FRISCO – Micah Parsons is the sensation of a Cowboys rookie class that focused on defense.
In the spring, the Cowboys used eight of their 11 draft picks against defensive players. A faulty unit had to be repaired which was sorely lacking in playmakers.
It looks like the Cowboys are having one with Parsons, who went from inside linebacker to defensive end. But he’s not the only rookie who has made an impact.
Third-round pick Osa Odighizuwa has become a starter worth mentioning.
After three games, the defensive tackle has 1 ½ sacks, seven tackles and four quarterback hits.
Odighizuwa was not an expected rookie like Parsons was at the start of training camp. He had to back Neville Gallimore on the defensive tackle and quite possibly a player to get some shots at the end. When Gallimore injured his elbow in the pre-season, it opened everything for Odighizuwa.
“Just in terms of guys getting injured and having to step up that has helped me a lot,” he said. “To be able to go against (the first team) and to have the possibility of getting more playing time and experience. I think it helps me in my development.
Odighizuwa is a constant performer pushing the pocket and this has kept him in his starting role. Its flexibility of position, when needed, can also be used.
The speed and power where he played late at UCLA is something needed in the defensive tackle. So while the infractions deal with Parsons rainfall to the limit, Odighizuwa is one to watch out for.
“I’m happy with his situation and I think the arrow just goes up for him because he’s quick as a defensive end,” said defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. “That’s why we moved him inside and that’s what he showed at the university. Now it’s about taking some of those skills and turning them into what we think it can be.
Odighizuwa’s improvement is also attributed to the person he faces during the week: All-Pro right-wing goalkeeper Zack Martin.
“He’s a very, very good goalie, one of the best in the NFL,” said Odighizuwa. “So go against him everyday and just have that look, I think that’s something that helps. Not just me, but everyone who lines up against him. He will make us better.
It’s only been three weeks into a long NFL season, but this class of rookies has an impact that goes beyond Parsons.
There’s Odighizuwa, sure, but the Cowboys are happy with another third-round pick, defensive end Chauncey Golston who struggled with a hamstring injury at training camp. Golston made his debut in the victory over the Eagles and played 30 snaps. Sixth-round pick Quinton Bohanna, a defensive tackle, averaged 20 snaps per game.
“I hope that as we move forward these young people will continue to grow,” said McCarthy, “and as we get some of the veterans back from the IR situation and so on, I think it gives us definitely a chance to get stronger as a football team. “
Everything is not perfect.
Second-round pick, cornerback Kelvin Joseph has not played this season and McCarthy has said he is “weeks” away from being taken from the injured reserve with a groin injury. Cornerback Nahshon Wright (third round), safety Israel Mukuamu (sixth round) and linebacker Jabril Cox (fourth round) each played four snaps in defense. Special teams are where most of their work comes from.
Still, Odighizuwa and Parsons are emerging as quality players, with the defensive tackle becoming more than reliable.
“You can see his command in regards to the responsibilities in the contingency plan with some of the things he’s doing and making calls and adjustments,” McCarthy said. “It looks very comfortable in there. I clearly think he was promoted as a replacement at the end of training camp, he seized all the opportunities and took advantage of them.
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