Dak Prescott’s five-touchdown performance is what everyone is talking about considering how he’s viewed among the NFL media, but the Dallas Cowboys’ defense turned in their best performance in recent memory in Monday’s Wild Card win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Cowboys fans were taken for a spin pregame, however, when Dallas’ inactives list featured cornerback Nahshon Wright.
A projected starter with Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland, Wright stepped up to the challenge against the Eagles on Christmas Eve before enduring a rough night in coverage vs the Titans the following week. Perhaps it was that performance that influenced his benching, but he still produced an interception.
Whatever the case, Wright lost his spot on the active roster to Israel Mukuamu. The decision indicated Dallas would run a lot of four-safety looks with Mukaumu joining Jayron Kearse, Donovan Wilson, and Malik Hooker.
That … wasn’t the case.
Instead, Dan Quinn tasked Mukuamu with covering the slot, and the second-year defender made Quinn look like a genius in the process. So much so that Kearse gave Mukuamu a proper shoutout on Twitter after the victory.
Israel Mukuamu needs to be the Cowboys’ third cornerback after he starred against the Buccaneers.
Peep the engagement on Kearse’s Twitter. Sure seems like Mukuamu has the backing of ample Cowboys fans after Monday night.
At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, a wide contingent of analysts and fans have speculated whether Mukuamu would be better served at corner than safety. The Cowboys drafted him as a safety out of South Carolina in the 2021 draft (sixth round), and he’s struggled seeing the field during the regular season despite playing well throughout the offseason program and preseason.
That’s a testament to Dallas’ safety room being among the best (if not the best) in the league, but Mukuamu flashed the goods Monday night.
According to PFF, the former Gamecock allowed just two catches for 16 yards on five targets across 24 coverage snaps. He allowed just a 48.8 passer rating when targeted for good measure. While Tom Brady didn’t have his best night from an efficiency standpoint, those are impressive numbers for a player who hadn’t played more than 10 defensive snaps in a game since Week 8 against the Bears.
You’re talking about Mukuamu coming in cold off the bench and holding his own, and then some, against the greatest QB of all time. That cannot be overstated. And he did it playing an unfamiliar position while defending a trio of experienced receivers like Julio Jones, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage.
And to think the Cowboys were hell-bent on rolling with Wright or Kelvin Joseph to fill the void(s) left by Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. The real answer was there all along, and Quinn discovered it just in the nick of time.