We blink, and the Dallas Cowboys are close to halfway through the 2023 regular season, sitting with a 5-2 record. Outside of the game against the Los Angeles Chargers being close, the highs and lows of the season have been to the absolute extreme.
Embarrassing losses on the road to the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers reset expectations for Cowboys fans on the season, while absolute blowouts against Bill Belichick and New York Jets defense set sights toward Super Bowl aspirations.
Many players have contributed to the success of Dallas so far this season, but these are the top six players who have been playing above the rest.
Here are the top six players at this point of the 2023 season.
6. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE
Credit has to be given to right guard Zack Martin, who would be the 6a to DeMarcus Lawrence in this spot. Outside of missing the one game in Arizona, Martin continues to play at a high level and be one of the best guards in the NFL. If there were the same dominance between him and Steele as there was last season, he would be here.
However, that should be a compliment to how great Lawrence has been for Dallas this season. His flashy stats aren’t among the best in the league, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t the third-best defensive player on the team, impacting almost every snap.
Lawrence has 21 pressures (second on the team) and has a 91.5 run defense grade on Pro Football Focus. Not only has he been the best run defender on the Cowboys’ defense, but Lawrence’s grade ranks No. 1 among defensive ends in the NFL.
One of the glaring weaknesses heading into the offseason was whether Dallas could stop the run, forcing opposing quarterbacks to throw. Making offenses one-dimensional has been a direct result of Lawrence’s presence and why the Cowboys haven’t allowed a single rusher to go over 100 yards this season.
5. Brandon Aubrey, K
Being fifth has nothing to do with the recency of Brandon Aubrey being awarded the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, and the Month. Thinking about where the Cowboys were this offseason in Oxnard to where they are now is astonishing.
People familiar with Aubrey’s game at the USFL level never doubted he could turn into this type of NFL kicker, but for fans, Aubrey’s success now rivals the early days of Dan Bailey. On Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, the former MLS player tied the NFL record with 18 straight successful field goal attempts to start a career.
These aren’t just chip shots either. Aubrey successfully made a 58-yard field goal attempt that tied the longest kick by a rookie since 2019. He also sits fifth in the NFL, scoring 71 points, averaging 10.1 per game, first among active players (Miami running back DaVon Achane is first but is on injured reserve).
For the Cowboys to find one Pro Bowl special teams player out of the USFL was remarkable in 2022. To find a second one would mean everyone deserves a raise in the pro personnel department.
4. DaRon Bland, CB
As my former Writer’s Block co-host Jess Nevarez would say, “DaRon Bland has been anything but.” After the Cowboys lost star cornerback Trevon Diggs to a torn ACL in practice, Bland would have to step up in a big way.
Once he found his footing playing outside corner in Week 3 against the Cardinals, Bland shut offenses down. He’s allowing an NFL passer rating of 22.6, the best among cornerbacks.
DaRon Bland in single coverage:— PFF (@PFF) November 1, 2023
89.9 coverage grade (1st)
6 catches allowed
6 forced incompletions
7.5 passer rating allowed pic.twitter.com/jfW7XZuX4D
Bland has yet to allow a touchdown, has four interceptions, and three pick-sixes. The absence of Diggs left big shoes to be filled, but Bland has done a great job becoming the best version of himself while playing like Diggs would on the outside. The tests will be far from over for the second-year corner as Dallas still needs to play A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Jaylen Waddle, and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
However, for the first part of the season, Bland is a big reason opposing quarterbacks have been frustrated.
3. Dak Prescott, QB
Dak Prescott is coming off of the two best performances of the season. It shouldn’t be forgotten that just because he wasn’t putting up insane stats in the passing game to start the season, he was accurate and decisive.
The two outliers will be against the Cardinals and 49ers, but he’s been one of the best players on offense in each of Dallas’ five wins. Mentioning his two-game stretch, out of all quarterbacks from Week 6 to Week 8, Prescott has a 75.4 completion percentage (2nd), 9.8 yards per attempt (1st), five touchdowns (6th), a 7.9 big-time throw percentage (3rd), zero turnover-worthy plays (T-1st), and an NFL passer rating of 124.8 (2nd).
Dak Prescott finds Brandon Cooks for another Cowboys touchdown pic.twitter.com/e8XcDC6w66— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) October 29, 2023
Prescott’s performances against the New York Jets and New England Patriots were some of the most impressive, considering how dominant the opposing defenses can be, especially with one having Bill Belichick at the helm.
No. 4 couldn’t overcome the 49ers but has another opportunity to slay another NFC giant when Dallas heads to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, who are 7-1.
2. CeeDee Lamb, WR
After a few games where CeeDee Lamb wasn’t as involved as he could be on offense, the star receiver voiced his opinion, knowing he could help the team win if given the chance. Head coach Mike McCarthy listened, and Lamb has one of the best two-game stretches of his young career.
Over the previous two matchups, Lamb has 19 receptions off 21 targets, 275 yards, averaging 14.5 yards per catch, and two touchdowns. Most of his snaps have been from the slot (58.4 percent), but he’s also been having success on the outside.
Lamb is ninth in the NFL with 633 yards and 11th with 46 catches. He has just three games of over 100 yards receiving, but in each game, he was the centerpiece of the offense, getting the ball at least seven times.
No. 88 has been the most dynamic playmaker in the Cowboys Texas Coast offense, and if they can’t get the running game going like they want to, there should be more opportunities for Lamb to dominate in the second half of the year.
1. Micah Parsons, DE/LB
Like many of the names on this list, the stats people focus on the most don’t tell the whole story. Micah Parsons has been the best overall player on the Cowboys in almost every game this season.
His six sacks on the year would put him in the middle of the pack across the league, but he’s been one of the most disruptive defenders in the NFL. Parsons has 43 total pressures, which is fifth among all defenders. He’s not far behind the league leader, Maxx Crosby, who has 47.
Among all defensive ends in the NFL playing at least 20 percent pass rush snaps, Parsons has a win rate of 22.6, which ranks fifth. But if you take all of the numbers listed above and compare them to players on the Cowboys, no one even touches Parsons’ production.
The expectations for Parsons were high entering the season, and some would say he hasn’t quite met them. That’s not due to a drop in play from Parsons. He’s facing the second most double-team blocks (28 percent) on a per pass rush basis in the league and still winning at an absurd rate.
With two games against the Washington Commanders and one against the New York Giants coming up, there’s an opportunity for Parsons to dominate, given both teams are allowing the most sacks in the NFL.