(Editor's Note: As the Cowboys begin their bye week, the staff writers of DallasCowboys.com have taken a closer look at each phases of the team. Today, we focus on the defense.)
FRISCO, TX — It's been a roller coaster ride for the Dallas Cowboys over these past four weeks, one that's taken them to the highest of highs before dragging them through the lowest of lows, only to return them to middle ground.
That said, and despite the loss of impact players like Trevon Diggs and Leighton Vander Esch to injury, they've mounted up to remain one of the best defenses in the NFL and [still] the calling card for the Cowboys in 2023.
As the team enters its bye week with a promising 4-2 record, it's time to take a look at some of the items that standout the most from the first six weeks of football.
MVP - Micah Parsons — This actually wasn't as easy as you might think. Yes, obviously Parsons is an absolute menace who should be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, but names like Osa Odighizuwa and DeMarcus Lawrence popped up in my head as well. That said, the answer remains Parsons, especially after seeing him pressure Justin Herbert eight times and then overcoming an offsides penalty on the final drive to deliver a sack on the very next play that ultimately helped lead the Cowboys to a 4-2 record.
Best Play - Tip-Six — The Cowboys definitely miss Trevon Diggs both in the locker room and on the field, and his first explosive play of the season is the one that takes the cake for me thus far. For all of those claiming Diggs is an unwilling tackler, he went out in Week 1 on the road against the New York Giants and a blow to Sequan Barkley on a pass attempt that caused the ball to fly into the air and into the hands of DaRon Bland — who took care of the rest. This set the defensive tone for the entire season.
Worst Play - Moore Pain — Heading into their bout with the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys were hot off a stifling effort against Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook, providing more evidence that their run defense had taken a massive leap forward for 2023. Rondale Moore could not have cared less about any of that, though. With the Cardinals nursing a 9-3 lead in the second quarter, Moore took a handoff and exploded through the Cowboys' defense for a 45-yard touchdown. It was easily the most demoralizing play this season for an otherwise stellar unit, and told the tale of that fight in the desert.
Biggest Surprise - Markquese Bell — There was a lot of justifiable hype surrounding rookie linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, who was a star in training camp before suffering a torn ACL in the preseason. The loss of the former Longhorn left the Cowboys looking for someone to step into that specific hybrid safety-linebacker role, and Bell was tossed the keys. It's almost like he was born to play it, despite being lighter than traditional LBs. His speed and quickness leaps off of the tape and, as seen in his domination of the Chargers and Austin Ekeler, the former FAMU talent is just getting started.
Key Stat - 10-1 — Resilience, folks. It's something the Mike McCarthy-led Cowboys continue to show over these past two seasons, and no matter how badly they've been beaten the week before. They bounced back from their loss to Arizona by handing Bill Belichick the worst loss of his coaching career and, after suffering an humiliating beatdown by the 49ers, walked back into California one week later and held Kellen Moore's high-powered offense to only 17 points (nearly 10, but punt controversy and whatnot) then closed it out with a sack and an INT — moving to 10-1 since 2021 after taking a loss.
Watch Out For … Osa Odighizuwa — Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde had a few tasks to take care of before his bye weekend. One of them was to cut up a video for Odighizuwa, who wanted to spend his "off" time watching more film to correct a few things for the second half of the season. Now, considering that Odighizuwa has been one of the better players on this defense, that's actually a scary thing for his opponents. He's coming off a seven-tackle performance against the Chargers, something that is extremely rare for interior players. Odighizuwa apparently isn't content on what he's done so far, so if he improves his game, it'll be something to watch out for.