As we gear up for the second half of the Dallas Cowboys season, the team will enjoy the rest of their bye week, sitting with a 6-2 record. They battled through adversity early in the season and were able to do more than stay afloat; they set themselves up perfectly for the playoff push.
Throughout the first eight games of the season, plenty of guys have been impressive and a few underrated players come to mind that need to stay firm to continue to help the Cowboys win games.
Malik Hooker, for me, has been the biggest surprise this season. On a star-studded defense, it seems Hooker is just flying under the radar, and it has allowed him to continue to impress week after week.
He played a combined 570 snaps in 2020 and 2021, yet Hooker now plays like one of the best safeties in football. He has been outstanding in pass coverage, allowing just 16 yards this season. Pro Football Focus has him graded as an 80.2 this season, good for the third best in the NFL.
He has started four games, producing 37 total tackles (27 solo) and one interception in week five against the Los Angels Rams.
Hooker will be leaned on the rest of the year with the season-ending injury to Jourdan Lewis.
I don't want to get lost in Hooker being the goat or anything, he will have a big role from now on, but ultimately until the defense finds a way to stop the run the secondary can only do so much.
Still, the way he has produced up to this point, as long as he stays healthy, we should have no reason to believe he can't be a significant factor in the second half of the season.
The overall play of the Cowboys offensive line has been better than I expected with the loss of Tyron Smith. Still, the interior offensive linemen are my biggest worry as the Cowboys enter the second half of the season.
We saw a steady mix of Connor McGovern and Jason Peters throughout the first half of the year, McGovern continues to get the start in games and has had his moments, but left guard might be something the Cowboys look to strengthen in the draft.
In a contract year, McGovern has battled a few injuries this season, and the second half of the year is huge for him. If he can improve his play, the Cowboys might be in an even better spot when Tyron Smith returns to action. Smith is still three to four weeks away from his 21-day practice window, but when the All-Pro returns, the underrated play of the offensive line could benefit from the depth, whenever that might be.
Until that happens, though, I expect to see the same type of revolving door between Peters and McGovern. It has worked well enough, but let's hope no more injuries occur because they can't afford it.