The Dallas Cowboys notched an extremely important win on Thursday Night Football, as America’s Team knocked off the Washington Redskins in an NFC East clash. Dak Prescott made some plays with his legs and made some difficult throws with an injured hand, Alfred Morris ran like crazy against his former team, and both the defense and the special teams unit played out of their minds against the rival from D.C.
A huge reason why the Cowboys were able to sweep the season series and keep their playoff hopes alive was because of the 2017 rookie class. The class that has been heavily scrutinized, aside from really Jourdan Lewis and maybe Xavier Woods, really burst onto the scene in a must-win game on a national stage. Taco Charlton made a big play, Chidobe Awuzie finally showed what he is capable of when healthy, and Ryan Switzer made a game-changing play that swung the momentum in the Cowboys’ favor for the remainder of the game.
Cooper Rush nearly saw his first meaningful action of the season when Dak Prescott injured his hand in the first half of the game. As it turned out though, Dak toughened it out and made some big throws. Blake Jarwin was again inactive for the Cowboys, as the tight end currently sits at fourth on the depth chart. Every other rookie made an appearance — and largely played well — in week 13.
There is still doubt among the faithful over the Taco Charlton pick. Sure, he hasn’t been the player we hoped him to be as of yet, but he has shown some promise in moments throughout the season. He sacked Alex Smith before Jeff Heath ended the game with an interception back in week nine’s big win (when Kansas City appeared to be a Super Bowl contender).
Taco has certainly had his struggles in his debut season, but he made a big play on Thursday in a game that the Cowboys had to win to keep their outside shot at the playoffs alive. Charlton exploded off of the ball, got right by Ty Nsekhe, and hit Kirk Cousins, forcing a fumble along the way.
Lawrence and now Taco looking good rushing off the Left side, too bad we struggle to find any decent/consistent pressure off the Right side. pic.twitter.com/j9yji5GVR3— Cowboys Nation (@CowboysNation) December 1, 2017
It was a big play that shows a little bit of what Taco is capable of when everything is clicking. Here’s hoping Charlton continues to improve down the final stretch of games.
Chidobe Awuzie showed some of what he can do back in week one against the New York Giants. He locked down fellow rookie Evan Engram and was very solid in coverage against free agent acquisition Brandon Marshall. It all looked promising — until the hamstring injuries began to mount up.
Awuzie dealt with hamstring injuries during fall camp, but it was hoped that he overcame that when he played in week one; unfortunately, he had to leave the Broncos game early and was forced to miss a handful of games throughout the early parts of the season.
Chido made his first career start against the Redskins — and he certainly made the most of it. He was flying all over the field, deflecting passes, and even preventing Washington from converting a crucial third down. He, in at least for that one game, looked to be a major upgrade over second-year corner Anthony Brown in the secondary.
I’ve already seen him play the ball more times today than I’ve seen Scandrick all year, and maybe longer pic.twitter.com/V4IDmPpAuq— Cowboys Nation (@CowboysNation) December 1, 2017
As you can see, it was a very impressive game for Chido:
For the first time in Chidobe Awuzie's NFL career, he played more than 40 snaps in a game:— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) December 1, 2017
3 times thrown at
0 catches allowed
1 pass breakup
Jourdan Lewis has performed like the best member of the Cowboys’ 2017 draft class all season long. Lewis was thought to be too small to play out on the outside, but the rookie out of Michigan has proved his critics wrong with his play thus far this season.
Lewis played strong on Thurday, too. He continues to play solid coverage, and he notched three tackles in the crucial divisional victory.
Great coverage from Jourdan Lewis on an island vs Josh Doctson pic.twitter.com/BkageiQsyT— John Owning (@JohnOwning) December 4, 2017
Ryan Switzer has definitely had some head-scratching moments. The muffed punt against the Rams, allowing punts to be pinned inside the ten, and sometimes trying to do too much (or too little) in some situations.
But, the fourth-round selection has finally started to show why so many Cowboys fans were thrilled to hear his named called with the 133rd pick of the draft back in April. He nearly returned the opening kickoff back for six against the Eagles, showing off a little bit of what he can do in open space. Thursday, though, he really showed off his ability.
The Cowboys were up 10-0, but quarterback Dak Prescott was dealing with a swollen hand. Cowboys fans were worried, but Switz quickly put our worries to rest — in electrifying fashion.
The return expanded the Cowboys’ lead to 17 points and was a huge reason why Dallas still has an outside shot of making the playoffs for the third time in four years.
Awuzie and Lewis receive a lot of the attention, but Xavier Woods is another first-year player playing lots of snaps in the Cowboys’ secondary. The sixth-round selection has made big plays (his interception in Atlanta) and has showed to be a big hitter, too.
Woods finished TNF with three tackles and two quarterback hits. He continues to make his case to be a starter on the Cowboys’ defense moving forward.
Noah Brown has been a fan-favorite going back to the preseason. The seventh-round pick shows potential of growing into a big target out on the outside. Most encouraging, though, has been #85’s willingness to block. His big block against the 49ers opened up a huge lane for Zeke’s 80-yard score in San Fran. As Brown continues to adapt to the NFL game, it has been nice to see how ready he is to make a big play that may not show up in the stat sheet.
Solid day’s work for rookies Noah Brown and Taco Charlton. pic.twitter.com/asYGx0H2jf— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) December 1, 2017
Lewis Neal has been another rookie that has showed some promise this season. The former LSU Tigers defensive lineman made his debut against the Falcons — a game that he hit Matt Ryan and recorded a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Neal doesn’t get as many snaps as some others along the defensive line, but Neal does look good when given the opportunity. He finished TNF with one tackle in the crucial win.
Nice pressure by Lewis Neal here. If not for the pressure, Cousins would have had an easy TD throw down the left sideline.— John Owning (@JohnOwning) December 4, 2017
Going to be interesting to see how DAL handles Price, Ash and Neal next year#DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/habl9rL9zE
Which rookie stood out the most on Thursday, BTB?