The Dallas Cowboys offense remains lethal but their defense has been much better than expected in their 3-1 start. These breakout stars are helping that.
There were never questions about the Dallas Cowboys offense with Dak Prescott returning to the fold. And through four games and a 3-1 start to the 2021 season, that has played out as they’re among the best attacks in the league. The Cowboys defense, however, was a different story. A unit that was a dumpster fire in 2020 made changes but was still a problem spot.
Under the watch of new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, though, the defense has been passable and, at times, good. Even more impressive, they’ve done this while contending with key injuries to the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence and Keanu Neal.
Part of the credit certainly belongs to Quinn, who has breathed life into this unit and has put his guys in positions to succeed. But in that vein, there are guys who were always going to play big roles on the defense that are looking like legitimate stars early in the season.
In particular, these three young defensive players are submitting breakout years already that are helping buoy the Dallas Cowboys’ early success and has the team looking like a viable NFC contender early in the year.
The Dallas Cowboys defense is getting huge performances from these 3 breakout studs
3. Micah Parsons, LB
Because of the fanbase’s reaction to taking Parsons with the No. 12 overall pick when most wanted the team to get a cornerback (even if the best options were off the board), there seemed to be a doubt about what Micah Parsons would mean. As it turns out, he’s been an immediate star, which shouldn’t be shocking when you look at his talent.
Parsons has been impressive when playing a standup linebacker role with his ability to cover sideline-to-sideline in every phase of the game. But what’s been more impressive is his versatility, playing two games almost wholly as a defensive end and getting pressure like a seasoned pro, despite playing out of position.
The rookie is absolutely the goods and is changing the guard in the Cowboys linebacker room, something the team has undoubtedly needed over the past year or two.
2. Osa Odighizuwa, DT
Another rookie, this time one of the team’s third-round picks, Osa Odighizuwa had plenty of fans in the draft community but there was still a curiosity about if the 280-pound defensive tackle could be a disruptor up front.
Odighizuwa hasn’t just been disruptive, he’s actually been one of the best defensive tackles the Cowboys have had on the roster in recent memory. After leading Dallas in pressures against the Panthers in Week 4, but he now has seven quarterback hits in four games. That’s more than any defensive tackle had in the entirety of the 2020 season for the Boys.
His ability to push the interior of the pocket has been huge for a defense playing without its best defensive end, Lawrence. It forces quarterbacks off their spots and either pushes quicker decisions or gets them into the path of the other ends. His impact can’t be understated.
1. Trevon Diggs, CB
At this point, this one was pretty obvious. Trevon Diggs picked off Sam Darnold twice on Sunday, giving him an interception in every game and a total of five on the season. For reference, that’s more than three-quarters of the teams in the league have with one game left to play in Week 4.
Diggs has been a lockdown player in coverage, despite playing against tough matchups in every week with the majority of his snaps coming against Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, DeVonta Smith and D.J. Moore.
We saw the 2020 second-round pick start to come into his own at the end of his rookie season but he’s on another level to start the 2021 campaign. He’s playing with unbelievably instinctual feel for the position and his footwork has been smoothed out tremendously. This isn’t just “finally a quality cornerback for the Cowboys” — this is the beginning of a rise to legitimate superstardom for Diggs.