The Dallas Cowboys’ 40-0 win over the New York Giants was successful for many reasons. One reason is that it displayed some of the younger talent within the team that has the potential to grow over the season.
Two players that Mike McCarthy, Dan Quinn, and John Fassel spoke about by name were Markquese Bell and Juanyeh Thomas. Both players came to the Cowboys last season as undrafted rookies and are taking their second-year leap at the perfect time.
Bell led the team with eight combined total tackles but also had one tackle for loss and one forced fumble.
Mike McCarthy Discusses Juanyeh Thomas and Markquese Bell Delivering on Their Opportunities
McCarthy said they both delivered on the opportunities they got throughout the night. The head coach described Bell as the perfect example of a younger player taking a massive leap in his second season.
“Just so proud of him, and he’s been impactful, you know, you could see it really last year is when it started,” he said.
McCarthy also gives credit to Thomas, explaining that back in 2022, he was the top-rated special teams player but fell further behind on defense.
He gave even more credit to both players and added, “They have taken that second-year jump, and it’s their time.”
Dan Quinn on Juanyeh Thomas and Markquese Bell Making Second–Year Jumps
Quinn is also in agreement that Bell and Thomas are making the jump. He discussed Bell’s instincts in the backfield that drew them to Bell initially.
“He has like the length and the size to do that, and when [DeMarvion Overshown] was injured, there was really only one other person that had that kind of speed and striking ability and that was [Bell],” said Quinn.
The defensive coordinator said he didn’t plan on calling anyone else up when Overshown went out with injury, adding, “I was very encouraged by [Bell] to get extended play time last night. Some big hits, a forced fumble, those were things that I know is in his DNA, and it was very cool to see those come out.”
Markquese Bell looked about as natural as one could in the second level on Sunday night.
Identifying the run early and stuffing it, limiting pass gains on drags across the middle, and laying a hard hat on a couple of occasions.
— Nick Harris (@NickHarrisDC) September 11, 2023
As for Thomas, Quinn sees him as someone who has pushed himself to develop under the mentorship of older players like Jayron Kearse, Donovan Wilson, and Malik Hooker.
“He’s got ball skills and ability to see the big picture and see the things. So for him, I’m excited it’s kind of continuing on where the preseason left off for him, and that’s what we’d expect, but he’s a hungry player that’s proving he wants in,” said Quinn.
He also gave Thomas credit for his value on special teams, even going back to his time at Georgia Tech.
John Fassel on Juanyeh Thomas: From a Hotel Ballroom Walk-Through to Blocking a Kick Early in the Game
Fassel said the play call that led to Thomas blocking Graham Gano’s 45-yard field goal attempt was a “bread and butter call” designed to give them information.
“We talked about the timing of field goal block, you know, he went two steps, he hurtled, he went two steps, and he got his hand up, and he’s got to do that in about 1.25 seconds. So it was pretty awesome, great way to start,” said Fassel.
The special teams coordinator told the story about Sunday morning’s 25-minute meeting in the team’s hotel ballroom, where they walked through all six phases, finishing with field goal blocking.
He described watching C.J. Goodwin’s conversation with Thomas as “C.J. [Goodwin] kind of just took it over talked to Juanyeh about ‘this is what’s going to happen. This is what I’m going to do. This is how you got to hit it. This is how many steps you got to take. This is how fast you got to get there.’ That was one of the last things we talked about, and sure enough, it happened in the first five minutes of the game.”
COWBOYS BLOCKED FG TOUCHDOWN
— NFL (@NFL) September 11, 2023
John Fassel on Praying Juanyeh Thomas Would Not Get “Poached Off” Practice Squad
Fassel firmly talked about Thomas, saying he knew he was special in training camp last year.
“I didn’t want to talk too much about him because about 17 consecutive weeks in 2022, I prayed that he would not get poached off our practice squad, and that’s a fact,” said Fassel.
The coordinator said the safety room was already crowded, and Thomas was barely “on the out” last year.
But he admitted he was sheepish to talk about Thomas to the media when asked in training camp because he didn’t want to lose him for any reason. He described Thomas as “an outstanding football player, and there’s a lot more to come from him.”
July 28 in Oxnard: Cowboys ST coordinator John Fassel is asked what kind of special teamer Juanyeh Thomas is. [Pause] “You’ll see.”
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 11, 2023