The Cowboys originally held the number 10 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, but by the time they were to be on the clock they traded back two spots to number 12. It was a move questioned by some. It allowed the division-rival Eagles to select playmaking wide receiver DeVonta Smith. But the Cowboys knew Micah Parsons would be available two picks later and, in the process, they picked up the Eagles' third-round pick, the 84th overall.
That pick was used on Iowa's Chauncey Golston.
The former Big 10 defensive lineman made his debut in Week 3 against the Eagles after a hamstring injury at the start of training camp sidelined him for months. By last Sunday's Week 4 game, Golston already looked like the kind of starting-caliber player the Eagles may live to regret letting Dallas add to their roster.
Golston was hurt in training camp before the team even began holding padded practices. He was put on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list and had barely even practiced in pads until the days leading up to Dallas' matchup with the Eagles. And yet, on Sunday against the Panthers, he played 49 defensive snaps. He recorded five tackles. He accounted for half a sack.
"How about Golston today?" Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones said after the game. "He was really outstanding today. I can tell you without even reviewing the film. He had a lot of snaps out there and they were important."
Back in May, the recently drafted Golston said that he wanted to be a "Swiss-Army Knife" in Dan Quinn's defense, claiming he wanted to play "wherever the opportunity is." Sure enough, the defensive line had already faced its share of poor luck with injuries by the time Golston was back from injury. So, opportunity was certainly there.
Golston originally found the field at Iowa as an interior defensive linemen so defensive coordinator Dan Quinn isn't afraid to move him around and utilize his adaptability. "You just got to trust in the plan," Golston said after his big game Sunday. "And as you can see, it's working."
"I've been impressed by Chauncy, honestly, all the way back to the spring," Quinn said, before claiming that the whole staff was frustrated when he was hurt at the beginning of training camp because they'd already seen his potential in person. "To his credit, he wasn't someone who backed off the learning and the understanding."
If the past two games have been a crash course, then Golston has passed with flying colors, and his fellow third-round rookie Osa Odighizuwa seems to be thriving right alongside him. It was less than a year ago when conversations gravitated around defensive players not understanding the schemes the team was running. Through four weeks, those conversations aren't happening.
"Our teaching environment has vastly improved from last year," McCarthy said after Sunday's win.
"We practice situational football and we were prepared," Golston echoed after the game. "It was just nice to put our foot on [the Panthers'] neck."
Perhaps the biggest question coming into the season was whether the Cowboys' defense could protect a lead. Golston certainly wants every opportunity to find out.
"That's every D-lineman's dream," Golston said with a big smile. [When the other team is trying to catch up] sacks are out there, and sacks get you racks."