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Dallas Cowboys Week 14 rookie report: Young secondary continues to impress

The Cowboys’ rookies continue to ball out.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys kept their playoff chances alive with a much-needed three-touchdown victory over an NFC East nemesis, the New York Giants. While the offense, thanks to a handful of explosive plays, have garnered the headlines, the Cowboys’ defense stepped up and played another strong game. Sean Lee led the team in tackles and Anthony Hitchens has been impressive, but the Cowboys’ young secondary continued to show why there has been so much excitement surrounding that particular group.

Dak Prescott notched a career-high in passing yards, showing no signs of the hand injury that he suffered against the Redskins, which means Cooper Rush did not see any action on Sunday. Blake Jarwin made his professional debut against the Falcons, but the undrafted rookie has not seen any action since that week ten game. Every other rookie on the active roster made an appearance on Sunday.

Taco Charlton

There was a mixed reaction when Taco Charlton was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 28th selection of the NFL Draft. Some thought he was perfect for the Cowboys (like the coaches), but others preferred somebody like T.J. Watt at that point in the draft; nonetheless, Taco was the pick and has showed some promise here and there in spurts over the course of the season.

Last week, Charlton made an impact play by getting to Kirk Cousins and forcing a strip-sack. It was recovered by Washington, but it showed a little bit of what the former Michigan Wolverines’ defensive end is capable of when everything is clicking. He also sacked Alex Smith back in week nine’s win over the Chiefs.

Charlton once again got into the backfield in week 14. Taco recorded two total tackles — both of which were solo — and added a QB hit to his stat-line in Sunday’s divisional battle. Here’s hoping Taco continues to develop in Rod Marinelli’s defense.

Chidobe Awuzie

Chido brought lots of excitement to the Cowboys’ 2017 draft class. His unique ability to play anywhere on the defense — from corner to safety to nickel linebacker — gave fans hope that he could become a force in the defensive backfield.

However, nagging hamstring injuries prevented us from seeing Awuzie on the field for much of this season. The injuries sidelined him during fall camp and kept him out for the majority of the first half of the season. But now that he’s back, Awuzie has quickly reminded us why were so elated when his name was called on day two of last year’s draft.

After lining up at safety back in week one, the coaching staff has moved their second-round pick. Awuzie made his first career professional start against the Redskins last week, where he lined up at cornerback and made some impressive plays in coverage:

On Sunday, Awuzie continued to impress in the secondary for the Dallas Cowboys. He played solid coverage throughout the game, wasn’t afraid to lay a big hit, and forced the game-sealing play that has kept the Cowboys’ playoff aspirations alive for another week.

Chido recorded three total tackles (two solo) against New York in week 14, and he added two pass deflections on his impressive day.He is a keeper and looks to only be getting better as he gains more and more experience.

Jourdan Lewis

The best player in the Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 draft class put together yet another impressive outing on Sunday. The third-round selection has emerged as a solid corner, and he has done nothing but play good football week in and week out. Lewis has been able to showcase his open-field tackling, man-to-man coverage, and his ability to make plays on the ball — something we haven’t always seen from Cowboys DB’s.

Like Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis was all over the field on Sunday — making tackles, deflecting passes, and making Eli Manning think twice before throwing to his side of the field. Lewis has been one of the team’s biggest bright spots this season, dating back to his first career interception back in his first career game against the Broncos in week two.

Lewis’ play this season has been a big boost for a defense that has struggled mightily without Sean Lee leading the troops from the linebacker position. Whenever a quarterback targets Lewis’ man (except for Alex Smith, because he didn’t challenge the rookie), you better believe it’s going to be contested.

How good was Lewis on Sunday? Here’s a particular play that stands out.

Lewis finished the game with six total tackles, five solo tackles, and three pass deflections. I get more and more excited about the rookie every week.

Ryan Switzer

Ryan Switzer finally showcased the excitement he can bring when given an opportunity in open space. For whatever reason, Washington punted right to Switz without much hang-time, and the rookie returner made the division rival pay.

Switz didn’t have the same success on Sunday, but he did return two kickoffs for a total of 50 yards. He also added 17 yards on a pair of punt returns. I would like for Switz to be involved in the offensive gameplan at some point.

Xavier Woods

Chido and Lewis get much of the love, but Xavier Woods is another first-year defensive back playing a big role in the Cowboys’ secondary. The X-Man has played at both the safety position behind Jeff Heath and at the slot corner position in place of the injured Orlando Scandrick.

Regardless of where he lines up on defense, Woods has mostly made big plays.

On Sunday, it was no different. The sixth-rounder stepped up in Scandrick’s absence against the Giants, as he played in the slot in week 14. Woods recorded a pretty impressive stat-line: four tackles (three solo), a tackle-for-loss, a QB hit, and he deflected a pass. Quite a day for a player that had to wait until the second-to-last round before hearing his name called in April’s draft.

Woods is yet another blossoming star in the Cowboys’ young secondary.

Noah Brown

Noah Brown wasn’t picked until the Cowboys’ second pick of the seventh-round, but the Ohio State product has been active for nearly every game for America’s Team this season. Quite the accomplishment for a guy that many weren’t even sure that Dallas would keep on the 53-man roster prior to the regular season.

While he hasn’t been utilized much as a weapon in the passing game, Brown has made an impact by being a strong blocker for a team that loves to have tight ends and receivers able to black out on the edge for ball carriers. With Brice Butler banged up, maybe the rookie will be used more moving forward.

Lewis Neal

Lewis Neal has been pretty impressive in spurts for the Cowboys since making his regular season professional debut back in week ten against Atlanta. The former LSU Tigers’ defensive lineman has recorded six total tackles on the season, and even recorded a QB hit on Matt Ryan. The undrafted rookie didn’t show up in the stat-sheet in week 14, but his opportunity might be growing as the season progresses.

Which rookie is playing the best right now, BTB?

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