Thanks to a game-winning drive from Dak Prescott and a special performance by Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys pulled out a crucial victory on Sunday over a Detroit Lions team that was coming off a win over the New England Patriots. While the Cowboys still have a lot of work to do, week four was certainly a big step in the right direction.
As mentioned above, Dak played well and so did Zeke. DeMarcus Lawrence got to Matthew Stafford three different times and Byron Jones continues to excel at cornerback. But, how did the rookies look?
Let’s take a look at the first-year Cowboys that saw playing time on Sunday afternoon.
Leighton Vander Esch
We all know that there was certainly a mixed reaction, to put it lightly, when Roger Goddell walked out onto the stage inside AT&T Stadium and announced that the Cowboys would pick Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th pick of the draft — especially with the perceived needs elsewhere, such as wide receiver and offensive line; however — at least through four games — Vander Esch is doing his best to silence his critics one tackle at a time.
The rookie linebacker has been one of the more impressive players on a defensive unit that has performed mostly well through four games in 2018. LVE did not see many snaps against the Panthers in week one, but he still managed to record three tackles. From there, it’s only gotten better: seven tackles (all solo and no misses) versus the Giants in a week two victory and then 11 total tackles up in Seattle against the Seahawks.
How would the rookie play without Sean Lee leading the charge this past week? Well, we got our answer on Sunday. LVE again put together a solid performance in a crucial win, making six stops — including some impressive tackles in the open-field — versus Detroit.
This was Leighton Vander Esch's best play of the game. Sifts through the blockers to make the tackle on the screen. pic.twitter.com/s1TPRBL7rf— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 1, 2018
One thing I really enjoy about Leighton Vander Esch is that he's a fantastic tackler. This is a really nice play on Golden Tate in space. pic.twitter.com/MqAtwEVavj— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 1, 2018
In a game in which Dak Prescott and the offense moved up and down the field and in which DeMarcus Lawrence added three more sacks to his total, Leighton Vander Esch was someone that stood out.
The rookie offensive guard has played well in three consecutive games after having some trouble against the Panthers front in week one. The Texas product possesses a unique blend of size and athleticism, which made it surprising to see the 6-foot-5, 296-pound fall out of the first-round back in April.
Williams has performed well as a run-blocker for the Cowboys in recent weeks. Dallas loves to use his athleticism to pull and get out in front of Zeke so that 21 can find a running lane and burst through it. Or, he can help in the run game by doing this:
Look at this double team from Tyron Smith and Connor Williams. Totally cave in the 3-tech. pic.twitter.com/m4AQ1ICZMY— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 3, 2018
The rookie only gave up one pressure in the week four victory and has been a strong contributor in the interior of the line through four games.
The hype surrounding the third-round rookie wide receiver has been high from Cowboys and even from some that follow the draft; however, the Colorado State product had yet to really show anything impressive entering last Sunday’s game versus Detroit.
Then, Dak Prescott threw a dime in Gallup’s direction, and the rookie hauled the pass in for a 37-yard gain to set up a score in the first quarter on Sunday.
Gallup finished with two grabs for 45-yards in week four — not numbers that are going to win you your fantasy league by any means, but a step in the right direction for the rookie wideout that is looking to make his presence felt on this offense.
Dorance Armstrong Jr.
Finally, there is a Dorance Armstrong. The rookie pass rusher has shown some flashes of his potential during the early parts of this season, making a pair of stops in week one and blowing up the line of scrimmage once against the Giants.
Behind some guy by the name of DeMarcus Lawrence at defensive end, Armstrong does not have many opportunities to get his name in the box score, but he did add an assisted tackle versus the Lions while making the most of his snaps behind Tank and the other talented ends that is on the Dallas roster.
Doing a little film study on D-Law but just wanted to point out that Dorance Armstrong did a nice job when he was spelling Tank.— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) October 2, 2018
We’ll see how the former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year progresses throughout his rookie season in the Big D.