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Dallas Cowboys week 16 rookie report: Taco Charlton continues to improve

How did the rookies perform against the Seahawks?

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing went right in the Cowboys’ disappointing loss to the Seahawks. The offense never got rolling, Dez was frustrated, and the play-calling near the goal line was questionable at best. Because of this, the Cowboys will be sitting at home this post-season — just one season after holding the NFC’s top seed.

We could talk more about the negatives, but let’s instead look at some of the positives — like the rookies. Taco is improving, the secondary is showing more and more potential as each week passes, and I would love to see Noah Brown more going forward.

Let’s take a look at how the rookies performed in week 16.

Taco Charlton

Taco Charlton has received tons of criticism this season — much of it has been deserved. The first-round selection simply looked lost for much of the early parts of this season. Some of that is expected, especially for a first-year player at a premium position like defense end; however that did not stop many fans from complaining about Taco’s lack of production.

Things have slowly but surely begun to change.

First, it was a fourth-quarter sack against Alex Smith and the Chiefs back in week nine; then, it was a strip-sack on Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins on Thursday Night Football just a few weeks later. He then showed some promise of rushing the passer against Derek Carr and the Raiders in week 15.

Taco again showed improvement in his game in a good performance this past Sunday. The offense didn’t show up, but he (and the rest of the defense) played well in a must-win game. Charlton finished week 16 with two solo tackles, one sack, and a tackle-for-loss. Quite the game for the rook.

Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe Awuzie has been a huge bright spot for a defense looking for playmakers throughout the course of this season. The secondary has shown potential during the second half of the season — and Awuzie is a big reason why.

Chido showed his ball skills against the Redskins and the Giants, and he was able to cause incompletions — as well as lay a big hit on Marshawn Lynch — versus the Raiders.

Chido was burnt by Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin for a touchdown, but he otherwise played well — finishing with five total tackles and two solo.

Jourdan Lewis

If there was a ‘Rookie of the Year’ award given to a player on each team, Lewis would hands down be the Cowboys’ recipient. The third-round selection has played beyond his draft selection and has become one of the team’s most consistent defensive players in 2017.

He started off the season with an interception against the Denver Broncos in week two during his first professional action, and he has developed into a starting corner for the most recognizable franchise in the sport. The 5-foot-10 defensive back was thought to be too small to play out on the boundary and too small to make open-field tackles, but he has proven both of those to be wrong — holding his own against the Packers’ receivers (with Aaron Rodgers), tackling Todd Gurley and Larry Fitzgerald in space, and showcasing his ball skills against the Giants and Redskins.

Lewis did give up a touchdown against Seattle, but, I mean, how many corners can actually prevent Jimmy Graham from scoring in a one-on-one opportunity on the goal line? Lewis finished week 16 with two tackles, both of which were solo.

A tweet (now deleted) from Deion Sanders criticizing Dallas’ DBs didn’t sit well with the rookie.

Ryan Switzer

Switz has shown some highs (punt return for a touchdown versus Washington and opening kickoff against Philly), but the rookie return man also has had his mistakes (muffed punt in week four versus the Rams and questionable decisions to either take a kick out of the end zone or let a punt go over his head only to be downed inside the five-yard line).

The Cowboys have tried using Switz on reverses and misdirection plays, but nothing has really worked out. He did not record any offensive statistics last week. He returned two kickoffs for a total of 45 yards (a long of 27) and five punts for 32 yards (long of 11).

Xavier Woods

Much like Awuzie and Lewis, Xavier Woods has the fanbase excited about the future of the secondary in Dallas. The sixth-round pick has grown into a formidable player in the back-end for Rod Marinelli’s defense — able to play safety and in the slot.

Woods finished last week with two tackles. The future looks bright for him, Lewis, and Awuzie. Get excited, Cowboys fans — the secondary play may reach a level it hasn’t in a long, long time.

Noah Brown

The Cowboys decided to keep Noah Brown on the 53-man roster, and he has played in nearly every game this season. Brown has not been utilized much in the passing game, but he has made a few first downs on designed bootleg throws. My favorite play of his, though, was his big block against the 49ers to help Ezekiel Elliott reach the end zone.

I love the potential that the former Ohio State Buckeyes target has.

Lewis Neal

The former LSU Tigers defensive lineman showed some of his potential back in week 10 against the Falcons, but he hasn’t really done much in the stat box since then. The undrafted rookie was called up to the active roster once Stephen Paea retired and Brian Price was sidelined for the year.

Neal has six total tackles this season.

Daniel Ross

Much like Neal, Ross was brought up from the practice squad (the Chiefs) to add depth along the Cowboys’ defensive line rotation. He made his professional debut last week for the Cowboys, but did not record any stats in the week 15 win.

The undrafted rookie out of Northeast Mississippi Community College and the CFL recorded two total tackles, including one solo, on Sunday versus Seattle. It will be interesting to see what the Cowboys’ plans are for him (and Neal) moving forward.

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