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Cowboys News: 2017 rookie class shines in win over Redskins

Latest Cowboys headlines: Rookies making “big boy plays”; ground game is back on track; more.

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Cowboys’ X-factor in win over Redskins was play of rookies in secondary - David Humphrey, Star-Telegram
The Cowboys had their trio of rookie defensive backs on the field for significant playing time on Thursday. And Chidobe Awuzie (53 snaps), Xavier Woods (46), and Jourdan Lewis (24) all made plays.

Lewis had three tackles. Wood had three tackles and two quarterback pressures. Awuzie had three tackles and three passes defensed.

“It was [not] just the pass rush if you ask me. It was rush and covering,” defensive tackle David Irving said. “Our DBs were doing a great job, making him (Kirk Cousins) hold the ball. He wasn’t able to get it out as quick. And it paid off.

“It’s always good to see them (the rookies) making plays. It hypes you up to see the youngsters getting in, making big-boys plays.”

Safety Kavon Frazier also took note of Awuzie’s play and the other rookies.

“Chido, he played great. We all knew it could happen and we all knew Chido could play like that,” Frazier said. “In practice, we see it all, but you guys haven’t really seen it because he’s been hurt all year.

“Jourdan Lewis was out there ballin’. Everybody was out there ballin’ and having fun.”

Secondary changes help Dallas Cowboys' defense -
Last week, the Cowboys suggested there might be changes made at safety, without providing any details. Today we know that those changes came in the form of former 2015 first-round pick Byron Jones alternating every two series against the Redskins with 2016 sixth-round pick Kavon Frazier.

That proved to be a success as Frazier brought some physicality to run defense with some big hits. Being physical is not a strong suit of Jones, who is more of a finesse athlete and is best in coverage.

"(Kavon) Frazier is a legitimate, natural, what we call a 'down safety,'" owner Jerry Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan Friday. "And I was really impressed with how he took advantage of his play-time last night and punished physically the Redskins. We need that. That's an important part of things to create that physicalness that you can get from that secondary. Got to be reminded he's not a linebacker. He's a quasi-linebacker when he's down like that, a quasi-linebacker safety.

"So, let's start with we need that in the defense, and I think that was impressive out there, the toll, his physicalness last night. Of course, Byron is a freak, in a positive way, athlete, and we need him playing center field."

Said secondary coach Joe Baker on Frazier, "He brought some physicality. I think everybody in the stadium felt it. He just really lit some guys up out there today and that does become contagious. It's one of the things that our defense is built on is physicality. So he was good."

Frazier has been very good on special teams all season. Now the Cowboys are using his aggressiveness within the regular defense. It was especially important to help the poor run defense, which was largely the center of the team's downfall in the previous three games.

Scout's Eye: Great Debut For Awuzie, Hitchens' Inspired Play; More - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus summarizes his 12 main impressions from the game. Here are his takes on Chidobe Awuzie and Jaylon Smith.

I have to give the coaches credit for starting Chidobe Awuzie against Washington. He was only going off a couple of weeks of practice, and to throw him in the mix took some confidence. Awuzie got off to a great start when he drove on a slant to Josh Doctson and was able to knock the well-thrown pass out of his hands. He played the play with perfect technique in working behind Doctson and attacking the ball with his right hand. It was one of those bang-bang plays that was very close to being a fumble.

Back-to-back games where Jaylon Smith is seeing things better. He’s not over-running plays or playing out of control. He’s done a much better job of reading his keys, which has put him in better position to make stops. He might not be 100 percent recovered from his injury, but he’s getting closer to making more stops. A large part of that is that his understanding of what his responsibilities are and doing what the coaches are asking him to do. With Sean Lee back in the lineup against the Giants next week, I would expect to see Smith coming off the bench. But I do feel better about his chances to develop even more as a player in the final month of the season.

Ryan Switzer Breaks Out In A Big Way With First Career Return TD - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
Switzer's return TD had been building, Helman writes.

A 33-yard kick return in Week 10 against Atlanta, followed by a 61-yard effort in Week 11 against Philadelphia. It always seemed like the rookie return man was one block or one step away from hitting the jackpot.

Whatever might have been missing, it all came together Thursday night. In a 10-0 game midway through the second quarter, Washington punter Tress Way boomed a punt 56 yards to the Dallas 16-yard line.

Switzer fielded it, took a half-step back, then raced right down the middle of the field, through the heart of the Washington defense, shed two tackles and then beat long snapper Nick Sundberg to the corner.

By the time he somersaulted into the end zone, 11 seconds later, he had gone 83 yards to give Dallas a 17-0 lead.

“We’re starting to make some noise in the return game,” Switzer said. “Hopefully we can continue that moving forward.”

Scout's Notebook: Big Wins For The DL; More - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Another rookie gets a mention in Broadus's game notes.

