6 Cowboys have one of ‘101 Top Skills’, NFC East represented

On a football field, every position requires the holder to do several tasks proficiently. For example, being a quarterback requires more than simply having strong arms and accurate throwing mechanics; it also requires touch, timing, footwork, scrambling ability, vision, a competitive mindset, and decision-making. Furthermore, mastering one of those abilities doesn’t guarantee proficiency in the other areas.

The goal of ESPN’s Matt Bowen was to rank the NFL’s top players in each of 101 categories, including offense, defense, and special teams.

A half-dozen Cowboys made the list. Ten more honorees came from the other teams in the division, giving the NFC East a slightly higher-than-average percentage of the league’s top talent at the various skills listed.

Here’s a look at who was singled out, who was left out, and which rivals may have edged out a few of your Cowboys favorites.

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Most analysts agree that Prescott has made a significant improvement since 2023. Prescott’s new rediscovery of his legs as a weapon has given him a dangerous alternative to go to now when things fall down. Last season, he was too eager to rush the ball into terrible circumstances.

Bowen says:

“With seven interceptions through 14 games, Prescott ties for sixth-fewest, one season after matching for the league lead in interceptions (15). Additionally, this season, he has the second-best Total QBR in the league (72.7), and he is using the ball wisely, particularly during pivotal game situations.

Cowboys fans felt good about Pollard’s speed and shiftiness coming into the season, but most imagined that backfield pass blocking would suffer once Ezekiel Elliott walked out the door. Instead, Pollard has shown himself to be more than proficient in that department, often buying Prescott valuable time in the pocket.

Bowen agrees:

“I like Pollard here due to his physicality at the point of attack, along with his willingness to take on second- and third-level blitzers in pass protection. He’s another key part of the Cowboys’ production in the pass game this season.”

The fourth-year receiver is always good for a circus catch or two, but don’t underestimate the show he puts on once the ball’s in his hands. Lamb’s elusiveness gives him an added dimension, especially working the middle of the field out of the slot, where he can embarrass your safety after he’s already posterized your cornerback.

Bowen notes:

“Slippery after the catch, Lamb can weave his way through traffic while still playing at top speed. He has 24 receptions of 20 or more yards this season, the second-most in the NFL behind [Tyreek] Hill.”

Of all the things Parsons does exceptionally well, that turbo-boost gear he hits once his prey is in his sights is perhaps the most jaw-dropping. He’s lightning-fast off the snap, but if the quarterback is still holding the ball once he gets past the line, Parsons has a knack for practically teleporting himself into position for a sack.

According to Bowen:

“Among Parsons’ unique qualities is his exceptional closing speed. He can move quickly over earth. With 61 pressures and the best pass rush win percentage in the NFL (36.7%), Parsons has racked up 12.5 sacks so far this year.

Although Bland’s ball skills were sufficiently glimpsed by Cowboys fans the previous season to prevent complete panic when Trevon Diggs was injured, nobody anticipated that Bland would break the NFL record for picks in late December. This fifth-round pick is the genuine deal and is here to stay; his five interceptions in his first season weren’t merely the result of dumb luck.

Bowen says:

With eight interceptions, Brandon leads the league; also, his five pick-sixes set an NFL record. He is a risk-taker in covering who can make money with the ball.

This season, Aubrey has been the NFL’s biggest surprise and maybe its best tale. An MLS flameout in college, a software engineer by trade, his wife pushing him to try football, two USFL championships later, and an invitation to try kicking for the world’s most recognizable sports team later, all he’s done is put the ball through the uprights as the unlikely rookie superstar.

Writes Bowen:

“This season, Aubrey is perfect at 31-for-31 on field goal attempts. He has made eight of them from 50 yards or more, including one from 60 yards in the Week 14 victory over the Eagles.”

Supporters frequently have a distorted idea of how their own players actually compare against players they don’t see every week. While Tyler Smith is undoubtedly a formidable left guard, can he truly open up more spaces for runners than Penei Sewell or be more explosive than Trent Williams? Is it truly true that Tyron Smith or Zack Martin are the more disciplined linemen against Joe Thuney or the greatest anchor against Lane Johnson?

Jake Ferguson has become a wrecking ball for Dallas, but c’mon, he’s not going to be named the league’s best in-line blocking tight end over George Kittle.

DeMarcus Lawrence has a case for being singled out on ESPN’s list, but coming out ahead of Nick Bosa (best speed to power), Maxx Crosby (best motor), or Myles Garrett (most explosive pass rusher) is a tough ask.

Everyone knows KaVontae Turpin is capable of torching a punt coverage unit anytime he touches the ball.

The issue is that he hasn’t got many chances. His season total of just 11 returns makes it difficult for his stats to compete with those of players who have had two or three times as many. In 2023, there have only been six punt returns that have gone to the home team nationwide; just one by Turp would have likely qualified him for this list.

If Trevon Diggs hadn’t torn his ACL in September, would he have been on the list? Quite likely, but we’ll never find out.

Philadelphia is one of the best teams in the game, which is partially explained by the fact that eight individuals were selected for certain talents in each of the three stages.

  • Most competitive quarterback: Jalen Hurts
  • Most physical pass-catcher: A.J. Brown
  • Best toe-tapper: DeVonta Smith
  • Best anchor: Lane Johnson
  • Best handwork on offensive line: Jason Kelce
  • Best pedal transition: Darius Slay
  • Best open-field tackler: Reed Blankenship
  • Best punt returner: Britain Covey

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