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Dallas Cowboys Week 15 rookie report: Awuzie and Lewis show potential of stardom

How did the rooks perform on Sunday?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As you know, your Dallas Cowboys notched a dramatic road victory over the Oakland Raiders this past Sunday on primetime television. It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but the Cowboys got the job done. As a result, America’s Team still has an outside shot at the 2017 NFL Playoffs.

The running game looked impressive early as Alfred Morris had his way with Oakland’s defense in the first half and Rod Smith punched in the game’s first score, but Oakland’s defense stiffened and put the clamps on the run game. Dak Prescott didn’t have his cleanest game ever, but he did use his legs to give the Cowboys a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter and also hit Dez for a huge gain on the team’s game-winning possession. He wasn’t helped with drops from Cole Beasley or Terrance Williams either.

The defense has continued to play well. It’s clear that when Sean Lee is healthy, the unit just rises to a different level. Demarcus Lawrence caused some pressures (while being held throughout the contest), and Jeff Heath was the game’s hero for his effort when he caused Derek Carr to fumble a potential game-winning touchdown out of the end zone.

Now, the team must block out outside noise and focus on defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Jerry’s World this Sunday — with Ezekiel Elliott back in uniform! Though, it appears that they may have to accomplish that without Tyron Smith.

How did the rookies perform on the road on a primetime stage in the Bay Area? Of course, Cooper Rush has yet to play any meaningful snaps this season. Blake Jarwin was activated for week ten’s matchup with the Falcons, but the team’s current TE4 has been inactive since. Lewis Neal didn’t play on Sunday, but every other rookie suited up for the silver and blue in week 15 — including an undrafted rookie making his debut for the Cowboys.

Taco Charlton

Every week, we hear fans continue to complain about Dallas’ decision to select Taco Charlton with the 28th selection of this past draft. Fans see T.J. Watt making plays for the Steelers and other rookies performing well, so many have been disappointed in Taco’s production thus far this season.

It is important to remain patient, though. Does Taco show signs of blossoming into a dynamic edge rusher for the Cowboys? Not necessarily; however, the former Michigan Wolverines’ end does have potential of growing into a solid contributor for Rod Marinelli’s unit.

Charlton recorded his first sack in a big way earlier this season when he got to Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in the fourth quarter of week nine’s win. It was the first real glimpse of hope for the first-year defender. Since then, Taco has made some plays here and there — most notably a strip-sack against the Redskins just a few weeks ago. On Sunday, Taco nearly recorded another sack on the season, but Carr was able to slip away at the last moment and get a short pass off for a minimal gain.

Charlton didn’t record any tackles against the Raiders, but he was credited with a pair of quarterback hits in week 15. Give Taco some time, he has a chance of developing into a contributor for this squad.

Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe Awuzie has generated a lot of excitement since the moment he was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Maybe some of that has to do because of Drew Pearson’s unforgettable and legendary troll to the Philadelphia crowd, but a lot of it also stems from Awuzie’s ability to play all over the secondary.

After dealing with constant nagging injuries throughout his debut season, he backed up the hype in weeks 14 and 15. He was making plays on the ball against the Redskins, showed his ability to defend larger receivers, and even prevented a third down conversion versus Washington. It was much more of the same against the Giants.

On Sunday, though, the rookie defender was picked on by Derek Carr and company. Now, some of that is due to Michael Crabtree probably getting away with some push-offs, but Awuzie didn’t have his best half of football after halftime against the Raiders. Oakland was able to score two touchdowns against him in the tightly-contested game.

That said, Chido actually played pretty well. He was forcing receivers to fight for the football, he continued to play solid coverage, and he was even involved in a big collision with Marshawn Lynch — in which the Raiders’ running back was knocked backwards.

Here are some tweets talking about the second-rounder’s performance.

We got ourselves a really, really talented player with the 60th pick of April’s draft.

Jourdan Lewis

For as good as Chido has been, Jourdan Lewis might have been even better. The third-round selection has been head-and-shoulders the best, most consistent, rookie on the Dallas Cowboys in 2017. Whether it is tackling in space, playing the ball, or locking down his many, Lewis has given the defense a huge boost throughout the season.

On Sunday, Lewis again played pretty well, save for being called for pass-interference on fourth-and-ten on the Raiders’ final possession. Fortunately, the GOAT Jeff Heath came through in the clutch so that it wouldn’t matter.

Lewis played solid coverage on Michael Crabtree when lined up against the former Texas Tech Red Raiders star. The rookie was third on the team in tackles with six (four solo) and defended a pass on Sunday.

It’s hard not to be excited about Jourdan Lewis (and the rest of the secondary, for that matter).

Ryan Switzer

Ryan Switzer has had his ups and downs this season. His ups have been really high. Such as when he returned a punt 83 yards for six against Washington in week 13. As well as when the rookie return man returned four kickoffs for a total of 147 yards against the Eagles — including one that went for 61 yards on the game’s opening kick.

His lows, however, include muffing a punt against the Rams early in the season in a game that the Cowboys had complete control of. The Rams went onto score soon afterwards, shifting the momentum for the rest of the game. He’s also had moments of either allowing punts to hit the ground and roll instead of fair catching them, and bringing kicks out of the end zone when unwarranted.

Switz didn’t have many opportunities to do anything against the Raiders. He only returned one kick, which went for 22 yards. He also returned two punts, but only gained 15 total yards on them.

Xavier Woods

We know all about Awuzie and Lewis. Those two have emerged as legitimate starters for the Cowboys defense. Xavier Woods has also played pretty well throughout the year, too.

The sixth-round pick has played strong safety in place of Jeff Heath at times, free safety behind Byron Jones, and at nickle corner, where he is perhaps best. The young defensive back has flashed potential of developing into a real contributor for this team — both in the present and in the future as he continues to learn the NFL game.

In fact, many fans (well, at least until Sunday) were calling for Woods to play more snaps than Heath at safety. Obviously, Heath saved the season, but the point that Woods has earned some more playing time stands. Woods racked up four total tackles against the Raiders, including three solo.

Noah Brown

Noah Brown has been one of my favorites of this draft class dating back to training camp. The big, phycial wideout impressed me during the preseason, and I was hopeful that the staff would sign the seventh-rounder to the 53-man roster prior to the season. And, they did.

Brown has played well in a limited role this season for the Cowboys. The 239th pick of the draft has mainly been used as a run-blocker for the Cowboys — a role that Brown has excelled in dating back to his days at Ohio State and was a big reason why Zeke wanted the coaching staff to select his former teammate.

Occasionally, 85 is rewarded in the passing game. He caught one pass for eight yards and a first down in week 15.

Daniel Ross

Daniel Ross was an undrafted rookie out of Northeast Mississippi Community College and the CFL. The 24-year old defensive lineman was originally picked up by the Texans, but eventually found his way to the Chiefs’ practice squad.

The 6-foot-3, 263 pound defensive tackle was signed to the Cowboys’ 53-man roster in November shortly after Stephen Paea’s retirement and Brian Price’s season-ending injury. Ross suited up for the first time on Sunday, but he did not record any statistics.

Who has been your favorite rookie, BTB?

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