The Dallas Cowboys had to play without Jeff Heath on Sunday against the Detroit Lions and that meant Darian Thompson got the start in his place. Unfortunately, Thompson didn’t rise to the occasion and struggled in coverage against the Lions. If Jeff Heath isn’t available when the Dallas Cowboys travel to New England this week, the Cowboys will have to make a decision. Do they continue to roll with Thompson despite a poor showing, or give preseason standout Donovan Wilson a shot?
Last week, Kris Richard stated that Thompson was a player that the defensive staff trusted to fill in for Heath at strong safety and it’s possible they still feel that way moving forward. Thompson is a veteran player and has the ability to be disruptive in the run game. Against the Lions assortment of pass catchers, however, Thompson had a difficult time. Pro Football Focus gave Thompson the lowest coverage grade of any player on the defense in week 11 and there were times it was evident he was the weakest link in the secondary.
Since the 2019 NFL Draft, Cowboys fans and analysts have been intrigued by the prospects of Donovan Wilson starting at safety alongside Xavier Woods. Wilson had shown a penchant for making plays on the football while at Texas A&M. The excitement about Wilson in the secondary was only furthered when he had three interceptions in four preseason games.
Though the Cowboys defensive coaches may consider Wilson more of a free safety type, he and Woods both provide a lot of versatility that could allow Kris Richard to mix and match them in coverages to keep the offense guessing. With Woods and Wilson, it wouldn’t be so simple to diagnose who is the box safety and who is the deep middle until after the snap.
The Dallas Cowboys’ defense has been inconsistent in creating turnovers this season and Donovan Wilson could help that. With Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on the horizon, I find it unlikely that the Cowboys coaching staff would go to a rookie, but if Darian Thompson struggles in week 12 as he did against the Detroit Lions, Richard needs to be willing to make a change in the secondary.
The Dallas Cowboys don’t have much margin for error over the remainder of the schedule with a tight NFC East race with the Philadelphia Eagles. Sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind, even if that means putting young, unproven players on the field. The Cowboys coaching staff can’t keep Donovan Wilson’s playmaking intangibles on the sideline much longer. To make a deep run in the playoffs, defenses have to be able to create turnovers and Donovan Wilson is just one of those guys that can create turnovers. This week might be the time to unleash that ability.