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Cowboys vs. Jaguars rookie report: Vander Esch leads team in tackles and Armstrong gets first start

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Checking in on the rookies.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Wow, that was fun!

The Cowboys rebounded in a big, big way by absolutely dominating the Jacksonville Jaguars by the tune of 40-7. The offense played wonderful against the league’s top defense and the defense held the Jags to only one scoring possession. It was certainly refreshing to see what this team can do when everything clicks.

Let’s take a look at how the rookies performed in the first dominating victory of their young careers. Hint: they, as did mostly everyone else on the team, turned in solid performances on the day.

Leighton Vander Esch

The Cowboys defense had a history of dropping off when Sean Lee went down with injury. The General would hold the unit together and kept things from going bad until he suffered an injury and had to miss time. That’s not the case any longer.

Between Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, the Dallas Cowboys have gotten excellent play from its linebackers in the absence of their All-Pro linebacker. In the case of LVE, the rookie has played beyond his years for the Cowboys while leading Dallas in tackles in each of the past four games since Lee went down versus the Seahawks.

Vander Esch again turned in a pretty impressive performance for the Cowboys, making open-field tackles and reading where Blake Bortles was going with the football. While the rookie was not perfect, he again played well on Sunday.

If LVE continues to play at this level, the Cowboys will have a tough decision (but great situation) to make when Sean Lee returns from injury.

Connor Williams

The rookie offensive guard has played mostly well for the Dallas Cowboys during the first few games of his debut season in the NFL. While some would like to point out his mistakes, the Texas Longhorns product has been a solid piece to the interior of the offensive line.

Williams again had a solid performance on Sunday versus the league’s top-ranked defense. He did not do anything that will end up on SportsCenter, but the guard made some key plays that allowed positive things to happen for the Cowboys. First, he helped out an All-Pro left tackle to change a potential sack into yards for the offense.

Then, he perfectly executed a pull, which threw off the Jaguars linebackers and opened up a big running lane for Ezekiel Elliott’s touchdown to make the score 37-7 at the time.

It appears that the rookie is becoming more and more comfortable as each game comes and goes.

Michael Gallup

The Cowboys’ third-round rookie wide receiver has shown some flashes here and there during his young career, and he again showed a little bit of what he can do when given the opportunity.

Before Dallas went on to dominate the league’s top-ranked defense, the offense had an opening drive that resulted in a field goal after driving down the field. On the opening drive, Dak Prescott found his rookie target for a big 27-yard gain that featured the former Colorado State Rams star make an impressive grab over Jaguars All-Pro cornerback A.J. Bouye:

I repeat: that catch was made against an All-Pro corner! Gallup finished the game with just that one catch, but he shows that he can become a receiving threat for Dak Prescott as he progresses in this offense. It was almost two catches on the day and a touchdown for Gallup, but he just failed to get a second foot down on the play before Prescott scored on a run.

Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Dorance Armstrong made his first career start on Sunday as the Cowboys were cautious with DeMarcus Lawrence, and he did not disappoint. The former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year possesses upside to develop into a quality defensive end for the Cowboys, and he has been a solid contributor in the trenches so far in his young career.

Armstrong won’t be a guy that is going to fill up the stat-sheet, but the young end did record two tackles on the day:

Armstrong’s growth and upside has to be exciting for the Cowboys defensive staff, especially when considering just how much talent is already in that defensive line room.