Dallas Cowboys Safety Jeff Heath has been a starter for the defense since the beginning of the 2017 season. A streak of 35 games is likely coming to an end for Heath as he’s been dealing with a shoulder issue this week. What this means for the Dallas Cowboys is that Darian Thompson, who’s been filling in for the Cowboys as Heath’s dealt with injuries each of the last couple of weeks, is set to start for the Cowboys this week against the Detroit Lions.
Thomspon, a former third-round draft pick of the New York Giants is finally getting an opportunity to play full-time with the first unit since coming to the Cowboys before the 2018 season. He’s primarily been a special teams player as Xavier Woods and Heath have manned the safety spots but has been solid over the last couple of weeks. This will be Thompson’s second start of the season after he filled in for Xavier Woods against the Miami Dolphins back in week three.
Against the New York Giants, Thomspon recovered a pivotal fumble that was forced by Xavier Woods that helped turned the tide in that game in the second half. In the Giants game, Thompson played 56% of the snaps and he played 80% of the defensive snaps against the Minnesota Vikings.
He’s made some plays over the last couple of weeks piling up two stops per Pro Football Focus. PFF defines a stop as a tackle that prevents a play from gaining enough yardage to be deemed a successful play. In the passing game over the last two games, Thompson’s been targeted three times and has only allowed one reception that went for seven yards.
Though he missed a couple of tackles last week against the Vikings, a lot of Dallas Cowboys missed tackles in week 10. Dalvin Cook is one of the more difficult players to get to the ground.
Thompson’s challenge this week will come in the passing game against the Detroit Lions plethora of receiving targets. Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard expressed confidence in Thompson’s ability to fill in for Heath because of his mental and physical makeup.
While it’s intriguing to see what Thompson has to offer, many who follow the team continue to wonder when Donovan Wilson will get the chance to play.
Wilson’s preseason was as good as you could hope for from a rookie. He had three interceptions playing part-time snaps in four preseason games. The Cowboys have been in desperate need of a guy who has the knack for making plays on the ball that Donovan Wilson showed in his limited playing time during the preseason.
Thompson, with more years of experience under his belt is the more trusted option right now for the Cowboys and he has an opportunity to carve out a role with another start this week. Though he may not be the safety that we’ve been clamoring for, this could be a net positive for Dallas this week and moving forward depending on how he plays. How the defense looks with Darian Thompson in the lineup will be one of the big questions facing the Cowboys secondary in this week’s matchup with the Detroit Lions.