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Gamebreakers: Cowboys who crash landed the Jets


ARLINGTON, TX — They said it was a trap game. They said it's one the Dallas Cowboys will play down to. Well, someone should tell "they" to pay closer attention to the culture of the locker room in North Texas nowadays. The absence of Aaron Rodgers for the New York Jets meant nothing as it relates to the intensity the Cowboys walked onto the field at AT&T Stadium.

Zach Wilson was under siege from his opening series, and Breece Hall was bottled up along with Dalvin Cook, by a Cowboys run defense that is making a strong point toward ending the concerns regarding it.

But what of the Cowboys' offense? One that was mostly muted by rain and an explosion of defense in Week 1? And one that was without Brandin Cooks in Week 2?? They put plenty of good things on film, especially on the opening drive. There's some tweaking that still needs to take place for Week 3, but it was the offense that applied the early pressure to the Jets.

There were plenty who contributed to the win, but the following players shined the brightest in the home opener.

Micah Parsons, W (Weapon)

The lion always eats. Always. For the second consecutive week, Parsons wasted no time getting familiar with Zach Wilson, in the same way he did with Daniel Jones the week prior. His sack against Wilson in the first quarter set the tone early and is rapidly becoming a staple of his 2023 season — taking down the opposing quarterback early in the game to fire up the defense for what then turns into bully ball by Dallas. He nearly had a defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery as well, but it was overturned on review, but his forced fumble stood.

Dak Prescott, QB

Questions on if Prescott and the offense could get off to a fast start without Brandin Cooks were answered with an opening drive that took 12 plays to drive 76 yards in less than six minutes for the first touchdown of the contest. Prescott was on fire in the first half, and also took advantage of a potential pick-six that was dropped by Sauce Gardner — finishing the drive with a touchdown to Luke Schoonmaker. Leaning heavily on CeeDee Lamb in Week 2, Prescott was surgical.

CeeDee Lamb, WR

Talk about going into maniac mode. Lamb did exactly that against the Jets, reeling in 106 receiving yards … before halftime. There was nothing the Jets could do to slow him down, including plastering him on one play in particular that ended up being a grab for 20 yards on the drive that resulted in the touchdown to Schoonmaker. The crown is most certainly his as WR1.

Brandon Aubrey, K

Do we have ourselves a kicker? That's what owner and general manager Jerry Jones said this week, and Aubrey is proving him right. On his longest field goal attempt of the young season, a 55-yard attempt that sailed easily through the uprights with room to spare, giving the Cowboys a 24-10 advantage in the third quarter. Aubrey is off to a hot start to his rookie NFL season, accounting for 16 of Dallas' points (the Jets only had 10 points as a team), and so are the Cowboys as a whole.

Jayron Kearse + Malik Hooker

Without Donovan Wilson for a second week in a row, the onus is that much more so on Kearse and Hooker to step up, and that they did. Garrett Wilson made only one big play on the day, but when Zach Wilson went to the well two too many times, it was both Kearse and Hooker earning interceptions in the fourth quarter to help nail the coffin closed. The Uno card was a Reverse on Sunday, and two-thirds of the Cowboys stellar safety hydra contributed to another explosive defensive effort.

Trevon Diggs, CB

You didn't think Diggs would let Kearse and Hooker have all of the fun interception fun, did you? The First-Team All-Pro made more than one impact pass break up as the game went along, and when he got his first real shot at an interception — the one in the first half skipping on the ground just before he could get to it — he made Wilson pay. A late-game INT as the former top pick tried to play hero ball turned into the final surface-to-air missile that took down the jet.

Jake Ferguson, TE

The former fourth-round pick logged zero drops over the entirety of the 2022 season, and as a rookie, no less. So when he struggled with that issue against the Giants in Week 1, you could bet he wouldn't again. Against the Jets, Ferguson's hands were as sticky as tree sap on a summer afternoon, evidenced by his touchdown catch on the opening possession of the game, in a contest that heavily featured the Cowboys tight ends.

Luke Schoonmaker, TE

And, as mentioned earlier, it was Schoonmaker joining Ferguson in the touchdown category on Sunday — his one-yard touchdown catch on a flat route to the left of the line of scrimmage gave the Cowboys a 18-7 lead; and served as a phenomenal answer to the Jets' explosive one-play touchdown drive orchestrated by Garrett Wilson. Schoonmaker was also effective as a blocker, much like Ferguson, as the two young tight ends begin impacting the outcome of games in 2023.

Deuce Vaughn, RB

Schoonmaker wasn't the only rookie to get his first-ever NFL touchdown in Week 2 for the Cowboys. It was mostly a quiet first quarter for Vaughn before he was unleashed in the second session, making two impact plays on the drive that ended in the Schoonmaker touchdown. An early-game bobble that might've turned into a first down could rightfully be attributed to some first-year (and first home game) nerves that quickly dissipated thereafter.

Jalen Tolbert, WR

With no Brandin Cooks on the field, it was expected to become the Jalen Tolbert show, at least in some capacity, when factoring in the dynamic training camp and preseason he strung together. Prescott showed trust in Tolbert early and often, and was rewarded, including on an end zone throw that drew a defensive pass interference penalty to put the Cowboys on the one-yard line (Schoonmaker finished the job). Tolbert looked confident and like he has arrived at the level of play the Cowboys saw when they selected him out of South Alabama.

DeMarcus Lawrence, DE

Joining Parsons in helping to set the early tone for the defense was Lawrence, and in a big way. The Pro Bowl pass rusher took down Breece Hall to open up the game with a seven-yard tackle for loss, sending the early message that running the ball against the Cowboys would not be an easy task on Sunday. Lawrence was also seen chasing Wilson laterally out of bounds on a would-be scramble that gained only one yard. His level of play continues to be a standard.

Tyler Biadasz, C

If you'd like to know who leads the NFL in fumble recoveries through the first two weeks of football, look no further than Biadasz. The Pro Bowler fell on a fumble against the Giants to help retain possession for the offense and, one week later, a fumble Lamb on a 33-yard catch-and-run put the ball on the ground, but there was Biadasz yet again to save the day. So not only did he play well against the Jets' defensive front, but he put a cape on when needed.

Johnathan Hankins, DL

His stat line won't floor you, as is often the case for nose tackles, but Hankins was a massive (pun intended) reason for the Cowboys' success in halting Hall and Cook, and then Michael Carter once Cook left the game with injury. All in all, the Jets needed their rushing attack to be effective in order for Wilson to have a chance but, Wilson was the only player for New York who finished with more than nine (you read that right: NINE) rushing yards on the day. That's insane.

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