The Dallas Cowboys have a great problem, so to speak. Finally, their safety room is filled with guys that can contribute on a respectable level if called upon. Veterans Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker proved to be worth the investment as they earned two-year deals during free agency, while sixth-round pick Israel Mukuamu and undrafted free agent Markquese Bell stamped their spots on the 53-man roster with excellent preseason performances.
The longest-tenured member of this bunch has turned heads in the first few weeks. Donovan Wilson, who the Cowboys took in the sixth round in 2019, is in the biggest season of his career, considering he’s playing for a new deal, and he’s showing what made him one of the Cowboys’ bright spots defensively once upon a time.
Wilson has put up 13 tackles (one tackle for loss) and an interception in two starts so far this season. This is reminiscent of how his breakout campaign in 2020 when he tallied 12 tackles (one tackle for loss) and a sack in his first two starts.
Donovan Wilson vs. Donovan Wilson:— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) September 19, 2022
2020 (breakout season) – 12 combined tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack in first two starts
2022 – 13 combined tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT in first two starts
I'm not saying, but I'm absolutely saying. 🔬 #hive #Cowboys
.@dallascowboys @donlwilson6 Cowboys striking gold with this former 6th round pick. You have to notice the full speed open field tackles in this game. Once he puts you in his periscope he doesn’t miss! @AggieFootball #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/YuKWALS76T— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 19, 2022
The former Texas A&M Aggie has been on a rollercoaster ride since arriving in Dallas. Wilson first showed his value to the Cowboys as a rookie by leading all players in interceptions (3) during the preseason. Unfortunately, Wilson suffered an ankle injury that halted his development and he was mostly a special teams contributor (only logged 16 defensive snaps).
Hopes were high for another big year from the hard-hitting Wilson last season after his bug year the season before, but an old bugaboo resurfaced. Groin, shoulder, and chest injuries limited him to appearing in just nine games for the Cowboys, which had to be frustrating for him because he played well when he was healthy.
Although it hasn’t been the smoothest road, the Cowboys found something special in Wilson. Not can he use his heat-seeking missile style to come down in the box and makes plays against the run, but Wilson can drop back and apply his instincts and ball skills to be effective in coverage as well, making him a huge part of the Cowboys’ Big Nickel scheme that features three safeties.
Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn turned the defense into one of the league’s better units in his first year on the job in 2021, and that was with Wilson battling injuries. So, when he talks, people listen, and he spoke on one of the aspects that makes Wilson the player he is.
“Donovan’s always physical and you can probably write that in your notes for next week as well,” said Quinn.
It’s never been a matter of ability with Wilson, just health. If he can stay on the field and not on the injury report, Wilson could make himself a high-priority free agent in 2023.
Feature image via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports