With things gearing up toward an epic postseason showdown between two of the most storied rivals in the history of the sport, I wanted to highlight a couple of Cowboys players who might fly a bit under the radar but still have the potential to pose major problems for the 49ers this weekend.
Most fans are likely already familiar with the obvious names like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs. Still, this Cowboys defense has legitimate playmakers across the board that have contributed to them boasting a top-five scoring defense over the course of this season.
Dorance Armstrong, Edge
When discussing the edge position with the Cowboys, everything starts with Parsons, who has been a bonafide defensive player of the year candidate in both of his two seasons in the NFL. As good as Parsons has been, Dallas has a strong rotation of pass rushers, including five edge rushers who have recorded 20-plus pressures this season.
Among them is Armstrong, who has quietly put together one of the more efficient seasons among secondary edge rushing options in the league this season. Armstrong has registered 43 pressures and 8.5 sacks this season despite being fourth on the team in pass-rushing snaps.
The 12 percent pressure rate Armstrong has registered this season is on par with the top-end complimentary edge rushers around the NFL this season, and his 6’4 255, pound frame could pose some serious problems for a 49ers offensive line potentially trying to catch it’s breath while Parsons is not on the field.
Osa Odighizuwa, Defensive Interior
While Dallas is extremely deep at the edge position, a major reason for their defensive success can be directly attributed to Odighizuwa and his work on the interior this season.
The second-year player out of UCLA has been a force for interior offensive linemen to deal with this season, providing a steady presence against the run coupled with an above-average pass-rushing output for an interior defensive lineman.
Odighizuwa has recorded 34 pressures and seven quarterback hits this season to go along with four sacks and 28 “STOPS”. The middle of the 49ers' offensive line is going to have to account for Odighizuwa early and often in this one if San Francisco is going to have any chance at matching the efficient offensive output they’ve strung together over the back half of the season.
Donovan Wilson, Safety
The work the front seven has done speaks for itself, and when you shift toward the back end of the Dallas defense, the first name that usually gets mentioned is Diggs. However, Donovan Wilson has been one of the best safeties in the entire NFL this season and will play a pivotal role in the Cowboys’ attempts to slow down a potent 49ers offense that has steamrolled its competition down the stretch.
This season Wilson ranked first among all safeties in pressures, sacks, and STOPS while ranking in the top ten in tackles and yards per reception allowed in coverage. Wilson has played the majority of his snaps as a box safety this season and will play a key role in the Cowboys' efforts to shut down the 49ers' run game and the short area passing game that has consistently generated explosive plays with yards after the catch.