. The opening drive was orchestrated beautifully by Rush, and he threw the ball in all the right spots. His only touchdown pass of the night was in a place only Noah Brown could get it.

In the second half, the offensive game plan became more conservative. Rush got lucky some of his passes were not intercepted, and Dallas did not score any points until their final drive. But that is when it matters most.

The Bengals defense has talented players at every level, but Rush did everything right in the end. Rush had poise and took chances to receivers to set up the game-winning field goal. If Kellen Moore can simplify things this week against the New York Giants, Rush might be 3-0 with a divisional win on his ledger.

2. Micah Parsons, LB/DE

On Monday's episode of's podcast Girls Talk, Boys' Talk, Iisha Morrison said she, as a younger Cowboys fan, remembers DeMarcus Ware but did not understand how impactful he was. Morrison said she is happy that Dallas has another generational defender in Micah Parsons and can now understand how important he is to the team.

The dude is just relentless. Good is not good enough for him. CBS cameras were showing shots of him on the sidelines, looking disappointed when the Cowboys were up 14-3. In his locker room interviews, Parsons mentioned how he had worked this offseason to elevate his game to the best. There is no argument there.

Through two weeks of the 2022 season, he leads the league in sacks with four and is the first defender in NFL history to record 17 sacks in a player's first 18 games. Averaging out his numbers for the rest of the season, he is on pace for 34 sacks and 60 quarterback hits.

As a fan, it feels good to watch Parsons go to work every Sunday. Hopefully, this season ends with more hardware for him, and he can be a Cowboy for a long time.

1. Brett Maher, K

Are you putting a kicker before Parsons as No. 1? That's crazy! Not for this game. Not for what it means for the season.

The Cowboys struggled with a kicker last season in close games and could not find one to start training camp this offseason. Jonathan Garibay and Lirim Hajrullahu were the only two kickers on the initial training camp roster, and neither made the cut.

Maher was cast out in 2019 after a rough one and a half years in Dallas. His second time around, he looks more confident and like a new kicker. 2019 was Maher's first season in the NFL, so maybe the pressure was too big for him. On Sunday, the man had ice in his veins.

Maher is perfect on extra points and 3 for 3 on field goals, all at 50-plus yards out. In his postgame interview, the 32-year-old kicker seems humbled and focused on any opportunity he gets.

If the Cowboys want to win these close games until Prescott returns, Maher will be relied on a lot. He seems more than ready to answer the call.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys