In honor of Valentine’s Day, we decided to show some love to the Dallas Cowboys players that had breakout seasons in 2022.
There’s been a lot of negativity surrounding the Cowboys following the Divisional Round loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It hasn’t come without warrant considering Dallas’ inability to sustain a successful postseason run in the last 27 seasons.
But we figured Valentine’s Day made for the perfect time to set that aside and celebrate the players that were difference-makers. So without further ado, here are the award winners from last year.
MVP: Micah Parsons
This one was a no-brainer. Not only was Parsons a leader in multiple defensive categories, he brought an energy in the postseason that his teammates fed off of. If only that energy made its way to the offense.
But let’s not get sidetracked. Parsons improved upon his Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2021 by scoring 14.5 sacks in the regular season and playoffs. The last time a Cowboys player reached that total was DeMarcus Lawrence in 2017.
For a second-straight year, Micah was an All-Pro, Pro Bowler and runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting. The future is bright for the 23-year-old.
Offensive Player of the Year: CeeDee Lamb
This was a tight race between Lamb and Tony Pollard. Lamb set career-highs with 1,359 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. But Pollard topped him with 1,378 all-purpose yards and 12 total touchdowns.
But Lamb edged out Pollard when comparing postseason performances. In two playoff games, Lamb had 185 receiving yards and a touchdown. He shouldered the offensive workload vs. the 49ers and was the only thing keeping Dallas in the game (besides the defense).
Pollard had 122 all-purpose yards in the playoffs, but it wasn’t all his fault considering he exited at halftime of the Divisional Round with an ankle injury.
Defensive Player of the Year: Leighton Vander Esch
We opted to spread the love around with this one and give the award to someone other than Parsons.
Late in the season, Vander Esch was monumental as a run-stopper, which Dallas struggled to do early on. The 27-year-old missed three games but still ranked second on the team with 90 tackles. He also added a forced fumble and four tackles for loss.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Tyler Smith
Smith moved around the Cowboys offensive line a lot this season and excelled in every spot he played. Not an easy task for a rookie to accomplish.
Tyler was slated to play LG, but when Tyron Smith tore his hamstring, Tyler quickly had to learn the ropes at LT. Then when Jason Peters was activated, Tyler moved back to LG.
Smith’s 73.3 Pro Football Focus grade was sixth-highest on offense, and trailed only Terence Steele on the offensive line.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DaRon Bland
Bland was the clear favorite for this one. As a fifth round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, his spot on the team was far from guaranteed going into Week 1. But he made the most of his opportunity and cracked the 53 man roster.
Then, when Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis’ seasons were lost to injury, the Cowboys asked Bland to fill the role of CB2 opposite of Trevon Diggs.
It wasn’t pretty early on, but Bland improved as the year progressed. He only played 52% of Dallas’ defensive snaps and still managed to snag five interceptions; the most on the team.
He’ll likely be looked on to be a major contributor in 2023.
Most Improved: Noah Brown
The 2022 season was Brown’s fifth in the NFL. In his first four years with the ‘Boys, he had 39 catches for 425 yards and no touchdowns. Last year, he shattered those totals in a single season with 43 catches for 555 yards and three touchdowns.
Brown didn’t post eye-popping numbers by any means. But most of his work came in the five game stretch when Cooper Rush started at QB. Presumably, Rush and Brown’s connection from practicing with the backups sparked the connection when Dak Prescott was sidelined.
If not for Brown’s contributions, it’s unlikely Dallas goes 4-1 while Rush was under center.