FRISCO, Texas – Time again for _three quick topics, _and this week, let's focus on three players central to the Cowboys' 2-1 start who aren't named Dak, Diggs, Micah, Zack or Zeke:
- Dalton Schultz
- Osa Odighizuwa
- Terence Steele
Dalton Schultz has been a vital part of the Cowboys' versatility on offense.
OK, maybe he's not so under-the-radar after posting the first multi-touchdown game of his career in Monday's blowout win over the Eagles. But the 2018 fourth-round draft pick is quietly becoming a complete tight end, and he's showing that his career-high 63 catches last season were no fluke.
Lot of offseason debate on how the offense would divide the tight end snaps with Blake Jarwin back healthy. So far, it's been a fairly even split: Schultz with 155 snaps to Jarwin's 120. Through three games, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is actually using more two-tight-end looks than last season: 30% of the offensive snaps, according to Sharp Football Stats, up from 21% in 2020.
Some of that might be connected to wide receiver Michael Gallup's stint on Reserve/Injured, but it also shows the offense's adaptability – and the difficulty keeping Schultz off the field.
The fourth-year veteran is helping in all areas. His growth as a blocker is showing up in the run game, where the Cowboys are averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and in pass protection, helping second-year right tackle Terence Steele in some spots. He's also been a nice underneath option for quarterback Dak Prescott. Through the games, Schultz is tied for the most first-down catches on third down (5).
Micah Parsons obviously has been the most productive Cowboys rookie, but Osa Odighizuwa's contributions should not go unnoticed.
Defensive tackle looked like a concern in August when starter Neville Gallimore landed on IR with an elbow injury. Odighizuwa had an excellent training camp, but would that carry into the regular season?
The answer is yes.
The third-round draft pick has been disruptive as an interior pass rusher, ranking second behind Parsons in pressures (4) and tying Parsons for the sack lead with 1.5 on Monday night.
Odighizuwa played multiple defensive line spots at UCLA, and he showed that position flex Monday in some third-down situations, lining up in a wide-nine look on the edge with Randy Gregory moving inside and rushing up the middle with Parsons. A nice wrinkle from defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts looked far more comfortable in the pocket in Philly's first two games. That didn't change overnight. Give Odighizuwa and the front seven credit for knocking him off his spot with consistency.
I Have No Idea…
how many times the average fan has noticed Terence Steele in the last two games. My guess is not many – and that's a good thing.
In his second straight start for La'el Collins (suspension), Steele held up well at right tackle without a ton of help. The biggest challenge against the Eagles' defensive line was Javon Hargraves in the middle, not so much the edge rushers.
Through two starts, Steele has a 74.9 total grade from Pro Football Focus, including a 90.7 run-blocking grade. He also allowed just one pressure against the Eagles.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has referenced the 'second-year jump' for players, and with offensive linemen, it's typically about getting stronger. Following 14 starts his rookie season, Steele said he worked on improving his core and lower-body strength.
"I felt like I was lacking a little bit, especially toward the end of the season," he said. "Just my lower-body wise, personally it wasn't where I wanted to be. It wasn't it last season. I put the work in for that."
Steele was a Cowboys offseason award winner for his improvements in the voluntary strength and conditioning program. But his reward was more than a closer parking spot at The Star. The Cowboys have trusted him in the starting lineup once again, and he's clearly a better player than last season.