It is rare that any franchise can secure three first-round rookie talents in a single off season, but the Dallas Cowboys were able to do that. They secured Byron Jones with their first-round selection and caught a falling star with their second-round pick. That happens. Securing La'el Collins as an UDFA is what made this rookie class exceptional. No matter how it played out, you can bet that Jason Garrett & Co. were exceptionally thrilled with the influx of talent. Everyone associated with the team was eager to see the big three perform.
Jones, the actual first-rounder, got looks in several different roles. He played as a traditional corner, covered the slot, and saw some looks at safety as well. At one point Jones even lined up over top of the Chargers tight end. It was a night for him to showcase the skills and abilities that made him the Cowboys main target during the off season. As expected, there was a bit of a learning curve, but time will take care of that. Getting beat will just make the rookie better in the long run. One of the San Diego veterans took the kid to school early on.
"I knew it was coming, Keenan Allen in the slot, they're probably going to run a route for him and he made a veteran move and caught the ball. They didn't call it so it's not a push off, but it's one of those things you've got to fight through." - Byron Jones
Jones led all Dallas defenders with five stops on the night and he earned a little recognition from his boss, Jason Garrett.
"That's one of the things we wanted to do, play a lot of man-to-man coverage out there, wanted to see those guys cover, cover outside receivers on the National Football League in game situations. They made some plays but I think our guys made some plays as well. Both [White] and Byron were playing the outside corner for the early part of the game, wanted to get each of those guys to play safety and we were able to do that early in the second half. Each played a series there. So thought it was good night for both those guys win terms of the work they got but we have to go back watch tape and see how well they did." - Jason Garrett
Randy Gregory was one of the Cowboys attempts to breathe life into the pass rush during the past several months. Dallas wasted no time investing in his services once off-the-field issues pushed him into the draft's second day. He did not disappoint. Gregory recorded his first sack wearing the silver and blue, but he is far from satisfied. Randy lamented the one that he left out there.
"Ran by the quarterback one time. If I would've turned my hips a little more I think I would've got there. There was one time I had my arm on him and he got away." - Randy Gregory
Gregory too earned praise from on high. Garrett recognized the efforts that his newest rushman has put forth. A former passer himself, the Cowboys head coach knows that you don't always have to get to the quarterback to impact his play and he saw the rookie doing that as the night wore on.
"Looked like he was getting off the ball well, looked like he was up the field a lot early on in the game, and then as the game wore on he did a better job leveling off his rush and getting to the quarterback. He was around the quarterback a lot."
The third member of the trio, offensive lineman La'el Collins, was showing up as well. He pancaked one Bolts defender well down field, and took a quick moment to celebrate the occurrence.
"Hey, man, it's fun. I really love this game. For me, that is my touchdown." - La'el Collins
Nice to see the big fellow having fun. Collins also provided the key block that sprung Gus Johnson for his touchdown scamper.
"I just got a really good fit on the three-technique and soon as the linebacker broke the heels of the defensive linemen, I launched off and picked up a great block. The back did a great job of being patient and he got up there right in the middle."
When all was said and done on Thursday night, the three first-round talents displayed the skills that were expected of them. They gave fans their first glimpse of what will shortly come to pass. All three know that there is still work to be done for them to live up to expectations. The trio share a commitment to attaining that level of performance. It was Collins who summed things up in a statement that rings true for all concerned.
"Honestly, I just see myself so far behind that those guys are so advanced at what they do. For me, I come in every day with a pen and pad and write down everything that I can to help better my game. And then we just go out there every day and grind."
It will be that RKG mentality, coupled with their talents, that should ultimately pay dividends on Jerry Jones big off season investment.