The Dallas Cowboys are only a few hours from the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccs come in as 8.5-point favorites this game, as well as to repeat as champions.
It’s a tall order to start the season, putting the team over a magnifying glass. Not surprising since the Cowboys dominated headlines all offseason. Dak Prescott got a huge extension, they played the preseason opening game and just finished their third appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks.
The Dallas Cowboys have been a main focus, but what’s caught the attention of many has been the improved play on defense. Particularly, the rookies.
We mentioned the area’s where Tampa is vulnerable and that the team could take advantage, but it starts on defense. Especially the rookie defenders who’ll see the most time, Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa.
DT Osa Odighizuwa— UK Cowboys Fans (@UKCowboysFans) August 20, 2021
At already 102 Snaps with 65 of them from the 3Tech.
4 Tackles, 4 TFL, 4 QB Pressure.
To highlight his skill, we pull this great play from Osa.
Perfect snap anticipation, quick burst blowing the Guard and Centre, gets skinny to the gap and finishes on the RB pic.twitter.com/pUUI08hHXq
Parsons and Odighizuwa are the only rookie starters on the team as of now, and will need to play a big part in stopping the run and the passing game. Both players have shown the ability to blitz, and Parson’s has even shown the ability to play well in coverage. Something that was considered a weakness of his in the draft process.
Cowboys rookie LB Micah Parsons nearly nabs interception while in zone coverage. pic.twitter.com/1eQVRhQ7om— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) July 25, 2021
Coverage will be big in playing against Tom Brady, but even more so will be getting to him on pass rush. As we’ve mentioned in the pass, when Tom Brady has time to throw, he’s got a 71% completion percentage, as opposed to 43% when he has to move. Considering Tampa only allowed an 18.5% pressure rate and was only sacked 21 times, coverage needs to be emphasized.
If Kelvin Joseph hadn’t injured his groin, he wouldn’t have to wait three games before making his debut. That leaves Nahshon Wright as the only other outside corner on the team after Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown. Jourdan Lewis played some outside, but has proven to be a much better nickel defender.
Wright had his moments in the preseason, and even made plays during training camo to raise eyebrows. The coaching staff might not want to expose him to much against players like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown but he’s the next man up in rotation.
Rookie CB Nahshon Wright with the pass breakup pic.twitter.com/kl0BogdXI4— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) July 22, 2021
He’s been a great fit for Dan Quinn’s Cover 3 system so far, so that should allow fans to exhale a bit. Unless Anthony Brown gets burned relentlessly, we might not see too much of Wright. Who we might see a lot of is the player picked right before in Chauncey Golston.
Despite Golston not playing in the preseason, he’s been practicing since being taken off the PUP list. DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are the starters on the edge but Golston offers more than depth on the outside. His ability to play the run and fill in at the 3-tech tackle spot is essential given the Dallas Cowboys only have four tackles on the roster.
It will be interesting to see how much playing time Golston gets. Considering he hasn’t seen any game action since Dec. 12 while at Iowa. His skills and flexibility on the line will be important this season, but might be a while until he shows his full effect.
Undoubtedly the other rookie defenders (Jabril Cox, Quinton Bohanna and Israel Mukuamu) will get their snaps as the season goes along. They all impressed early.
The only way they see more defensive snaps is if the players ahead of them come upon issues. They play below standards or get hurt. Realistically, might not see as many snaps in game one aside from special teams.
Jabril Cox is the obvious name. He was arguably the most impressive rookie this preseason and has earned his playing time, but is currently sitting fifth on the linebacker depth chart. It’s a good thing he’s there, considering the injury history of Keanu Neal and Leighton Vander Esch, plus the inconsistency of Jaylon Smith. His coverage ability will make him an asset that we see more and more of thought the year.
Mukuamu and Bohanna are project players at the moment. Both sit at the bottom of their position groups and will be rotational players to start. Don’t expect them to have a big impact in game one, with the exception of making a play when on the field.
The Bucc’s are favorites for good reason. When you bring back all your starters from a championship season, it’s obvious. Dallas’ offense won’t be the issue in 2021, all eyes will be on the defense.
If we base it on the moves they made and put on the field, the defense will be better. The big question will follow these defensive rookies all season. They are going to be a big factor in the team’s success. Week one and beyond.