Taco Charlton was able to take advantage of Samaje Perine getting in the way of Ty Nsekhe to get around corner and record a sack. Perine was confused where he needed to fit on the protection, and, instead of staying wide to the outside, ran right into the back of Nsekhe and it created a natural pick for Charlton. With his blockers out of the way, he was able to capture Kirk Cousins -- who had slid toward his right and into Charlton’s path.

Cowboys Ground Game Returns, Bringing Hope With It - Jacob Feldman,
With the help of a healthy offensive line, Alfred Morris put it on his former team Thursday night, Feldman writes.

A healthy offensive line helped Dallas rush for 182 yards, its most since Week 7, in a 38-14 handling of Washington on Thursday Night Football. Against his former team, running back Alfred Morris rolled up 71 yards over two second-half touchdown drives that took 12 minutes off the clock. Morris finished with 127 on the ground, his highest single-game output since 2013.

The glimmers of greatness from a run game that had been one of the league's best units before injuries and the Ezekiel Elliott suspension struck is important for Big D's larger outlook.

Perhaps all is not lost for this edition of America's Team.

Alfred Morris: 'If we can play like this every game, man, the sky is the limit for us' - Jon Machota, SportsDay
On Thursday, Morris had his first 100-yard game since 2015.

"I didn't do anything special," Morris said Thursday night. "You can give the credit to the O-line, you can give credit to play-calling, give credit to just a good run scheme. As long as Jesus gets the glory I'm good. I'm just super thankful for this opportunity.

"If we can play like this every game, man, the sky is the limit for us."

"Alfred ran the ball, man," Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said. "He did what he had to do running behind that big offensive line. They were maulers today. He got into our second level and he made plays."

Cowboys 'need to win out,' and blowout of Redskins provided somewhat of a pattern to follow - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
Can the Cowboys win their remaining four games?

The remaining schedule: at New York Giants (2-9), at Oakland Raiders (5-6), vs. Seattle Seahawks (7-4), at Philadelphia Eagles (10-1).

Star running back Ezekiel Elliott returns from his six-game suspension Dec. 24 against the Seahawks.

"We need to win out," said defensive lineman David Irving late Thursday from a suddenly celebratory Cowboys' locker room at AT&T Stadium. "That's what we're fighting for. You can't look two weeks ahead, three weeks ahead, have to look at who's next and focus on them 100 percent, and come into the game and find a way to win."

The postseason hopes are slim. It's on the Cowboys to prove Thursday wasn't the anomaly. But considering how this has verged on becoming a lost season, they'll take it.

"We're never counting ourselves out," Prescott said. "I'm never counting this team out, we never counted ourselves out. Anyone in this organization, I don't think has counted ourselves out."

Josh Norman: Redskins have no answer for Cowboys - Kevin Patra,
Norman seems to be a little flustered by his team's record against the Cowboys over the last two years.

Going back to last season, Josh Norman and the Redskins are 0-4 versus Dallas with a minus-47 point differential in the four tilts.

"Ever since I've been here, Dallas has just been a thorn in our side," Norman said after the latest loss, via The Dallas Morning News. "I don't understand. I don't know what we do when we come down here to play these guys or when they come up to D.C. to play us. It's devastating man. It really is."

"It just seems like a cycle that repeats itself over and over and over again when we play them," Norman said. "All we want to do is beat them.

"And we just can't find an answer."

Dak Prescott says hand injury won't be an issue - Todd Archer, ESPN
Prescott said the bruised right hand he suffered against the Redskins won't be an issue moving forward.

Prescott was injured on a second-quarter option toss but remained in the game through the drive that ended with a Dan Bailey field goal. X-rays were negative, and he was able to not miss a snap thanks in part to an 83-yard punt return by Ryan Switzer that kept the offense off the field.

Officially, he has been diagnosed with a bruised hand.

"It just swelled up," Prescott said. "I was fine. Got great trainers and doctors, wrapped it up, fixed it up, and we're good to go."

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee on track to return Week 14 against New York Giants - Todd Archer, ESPN
The General is on track to return from a hamstring injury for the Giants game.

When the Dallas Cowboys return to game action Dec. 10 against the New York Giants, Pro Bowl linebacker Sean Lee expects to be back on the field.

"Everything is on track," Lee said. "We've got a couple of workouts, but feeling great."

Lee was hurt in the first half of a Nov. 12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons after missing two games earlier in the season because of a hamstring strain. He said the severity of this strain was similar to the first one he suffered against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3, but he missed more games because Dallas played three times in a span of 12 days.

Orlando Scandrick could miss time with back injury - Todd Archer, ESPN
Scandrick suffered two transverse process fractures in the Redskins game and could miss at least one game, Archer writes.

Scandrick suffered the injury after getting kicked in the back on the third play from scrimmage but remained in the game until the fourth quarter. He had an MRI Friday morning to confirm the diagnosis.

Transverse processes are small projections on the vertebrae where soft tissue attaches, but they have no real role in load-bearing. In 2014, quarterback Tony Romo missed one game after suffering two transverse process fractures in his back.

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