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5 Best Defensive Players for Cowboys From Weeks 1-6

There's no arguing that the Cowboys' has been the strength of the team so far in 2021. But that doesn't mean we haven't seen some strong individual play on the defensive side, and some top performers have been instrumental to Dallas' five-game winning streak early this season.

The best thing about the Cowboys' in 2021 is that we're only scratching the surface of its potential. We only got one game from thus far and other intriguing players out of the rotation: , , , and a few more.

Even shorthanded, 's group has adapted and done enough to help the Cowboys get to 5-1 before the . Which five players have led the way?

5 Best Defensive Players for Cowboys From Weeks 1-6 2
Dallas Cowboys LB (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

5. LB Micah Parsons

Arguably his best moments were early in the year when being tasked with rushing the passer, and especially in Week 2 with both Lawrence and missing against the Chargers. But while he's still learning on the job and making the occasional rookie mistakes, Parsons has lived up to 1st-Round billing and is currently the heavy favorite for .

Perhaps the most impressive thing we've seen from Micah has been his manner and immediate boost to the mentality on defense. He exudes energy and confidence and the Cowboys defenders are showing that in new ways this year.

Consistency will come, as will more big plays like we saw early in the season. But Parsons has already proven that he's NFL-ready and has the makings of a future star. It will be exciting to see how the bye week has helped him work on his game and build on this fine foundation.

4. DT Osa Odighizuwa

He won't make the same flashy plays that his athletic fellow rookie does but Odighizuwa has been arguably better overall. He pushed his way into a starting role, albeit helped by Gallimore's , and has been Dallas' most-used by playing on a little over 60% of the defensive snaps.

We've seen Osa make big stops against the run and be disruptive as a pass rusher. His two so far in 2021 are third on the team behind Gregory and Parsons and a solid number for an interior lineman.

Deeper have Odighizuwa as one of the more effective defensive linemen in football, winning his matchups at a higher rate than household names like , , and .

With Gallimore and both close to returning, Osa's share of the may go down as the season continues. But when it comes to crucial moments in games, the Cowboys may have a hard time keeping this rookie off the field.

5 Best Defensive Players for Cowboys From Weeks 1-6 1
Dallas Cowboys S

3. S Jayron Kearse

I will admit that I dismissed Kearse as an impact from the . Once Dallas added before camp I figured Jayron wasn't even going to make the final roster. But instead he's been the team's best and a bigger difference-maker than any of the new arrivals from 2021 .

Kearse leads the team with 39 tackles thus far. But these aren't just by being the last line of defense; Jayron also leads with four tackles-for-loss and has four QB hits on his blitzes.

The contributions have also come in pass defense. We've seen Kearse break up passes with coverage and with big hits on would-be receivers.

To have made guys like Hooker and afterthoughts on the defense is very telling about how well Jayron has performed thus far. At this rate, his one-year deal with the Cowboys won't be his last one.

2. DE Randy Gregory

Four sacks to lead the team would be good enough to put Randy on this list. But the impact that Gregory's had has gone well beyond the basic box score.

Coming off his best game of the season, Gregory's two early sacks and forced fumble on New England QB Mac Jones were game-changing plays that helped keep Dallas afloat. But in addition to those highlights, and as we've seen all year, Randy's been a constant disruptor and nuisance for opposing passers and their protection.

Even when he's not the one making the play, Gregory has chased quarterbacks into the arms of his teammates. He's also forced holding calls on opposing blockers and had several more that should've been called.

But even if you're one of those people who only judges rushers by sacks, Gregory's on a satisfying pace for double digits this year. That rate could even improve once DeMarcus Lawrence returns and hopefully draws some of the heat away from Randy.

Trevon Diggs
Dallas Cowboys CB

1. CB Trevon Diggs

Was there any doubt who'd be atop the list? Diggs isn't just the best defender in Dallas right now but is a clear favorite in the discussion.

With seven interceptions in just six games, Trevon is threatening all-time records for the franchise and even the league. And with two already returned for touchdowns, Diggs is even outscoring some of the top receivers that he's tasked with covering.

As I wrote about following the Giants game, Trevon's style of play is drawing some very high praise and special comparisons. And now that all quarterbacks should have a healthy fear of him, Diggs' impact on the defense overall could be even greater as the season continues.

If 2021 does end up being a memorable season for the Cowboys, it will be in no small part due to Trevon Diggs. He's made the biggest plays and in some key moments, and he's brought a pizazz to this defense that we haven't seen in a long time.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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4 Comments

  1. Hard to argue with this list. Good job, Jess.

    Past couple of drafts were very good, credit to FO, although some players FELL to us. As far as FA, in IMO, it’s a bit of a crap shoot. Sometimes you win, like this year, sometimes you lose, like last year.

  2. Interesting that in the comments the thread moved to the FO, not the quality of this draft class which is awesome. Factor in Joseph now joining the team and Ball not even breaking into the line up on the O line and Nashon Wright relegated to special teams. My frustration with the front office is a history of refusing to address specific high need positions (Safety, DT) and a silly habit of awarding massive 2nd contracts to players who had one good year in a contract season. In other words, a pathological tendency to over-clue our own players. Plus you cannot overlook busts like Taco and Trysten Hill.All in all, the past two drafts have been very successful. What scares me is the off-season and losing Kellen Moore and/or Dan Quinn. Plus Will McClay goingelsewhere for a GM title.

  3. I feel where the criticism of this front office has been in error is in the approach they take to free-agency. People seem to suggest that the players they opt for are dooming (and damning) this club. However, 2020 vs 2021 free-agency has proven how its such a crapshoot with the players signed. But I think their approach to free-agency is perfect … in that they stay clear of the Tier-1 guys and they focus on bargain basement shopping with the 1-2 yr contracts. When we reach the point again where a Deion takes us over the top, I don’t think the Jones’ will have any hesitation … but until then, stay out of that tier.

    I know there are those who will say they need to say that this FO needs to get more “name” players in here, but I disagree. For starters, that tier-1 group is ultra expensive and typically well aged. Secondly, the crux of a good team should not be built via free-agency. Lastly, the multiple short contracts let you see what players can do when they have the incentive.

    Even in 2020 when guys like Ha-Ha, McCoy, and Poe didn’t pan out, it didn’t cripple this team in the least … it was simply just a few very inexpensive misses that happen in free-agency.

    And to your point Gary, they’ve been killing the draft of late … and for now it appears that the common denominator is McClay … he needs to be retained at all reasonable costs.

  4. We criticize this FO alot. But kudos to them for (unlike last year) bringing in several cheap FAs who have made an impact (Kearse being only one) but also Neal,Kazee,Hooker and Urban to name a few.

    Also credit them for a 2nd straight strong draft, where they selected several players that have really helped this defense make a turn around.

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