NFC South preview: Can anyone beat Tom Brady and the Buccaneers?
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Mackenzie Salmon breaks down the expectations for each team in the NFC South this season.
FRISCO, Texas — Osa Odighizuwa was not suggesting he has the answer to thwarting Tom Brady nor a firm belief in his ability to exploit the seven-time Super Bowl champion’s weakness. He wasn’t even, it seemed, intending disrespect for the player whom he referred to as the “GOAT.”
But the Cowboys rookie delving into his first professional game plan didn’t cower when asked what weakness most plagues the quarterback he will battle during the Cowboys-Bucs regular-season opener next Thursday.
“Not very mobile,” Odighizuwa said Thursday afternoon following the Cowboys’ 53-man roster’s first practice. “He’s been doing this 21 years, dude is a little older, not too mobile. So I’d say that’s probably what it is.
“Get him off the spot and his passer rating goes down by a lot. So our (defensive tackle) role is super important this week as far as getting after him, rushing our butts off.”
Odighizuwa said coaches discussed the detailed rush plan in meetings, adding that “I think they say (his rating) goes down by like 50” when out of the pocket.
In 2020, Brady’s lowest passer rating (40.4) coincided with the game in which he was most pressured (36.6% of the time, according to Pro Football Reference), a 38-3 loss to the Saints Nov. 8. Across the season, Brady was pressured 17.8% of the time and graded out to a 102.2 passer rating.
Odighizuwa, one of the Cowboys’ third-round draft picks this season, is expected to start at defensive tackle in place of 2020 third-round selection Neville Gallimore, who hyperextended his elbow in a preseason game and was placed on the injured reserve list in a move that will sideline him at least three weeks. Dallas’ secondary is largely unproven—but the team is more confident in its ability to pressure with DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory on either end, as well as rookie linebacker Micah Parsons transitioning between coverage and blitz packages.
Will it be enough to stop a 14-time Pro Bowler like Brady?
“To be honest with you, I mean, not too many people stopped him,” Parsons said Thursday. “You know what I mean? I would say just slow him down. They got a pretty good offense. They got a lot of weapons. We’re just going to have to go weapon on weapon and see who outlasts the other weapon. Slow him down. Put some pressure on him. And hopefully we come up with a turnover off of a mistake.”
Odighizuwa, for his part, doesn’t think voicing his opinion on Brady’s mobility—or lack thereof—is a mistake. He questions whether the 44-year-old great will devote time or energy to a 23-year-old unproven defender’s take—even knowing Brady’s history of responding to slights.
“I mean, I feel like he’s not a guy who’s too worried about what I’m saying,” Odighizuwa said. “He’s obviously going to be aware of it, but he’s been doing this a while.
“People say this, that and the third. Been doing his thing, you know?”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.