Which Cowboys are deserving of some praise during the week off?
The Cowboys are in their bye week, which means their fanbase gets to watch football this weekend without being on the edge of their seat every play. That feeling will be especially sweet after a nail-biting overtime win in New England to put this team at 5-1. While we’re all enjoying how good that feels, let’s take a moment to hand out some superlatives and recognize those Cowboys who deserve recognition.
Most Valuable Player: Dak Prescott
Was there ever any doubt? Dak Prescott is playing at the very highest level. His command of the offense is awe-inspiring. His trust in the players around him is at an all-time high. And all of this is coming off a year shortened by a horrific injury.
The Cowboys have lost some players so far this year – Zack Martin for a game, Tyron Smith for a few plays, La’el Collins for five games, and an assortment of defensive players – but the team has persevered largely because Dak gives them a chance to win no matter who else is out there. Prescott is currently tied with Kyler Murray for the best odds to win MVP of the league, so it’s no surprise to see him be the team MVP through six weeks.
Most Valuable Offensive Player: Dalton Schultz
Realistically, this would go to Dak too, but in the interest of keeping things interesting we’re giving it to Dalton Schultz. Of course, Schultz had a breakout year in 2020 when Blake Jarwin’s injury pushed him to the top of the depth chart, but even with Jarwin back Schultz has remained a top target.
So far this year, Schultz’s 19 catches for a first down are third on the team behind Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, as are Schultz’s three touchdowns. Dak is also registering a 134.1 passer rating when throwing to Schultz, the highest such figure for any Cowboys target. Schultz has been so good that Bill Belichick frequently double-teamed him on third downs this past week, the ultimate sign that you’ve made it.
Most Valuable Defensive Player: Micah Parsons
“What? Not Trevon Diggs?!”
Yes, not Trevon Diggs. We’ll get to him in a second. But Micah Parsons has been the most valuable piece of this defense because of the things Dan Quinn has been able to do as a result. In just his second game of his career, Parsons switched positions and played at a higher rate than many guys who have always exclusively played that position.
Since Parsons’ brief dalliance as a full-time edge rusher, it’s become clear to the rest of the league that #11 is a threat wherever he’s at on the field. Quinn has taken full advantage of that, lining him up on the edge, in the A-gap, off the ball in the box, and even back deep as a defensive back. Parsons’ ability to do it all has made this defense more multiple than Mike Nolan ever dreamed of, which is why the rookie is the most valuable defensive player right now.
Most Improved Player: Trevon Diggs
Okay, now it’s time for Trevon Diggs. To put it simply, Diggs is great. He’s playing better than any other cornerback right now, and has demonstrated bona fide ballhawk skills. Overall, he’s a better defender than Parsons (and at a more important position to boot) and is easily one of the Cowboys’ top two defenders overall, next to DeMarcus Lawrence.
But the most impressive part about Diggs is that he’s having this incredible season in just his second year in the NFL despite changing schemes in between. It’s not that Diggs was bad as a rookie, but he wasn’t at this level. You could see his natural talent – especially the ball skills – throughout the year, but Diggs has kicked it up a notch or five. He was arguably the best rookie corner last year, but to go from that honor to playing the best of any corner a year later is almost unheard of. Thus, he’s the Cowboys’ most improved player, and it’s really close.
Offensive Player That Deserves More Credit: TIE Between Connor Williams and Tyler Biadasz
The Cowboys are so loaded on offense that it’s hard to find anyone not getting lauded by fans and media. It’s odd, then, that Connor Williams and Tyler Biadasz are seemingly criticized so much.
Williams has routinely been criticized through the years, but through six games, he is ninth among all guards in pass blocking efficiency, which measures pressures allowed on a per-snap basis. He’s been called for a lot of penalties, some of which have been questionable, but that’s a part of the life of an offensive lineman. The fact is that Williams is playing better than he ever has.
It’s a different case for Biadasz, who is effectively still a rookie in terms of playing experience. He drew a bad hand to start the season, with three straight weeks facing off against Vita Vea, Linval Joseph, and Javon Hargrave resulting in 11 pressures given up. He has done much better since, and a brief issue with snapping was quickly corrected without a single bad snap against the Patriots. Biadasz is getting better each week, and he deserves credit for that.
Defensive Player That Deserves More Credit: Chauncey Golston
Chauncey Golston was expected to have a prominent role on this defensive line with his versatility to play both inside and outside, but he missed all of training camp and the preseason on the PUP list. Golston was then inactive for the Cowboys’ first two games, but injuries pushed him into the fire in Week 3. Despite not having worn pads and taken real contact since his college days nearly a year ago, Golston played on 52% of all defensive snaps against the Eagles.
That’s the lowest snap share Golston has seen since then. Just the fact that he’s been able to jump right in and play is impressive, but Golston has played well too. He’s got 13 tackles, a quarterback hit, a half sack, and a fumble recovery to his name. Bob Sturm of The Athletic tracks splash plays by Cowboys defenders, and currently Golston has registered eight splash plays on the year. That’s as many such plays as Leighton Vander Esch, a veteran player who’s appeared in every game and played 34 more snaps than Golston.
On its own, Golston’s play hasn’t been as incredible as his fellow rookies. But taken in context of how his offseason went, it’s pretty awesome to see Golston making an impact so early on.
Coaches Who Deserve More Credit
There are too many coaches here to have a clear winner, so instead they’ll each get their own shout-outs here. Much of the credit (or blame) goes to Mike McCarthy, Kellen Moore, and Dan Quinn, but this staff is more than just those three.
How about some recognition for John Fassel? Bones took a lot of heat for his ill-fated punt block attempt against the Chargers, even though it was a good call. It worked out against the Patriots, though, and the Cowboys special teams have been reliable ever since their horrid performance in the season opener.
Joe Philbin has once again reinforced McCarthy’s decision to hire him instead of retaining the respected Marc Colombo. Philbin’s offensive line is much healthier this year, but the Cowboys still enjoyed solid performances from Connor McGovern and Terence Steele, and even some limited reps from Ty Nsehke. The aforementioned in-season growth of Biadasz is another feather in Philbin’s cap.
When Quinn was first hired as the defensive coordinator, people thought they knew what they were getting in terms of scheme. However, Quinn has mixed in a lot of schematic change-up’s, especially in coverage, where there’s been a lot more man coverage and split-safety looks than before in Quinn’s career. Much of the credit for that has to go to Joe Whitt Jr., the Cowboys’ defensive pass game coordinator, for helping ensure this defense doesn’t get bland or predictable.
Unlike Moore or Fassel, Quinn sits up in the booth on game days, as does Whitt. His main point of contact down on the field is senior defensive assistant George Edwards. A former defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Edwards has become much more involved in the defense this year, as well as working with linebackers in a more hands-on capacity. The communication between Quinn and his players hasn’t been a talking point, a credit in part to Edwards, and the positive play of Parsons, Keanu Neal, and even Leighton Vander Esch deserves kudos for Edwards.
Finally, there has to be some recognition for assistant head coach Rob Davis. Not too much is known about Davis, but he’s described as responsible for the team culture. That’s a bit vague, but it provides for the chance to credit Davis for what looks to be a really solid culture for the Cowboys right now. Anyone who’s watched the team’s weekly Sounds of the Sideline videos can tell that these players love each other and trust in each other to get the job done, which is a hard thing to accomplish in the NFL.
POLL: Best Moment of the Year (So Far)
Whenever your team is 5-1 to start the year, there are plenty of great moments. But which one has been the best so far? We’ll let you decide.