The Dallas Cowboys were taken to the woodshed by the Denver Broncos on Sunday. The home team completely dominated all three phases of the game in every way. Trevor Siemian had his way with the Cowboys’ defense, C.J. Anderson ran wild, and the Broncos’ dominant defense held an otherwise explosive Cowboys offense in check.
How did the rookies perform in the hostile environment? Cooper Rush was again inactive, as Dallas continues to prefer Kellen Moore as QB2 over the undrafted rookie. Noah Brown made the active squad for insurance behind Terrance Williams and Brice Butler. Jourdan Lewis also made his debut for the Dallas Cowboys. How did the rooks perform in week two?
Taco Charlton was the Cowboys’ first choice of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Michigan product was one of the better edge rushers in all of college football under Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown. Charlton appeared to be on his way to becoming an impactful player for the ‘Boys during his productive fall camp and preseason; however, Taco’s September hasn’t been as impressive as his August.
In week one, Taco made more news for his cleats than his on-field production. Taco saw 26 snaps against the New York Giants in the season opener, but he failed to show up in the box score. If he had made an impact that just didn’t show up in the stat sheet, maybe his performance would have been viewed in a different light. However, Bryan Broaddus wrote that he was “disappointed” in the defensive end’s opening performance.
His play improved a little bit on Sunday in Mile High. Taco got into the backfield and recorded his first career tackle in week two. He also got one pressure on the QB. While fans would have liked to see a quicker development, Charlton still has ways to go from becoming a true impact player. Nonetheless, it was nice to see him getting involved in the backfield.
Chidobe Awuzie, as noted last week, is my favorite player in this draft class. His ability to play all over the defense makes him a highly intriguing player in Rod Marinelli’s scheme. In week one, the Colorado product impressed while covering Evan Engram and Brandon Marshall. Awuzie even graded out as one of the better rookie defensive backs in the league with his week one performance by Pro Football Focus.
ICYMI: The top graded rookie CBs from Week 1 of the NFL season pic.twitter.com/ody6WFXPz4— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 13, 2017
Unfortunately, Awuzie tweaked his ankle on the second-to-last play of the season opener. While he seemed to be okay and started on Sunday, the rookie clearly had complications early on in the game. Awuzie ended up pulling his hamstring early on in the game — the same hamstring that he had problems with in the preseason.
Rookie CB Chidobe Awuzie said he re-injured same hamstring that plagued him in training camp. Said he felt it tightening up on first drive.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) September 18, 2017
Fortunately, Awuzie says he hopes to play against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football according to David Helman.
Chido' got a hammy. It's the same hammy from preseason. He says he wants to be ready for Week 3, but it's way too early to speculate on that https://t.co/SUqOSqf5n6— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 18, 2017
Jourdan Lewis was a little bit of a bright spot in a game that the Cowboys’ defense was thoroughly embarrassed. The rookie defensive back out of Michigan saw his first career action in the NFL after sitting out in week one. Lewis, like the rest of the defense, gave up some big plays to the Broncos, but he kept playing until the final whistle.
The Cowboys were attempting to make a very unlikely comeback on Sunday, but needed a defensive stop in order to do so. The rookie took advantage of a miscommunication between Siemian and Demaryius Thomas, and he grabbed his first career interception.
Jourdan Lewis with his first career INT 〽️ pic.twitter.com/zJXhgcApYc— Barstool Blue (@BarstoolUofM) September 17, 2017
Lewis finished week two with six total tackles — all six solo — one pass deflection and the interception. He did have his ankles broken by Emmanuel Sanders that resulted in a touchdown, but he at least gave the defense a little bit of a bright spot. Here’s hoping he continues developing into a larger role.
Ryan Switzer is the Cowboys’ return man on both punts and kickoffs. Much like week one, Dallas has yet to utilize Switz’s skill set in the receiving game (six offensvie snaps) despite him being a dangerous weapon in the slot throughout his North Carolina career. To be fair, though, it was hard for any Cowboys receiver to be a real weapon against that Broncos defense on Sunday.
The Cowboys did not return any kickoffs on Sunday. Switzer returned one punt for a big gain of 19 yards, showing a glimpse of what he can do if he has some space in the open field. Through two weeks, Switzer is averaging 21 yards per kickoff return.
Xavier Woods only saw 13 snaps of game action in week one versus the New York Giants — all on special teams. The losses of Orlando Scandrick and both Awuzie and Nolan Carroll forced the sixth-round selection into action at nickel corner against a very talented receivers corps that features the aforementioned Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. As a result, the former Louisiana Tech DB struggled mightily. It doesn’t help that Mile High is known for the high altitude that affects visiting teams, but he didn’t exactly make the smart plays, either.
I have no idea what Xavier Woods is doing here. pic.twitter.com/osMAlP2sYK— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) September 18, 2017
Woods was thought to be a stolen gem in the 2017 draft, but his first real game action on the defensive side of the ball didn’t go as hoped. Improvement should be expected as he gains more and more experience this season.
Noah Brown made his debut on the active roster for the Cowboys on Sunday. With injuries to Terrance Williams and Brice Butler, the staff decided to upgrade Brown to the 46-man squad in week two. The Ohio State product got on to the field a little bit for the Cowboys, seeing a total of 16 plays — five on offense, eleven on special teams.
As of now, Brown is just insurance in case something were to happen to either Williams or Butler. However, the staff appears to be very high on the seventh-round selection. Carrying six wideouts may be an overload, but Brown is pushing for playing time. I am very intrigued to watch him develop over the season.
Which rookie have you been most impressed with, BTB?