The safety position for the Dallas Cowboys has been an issue for quite some time. During the 2019 preseason, sixth-round pick Donovan Wilson showed flashes that he could be a building block on the third level of the Cowboys defense. He led all defenders with three interceptions and was set to challenge former safety Jeff Heath for a starting role opposite Xavier Woods.
Unfortunately for the former Texas A&M Aggie, he suffered an ankle injury just before the season. He appeared in 11 games but only logged 16 defensive snaps (138 snaps on special teams). However, Wilson got his shot to prove his worth in 2020, and he didn’t disappoint.
The 2020 season didn’t start the way Wilson would have hoped as he began the season behind veteran Safety Darian Thompson on the depth chart. He didn’t log a single defensive snap in the first three games (65 on special teams) but his sophomore campaign took a turn in Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns. Despite the Cowboy’s defense allowing over 500 yards and 49 points, Wilson performed very well with 10 total tackles and his first career sack.
When the Cowboys took on the New York Giants in Week 5, Wilson made the first start of his NFL career, and he took full advantage. He registered 41 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and 1.5 sacks over the next seven games and solidified himself as the Cowboy’s best playmaker in the secondary.
The highlight of this stretch came in Week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings. He would record nine tackles, but his ability to create turnovers was on full display. On the Viking’s first possession, Wilson and DeMarcus Lawrence combined to sack Kirk Cousins, but Wilson came away with his second strip-sack in three games. Just before halftime, he laid a devastating hit on Dalvin Cook to force another turnover.
Hello Donovan! Donovan Wilson has the ability to make things happen, it does appear. These two strip sacks in three games indicate he is potentially more than just a heavy hitter in the secondary. pic.twitter.com/VN4dtXz4hI
This Donovan Wilson hit was unreal.(via @dallascowboys) pic.twitter.com/IIZWTlkcSa
Wilson did have a minor setback in 2020. He missed two games with a groin injury and was replaced by the aforementioned Thompson. He did finish the season strong recording 18 tackles, three passes defended, two interceptions, and a sack.
The Cowboys have been looking for a dynamic playmaker at safety for what seems like forever. Not only is Wilson good in coverage but his ability to make plays against the run and get the ball back to the Cowboys offense can’t be denied. Woods is headed for free agency and there’s a good chance he won’t receive a second contract after his struggles in 2020, which makes Wilson potentially the only reliable piece at safety on the roster at the moment.
Here’s Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson’s second INT of year. Also has three forced fumbles, two recoveries.(@dallascowboys)pic.twitter.com/AWEXW2XFxW
Wilson is only going to get better with more experience, and considering where he already is in his development, the Cowboys will have a stud on the backend of their defense for the foreseeable future.