Indispensable: The 5 Cowboys who cannot miss substantial time in 2022

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The Dallas Cowboys went 12-5 in 2021, winning the NFC East title. It didn’t end up as a fairytale season, but that shouldn’t diminish the accomplishment from a team that was coming off a disaster during the 2020 campaign.

If last year taught anything about the Cowboys, it’s that they have a good team, but need their best guys on the roster to be healthy and play their best football if the team is going to make a deep playoff run. Despite their failures in the playoff loss, the Cowboys did a lot right throughout the season. There were plenty of individual accomplishments that led to the team’s win total and helped the Cowboys capture the divisional crown for the first time since 2018.

Football is a team sport, but individuals can drive the success of a team and the Cowboys have some of the best players in the game.

Not to be confused with the best players on the roster, here are the five most indispensable Cowboys. If anything should happen to any of these players, Dallas would find games more difficult to win.

Zack Martin (RG)

Dallas Cowboys offensive guard Zack Martin (70) protects quarterback Dak Prescott during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Cleveland won 49-38. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

The list starts out with the best of the best, right guard Zack Martin. The stories about drafting Martin over quarterback Johnny Manziel are well known, luckily the Cowboys made the right choice in the 2014 draft. Since selecting him out of Notre Dame, Martin has been nothing short of sensational.

A seven-time All Pro (five-time First-Team All Pro), Martin is considered one of, if not the best, guards in the game and last season was no exception. Martin excels as a pass blocker and in the running game, earning high grades in both areas.

Although he’ll turn 32-years old during the season, Martin sat out just one game last year, due to COVID protocols, and has missed only nine games over the course of his career. The Cowboys must hope Martin remains healthy enough to stay in the lineup, because they don’t have another guard on the roster who can play at an elite level as Martin does.

Martin is one of the top players in the NFL, regardless of position.

CeeDee Lamb (WR)

Nov 14, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) catches a touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys felt blessed when the wide receiver fell to them with the 17th pick in the 2020 draft and Lamb hasn’t disappointed. Lamb just missed a 1,000-yard season as a rookie and topped 1,100 yards in his second year in Dallas.  All the while, Lamb was sharing target at the top of the passing game for the Cowboys.

That’s about to change and Lamb is the clear No. 1 WR for quarterback Dak Prescott. When WR Amari Cooper was traded, the door opened for Lamb to ascend to the top of the depth chart in Dallas and become one of the best wide outs in the league.

If something were to happen to Lamb, the Cowboys would be without a true No. 1 receiver. Fellow veteran WR Michael Gallup is expected to miss time while he recovers from his torn ACL and there isn’t another receiver on the offense capable of commanding the attention that Lamb requires. Without Lamb, the passing game for the Cowboys would descend into mediocrity; they desperately need Lamb to stay healthy for the 2022 season.

The opportunity will be there for Lamb to take over and be a dominant WR for the Cowboys. And the team needs Lamb to take that next step.

Trevon Diggs (CB)

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (7), Nahshon Wright (25) and others celebrate Diggs intercepting a Carolina Panthers’ Sam Darnold pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The Cowboys struck gold in the second round of the 2020 draft as well, selecting Trevon Diggs, who became an All Pro cornerback in his second season. Diggs’ 11 interceptions was the most any player’s had since 1981, becoming one of the best ball hawking CBs in the league.

It wasn’t all perfect. Diggs did give up over 1,000 yards throughout the 2021 campaign, but he was still one of the best corners in the league because of his ability to create turnovers and 13 forced incompletions, which was second in next to Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey.

Diggs is clearly the best CB on the Cowboys and if anything were to happen to him, there isn’t another corner on the roster who can play at an elite level. Veteran CB Anthony Brown is a solid player who had a career season in 2021, but if he were elevated as the No. 1 CB, Dallas’ defense would surely take a hit.

Second-year CB Kelvin Joseph is an unknown and veteran Jourdan Lewis is best slated for a slot corner role. Without Diggs, the secondary for the Cowboys would take a serious hit.

Micah Parsons (LB)

Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) is sacked by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Micah Parsons (11) during an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

The defense in Dallas was a mess before the arrival of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. However, the vast improvement from the Cowboys’ defense also coincided with the arrival of LB Micah Parsons.

Few rookies in the NFL have the type of impact that Parsons had. With 13 sacks and a whopping 20 tackles for a loss, ranking second in the league, Parsons won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Parsons quickly became one of the best defensive players in the league as a rookie and he has the potential to lead the NFL in sacks.

Not surprisingly, Parsons already has his sights set even higher.

Even more impressive, Parsons was effective while lining up all over the defense. The Cowboys needed Parsons as an edge rusher for multiple games last season and the rookie answered the call.

Dallas’ defense has play makers and pass rushers that can get to the quarterback, but no one has the ability to wreck offensive game plans like Parsons. Take him off the defense for the Cowboys and they won’t look similar at all.

Parsons does it all for the Cowboys and he’s as good as it gets at any position in the league.

Dak Prescott (QB)

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looks to pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

There might not be a more important player to a team than Prescott is for the Cowboys. Without Prescott in 2020, the Cowboys went 6-10 before turning things around and winning the NFC East last season. That’s an impressive feat considering Prescott was coming off a major ankle injury.

Prescott’s 2022 season included a franchise best 37 touchdown passes, and he helped guide the offense to the number one ranking in the league.

However, the offenses efficiency and Prescott’s effectiveness took a downturn after the signal callers calf injury before the bye week. Prescott wasn’t the same post injury and even though he played through it, it was clear he wasn’t the same after a torrid start to the year. Coincidentally, the Cowboys weren’t as good when Prescott wasn’t as good at the end of the season.

No team feels comfortable playing without their starting QB, but Prescott is the key to any season for the Cowboys. There isn’t another player on the roster that contributes to wins and losses like Prescott, the Cowboys must hope he stays healthy.

You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi 

 

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