There have been many reasons for the Dallas Cowboys’ transformation. It’s not easy to go from one of the worst defenses in franchise history to have 10 takeaways through four weeks of the regular season. Changing defensive coordinators isn’t enough. It’s a players league, after all. And a big part of the Cowboys’ success has been driven by two rookies.
Linebacker Micah Parsons and Defensive Tackle Osa Odighizuwa.
One of the best Draft Gurus out there knows this. That’s why The Athletic’s Dane Brugler named them to his “All-Rookie Team” at the quarter mark. And at this point, it’s not even controversial.
If we’re talking Micah Parsons, there’s no surprise there. Ever since he was drafted by the Cowboys at 12th overall, Parsons led the way in the Defensive Rookie of the Year award odds. He’s been the favorite since Day 1.
But that’s before the Cowboys asked him to basically change positions for a couple of weeks while the team was banged up at defensive end. It’s difficult to play multiple positions in the NFL, but Dan Quinn has a player who can play one snap in one and the following one at another.
Stop asking my football position, now I just play football!
— Micah Parsons (@MicahhParsons11) October 5, 2021
With Jaylon Smith gone and the bye week closing in on us, it’s likely that Parsons will see less and less playing time at Defensive End. Instead, he’ll likely return to his usual linebacker duties. We saw more of that versus the Carolina Panthers and we should expect more of that in the future.
But it’s great to know he’s capable of rushing the passer in the NFL. Through 4 weeks, Parsons leads the NFL in QB pressures. If that is surprising, wait until you find out Osa trails him by just one as a defensive tackle.
Most pass rush pressures among NFL rookies (via PFF):
1. Micah Parsons (16)
2. Osa Odighizuwa (15)
3. Odafe Oweh (13)
4. Jaelan Phillips (10)
5. Azeez Ojulari, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (9)
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 4, 2021
While Parsons’ success was expected, Osa’s has been a surprise. At the very least, it’s been a surprise that it’s come so early. Before Neville Gallimore’s preseason injury, Osa was expected to be a rotational player. Instead, he leads the team in snaps at DT by a wide margin.
So far, he’s lined up both as a one-technique and three-technique defensive tackle. If and when Gallimore returns from Injured Reserve, Odighizuwa’s playing time isn’t likely to be significantly altered. But Dan Quinn will have an interesting task as to figuring out who to play where.
Even more so since Carlos Watkins is expected to return to play vs the NY Giants, giving the Cowboys a significantly better situation at DT.
Anyone who’s discussing the team’s improvement on defense and fails to mention the play of these two rookies is doing it wrong. This could prove to be one of the best draft classes in years for the Cowboys if Golston continues to do damage now that he’s back and Kelvin Joseph turns out to work out when he gets back from I.R.
Featured image via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports