Each week in this rookie report, we talk about how the team as a whole is playing terribly but the rookies are showing promise. But each week has also seen the rookie class - outside of CeeDee Lamb, who is perfect - get slightly less impressive as the overall team play drags them down.
Monday night against the Cardinals, this rookie class may have hit a new low. They were still some of the best players on the team, which is a strong indictment of the Cowboys’ veterans, but it wasn’t great.
CeeDee Lamb, WR
CeeDee Lamb is great, and he continued to be great against the Cardinals. Despite catching passes from Andy Dalton this week, Lamb still made an impact in the passing game, catching seven passes for 64 yards. But the biggest play involving Lamb came on the interception where Dre Kirkpatrick tackled the receiver as he was running his route.
The fact that this is what it takes to create a bad rep involving Lamb speaks volumes about him as a player. We didn’t get a bunch of highlights this week, which is partially due to the lack of chemistry between Lamb and his new quarterback, but he was still productive and reliable, especially for his age.
It’s clear that Lamb is going to be a star - he already is, really - but this season is offering growing pains that nobody could have ever predicted. When Zack Martin went down during the game, the Cowboys were officially playing over half of their offensive personnel with backups. But this adversity is going to help Lamb grow even quicker than he has been, helping him to reach his very high ceiling sooner rather than later.
Trevon Diggs, CB
Diggs had been playing every single defensive snap through the first month but injuries forced him to temporarily come out during last week’s game. Healed up and ready to go, Diggs was a full go this week. He still sat out for two snaps against Arizona, but other than that he was always on the field.
As far as Diggs’ actual play, it was pretty much exactly what we’ve been seeing thus far: some flashes here and there, but also some bad reps. This is probably going to be the norm throughout the year, as it’s incredibly hard for rookie cornerbacks to come in and play well right away, but Diggs keeps showing the traits and know-how to grow into a really good cornerback.
Nice jam and rally to contest the catch point by Trevon Diggs here. Gets a little loose after the jam but does a nice job driving downhill to create the PBU. pic.twitter.com/hIdgfvickq— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 20, 2020
Neville Gallimore, DT
Neville Gallimore is finally getting some more significant playing time, granted it’s more due to Trysten Hill’s injury than anything else right now. His 23 snaps Monday was a career high for him, and Gallimore racked up two tackles throughout the game.
Aside from that, the rookie didn’t do too much. This was effectively only his second game of his career, so from an experience standpoint Gallimore is a bit behind the curve. Much like Diggs, he’s flashing some promise but has areas of his game to work on. Diggs is definitely closer to being there, but both players will grow a lot as the season progresses.
Reggie Robinson III, DB
Another game, another inactive stretch for Reggie Robinson. The odds he sees any game action this year are lower than the Cowboys’ odds of finishing with a winning record.
Tyler Biadasz, C
Tyler Biadasz is the starter now at center, and in his second game as the full-time starter he showed pretty much the same thing he’s been showing all year. Biadasz is pretty exciting in the run game, and has occasional struggles in pass protection. Losing Martin during the game didn’t help either.
Biadasz! great play here. Great angle to the 2nd level to cutoff 59 and make him take an unfavorable angle and then cuts off Budda Baker (32) to give Pollard a lane to the 2nd level. pic.twitter.com/kQmfmm34NS— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 20, 2020
Much like Diggs and Gallimore, Biadasz is flashing a lot of the things that made him an attractive prospect. It certainly looks like he’s recovered from the injury that plagued his senior year, and as Biadasz grows in pass protection he’ll only get better. This is turning out to be a very good draft pick.
Bradlee Anae, EDGE
If the outcome of the game wasn’t enough, the usage for Bradlee Anae in the game was certainly a gut punch to those who have been calling for more of the former Utah star pass rusher. After getting a few snaps each game, and usually doing something positive with each of them, Anae saw zero snaps Monday in a game where the guys ahead of him struggled for most of the night.
Ben DiNucci, QB
ALL HAIL THE NOOCH! In his first ever game on the active roster, Ben DiNucci actually saw the field. It wasn’t because Dalton was benched for poor play, but more so because, with under two minutes remaining, McCarthy didn’t want to risk any more of his starters getting hurt. DiNucci came out and handed the ball off three straight times to run out the clock. Probably not the NFL debut he was hoping for, but it happened.
Terence Steele, OT
Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph tends to come up with some really creative blitzes, and against an ailing offensive line he certainly didn’t disappoint. A lot of the blitzes were focused on overwhelming Steele, the undrafted rookie who’s been thrust into starting duties after both La’el Collins and Cam Erving were placed on the injured reserve.
Martin’s injury and subsequent replacement with Connor McGovern, who was making his NFL debut, led to even more targeted pressures against Steele. The young tackle predictably didn’t hold up well, but that’s been the story for him all year. What more can we really expect from him, given the circumstances?
Francis Bernard, LB
After Francis Bernard saw seven defensive snaps last week as the third linebacker in base formations, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said he’s excited to get Bernard involved in more base fronts. But this week was a perfect storm that prevented him from playing. Not only did Leighton Vander Esch return, pushing Joe Thomas to LB3 duties, but the Cardinals’ Air Raid offense means very little base formation for the defense.
Bernard continued to work on special teams, seeing 15 snaps there, but with the linebacker corps (sans Sean Lee, as always) back to full health, that’s probably as much as we’ll see from the rookie going forward.
Sean McKeon, TE
Sean McKeon continues his role of coming on in jumbo packages as the third tight end, operating exclusively as a blocker. He had six offensive snaps Monday night, which is par for the course right now.
Rico Dowdle, RB
Rico Dowdle finally saw an offensive snap! After playing exclusively on special teams this year, Dowdle came in for the final three handoffs with DiNucci. His 13 yards on those three carries gave him the highest yards per carry figure for the Cowboys that night, which is comic. But this was an anomaly for Dowdle, who likely won’t get many carries all season.
Rashad Smith, LB
Rashad Smith was once again inactive, but he did avoid being waived to the practice squad after both Vander Esch’s return and the recent addition of Randy Gregory to the roster. Dallas must think highly of him.