Many people left the Dallas Cowboys season opener feeling confident in how the rest of the season could pan out. Now, the Cowboys are planning to travel to Los Angeles against the Chargers without Michael Gallup, La’el Collins, DeMarcus Lawrence and possibly Randy Gregory. They’re already thin at defensive tackle with Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill being sidelined, so who is this team’s x-factor Sunday?
Juwan: I’m looking at Leighton Vander Esch to be a difference maker. I know he’s someone who’s gotten lost in the shuffle after playing just 14 snaps against Tampa Bay, but I’m thinking that increases this week. Dallas hasn’t made an effort to add an outside resource at pass rusher and I assume that is because Micah Parsons, along with Jaylon Smith, will see some time at those spots. In theory that will open up the door for Vander Esch to see an increase of playing time at the middle linebacker position with Keanu Neal. Though I don’t foresee Parsons or Smith having a high volume of snaps at rushing the passer, for them to be successful at blitzing those guys Vander Esch can’t be a liability in the snaps he does get.
Corey: If I had to pick an X-factor for Sunday’s game, I would pick Jabril Cox. With Demarcus Lawrence out indefinitely and Randy Gregory expected to be out as he works his way back from COVID, rookie Micah Parsons will be asked to fill more of a pass rushing role. I believe that allows to Cox get on the field more and therefore, an opportunity to make a play against the Chargers offense.
Nate: The X-factor has to be Micah Parsons. This is a bit of an obvious answer, but his versatility in coverage, in the run game, and as a pass rusher is so crucial going forward without DeMarcus Lawrence. In order to do the impossible task of filling Lawrence’s shoes, Parsons is going to have to make an impact in all of the three facets mentioned earlier. Parsons is far and away the Cowboys’ best (healthy) defender and he needs to be showcased as such. The defense is down its top pass rushers and potentially Donovan Wilson as well. Dan Quinn’s best chance at the defense not getting torched is featuring Parsons as much as he can.
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