Skip to main content

Nick at Nite

Nick at Nite: It doesn't matter how you get here


FRISCO, Texas — In talking about Sunday night's 40-0 win over the past couple of days, the list of players that I've been able to talk about has been extensive. In what truly was an all-around effort that saw everybody on the active roster take snaps, impact plays came from all sides and in all shapes and sizes in New York on Sunday night.

It started hours before the team even left the hotel on Sunday morning when C.J. Goodwin – who was acquired from Cincinnati's practice squad in 2018 and has been the Cowboys' invaluable special teams ace in the five seasons since – took over a special teams meeting in a ballroom of the Envue Hotel in Weehawken, N.J. as they walked through their first field goal block call of the season.

"C.J. just kind of took it over," special teams coordinator John Fassel said. "He knew the potential of the rush and who could get through, and we witnessed that conversation where he talked to Juanyeh about what's gonna happen. 'This is how many steps you gotta take. This is how fast you gotta get there.' That was the last thing we talked about and sure enough it happened in the first five minutes of the game."

The next play came from 2022 undrafted free agent Juanyeh Thomas, who followed each order from Goodwin to step in front of what would end up being New York's best scoring opportunity all night to block a Graham Gano field goal. Waiting on the backside was the team's newest face, Noah Igbinoghene – who was acquired in a trade with Miami on cut day just 13 days ago – as he scooped up the loose ball and ran it down the sideline for the team's first touchdown of the season.

"It's something that I've been praying about, and maybe I was praying for this," Ibinoghene said when he arrived in Dallas. "God really blessed me and sent me over here. I feel like my past is done away with. I get to start a new future and a new present, and just be in the present."

Taking advantage of the present for Igbinoghene opened up the floodgates for Dallas on Sunday night. From there, you could've told me that Oprah was sitting on the sidelines handing out "You get a big play" opportunities to anybody that wanted them, and I would've believed you.

Next up was two of Dallas' 13 first round picks getting in on the action.

Micah Parsons was first, as he started his third season – one that has meteoric expectations from both himself and the NFL world around him – with a huge third down sack of Daniel Jones.

On the ensuing drive, CeeDee Lamb got loose off a pick route from Jake Ferguson that gave way to a 49-yard gain from former fourth-round pick Dak Prescott.

Then, it was rookie free agent kicker Brandon Aubrey settling in with his first NFL make.

Just minutes later, former second-round pick Trevon Diggs laid a hit hard enough to be heard in the actual state of New York that gave way for 2022 fifth-round pick DaRon Bland to grab his first interception of the season before walking into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.

Maybe you see the theme here, maybe you don't. Either way, I'll spell it out.

Rhetoric involved with building an NFL roster from fans and media is sometimes lost when you look at all of the facts presented to you *off* the field. How much money do they make? How many games have they played?

How did they get here?

With the exception of Dak Prescott, when you look at every player mentioned as a first quarter impact player to this point (Goodwin, Thomas, Igbinoghene, Parsons, Lamb, Ferguson, Aubrey, Diggs, Bland) and how much money they are making in 2023, their total cap hit is smaller than two standalone players on the roster, Prescott and DeMarcus Lawrence. In addition, their total experience barely averages over two seasons. As for how they got here, it couldn't matter less.

Without Twitter (yeah, I said it) being in your ear over the offseason devaluing players because "he's a day three draft pick" or "we traded for a washed first-round pick" at 23-years-old, your own opinion would probably tell you to not care, especially when results like the one that happened on Sunday night occur.

The Cowboys' front office has prided itself on searching far-and-wide for talent, whether that be in the draft, in the college free agent pool, in the USFL for talents like Aubrey and KaVontae Turpin, or in the trade market – as executive vice president Stephen Jones notoriously notes that they are "always open for business."

So, the next time you see someone bashing an acquisition they know nothing about, or the next time you see someone that feels the need to point at residual off the field facts to justify doing away with a player after a bad performance that happened in a vacuum, tell them to look at the first quarter on Sunday night. Tell them to look at who set the tone for the entire season. It wasn't the guys who were being paid top-dollar in the league. It wasn't the 10-year veterans.

Sure, those characters played a big part down the stretch, but aside from Parsons and Lamb, it was the forgotten ones. The ones who haven't had the big dollar amount attached to their name or the nomination of a first-round pick by Dallas; the ones who got here in unconventional ways.

Because at the end of the day, when you walk away from a rainy MetLife Stadium with a 40-0 statement victory over a divisional opponent to open the season, it doesn't matter how you get here. All that matters is that you are here.

Related Content