Micah Parsons is well-known as 'The Lion' of the NFL, but Donovan Wilson has now earned a nickname of his own, and it couldn't be more fitting when considering what he does for Dallas
FRISCO, TX — Throw a penny into the Dallas Cowboys' defensive huddle and you'll either hit a bonafide star or one that's up-and-coming, and Donovan Wilson has officially crossed the threshold in 2022 to becoming the former. Wilson has easily been not only one of the best players in Dallas this season, but one of the best in the entire NFL, and that's not debatable.
Consider the fact he's a box safety who has not only shown an insatiable thirst to devour running backs, but he's also shown an ability to hawk the ball when it's in the air and that's assuming it gets there — seeing as he also has four sacks on the season.
Oh, and there's the matter of his 85 combined tackles which, per the coaches' tracker, ties him for the most in a Cowboys uniform with linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
It's all led to First-Team All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons, a.k.a. The Lion, giving Wilson a nickname that will likely stick with him the remainder of his NFL career.
"He asked me for an animal name and I told him he's a jaguar," said Parsons. "He can fly around. He can jump. He does everything — goes in for sacks.
"He's not afraid to go in that deep water and get himself an alligator. I respect him so much, one of the quietest people that works so hard at what he [does]. He's been nothing but a great teammate. … He's not afraid to go meet a 250-pound running back or a 300-pound offensive lineman, because it's just free smoke because he throws his body around.
"You just always condone people who work the way he does."
Wilson, a former sixth-round pick in 2019, landed in Dallas at time when the safety unit was in perennial flux as it pertains to being the weakest link on the roster but, less than two full seasons in under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, it's one of the best units in the league — led by Wilson and former first-round pick Malik Hooker along with veteran safety Jayron Kearse.
An unrestricted free agent this coming offseason, Wilson has now made a case in two of his four seasons as to why he deserves a long-term deal, adding him to a worthy list of others who'll likely begin having contract conversations with the team's front office this coming offseason.
"It's about timing, and it's his time," said Hooker of Wilson after Sunday's game.
This isn't the first breakout season for Wilson, by the way. The initial one occurred in 2020, his second year in the NFL, and despite the struggles that came with being a part of a historically poor defense under ousted coordinator Mike Nolan in Mike McCarthy's first year as Cowboys head coach.
That season, Wilson logged 10 starts en route to two interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 3.5 sacks and 71 combined tackles. It was a warning of things to come, but a shoulder/chest injury cost him time in 2021, though the 27-year-old didn't allow the setback last season to do anything but trampoline him into what's becoming a career-best season that tops what he did two years ago.
On the heels of a nine-tackle (team-high) outing against the Colts that was also tied to an interception on Matt Ryan, It's safe to say Wilson has officially crossed over to elite status.
"Shoot, I love the way he plays," said McCarthy. "You talk about a magnet to the football — loves contact, his intensity … the way he separates offensive players from the football. And he's the same guy every day. That's something I'm just a huge fan of. I think it's important for your ability to grow not only as a player, but as a defense and as a football team.
"He brings that energy every single day."
But, for his part, the ever-humble Wilson credits everyone else for his second explosive season in only four tries.
"It's just a culmination of everything — good coaching staff, good trainers, good weight room staff that helped us prepare for this season," he said. "I'm just trying to show my all."
He's doing exactly that, in spades, and the goal now is to keep climbing while helping to make sure the defense continues it's astounding play going forward, hot off of a five-takeaway game in Week 13.
"Keep it one day at a time, one practice at a time," said Wilson. "We have to complete every process that we start and then, on Sundays, it's gonna be just like practice because practice was hard."
Have you ever seen a lion and a jaguar share a meal?
If you've been watching the Cowboys defense this season, you sure have.