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2020 Cowboys rookie report: A rough day for the first timers

It was a humbling game for this Cowboys rookie class.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Cowboys rookie class has given plenty of reason for optimism even as the 2020 season crumbles around them. CeeDee Lamb has looked like a star, Trevon Diggs has shown a lot of potential, and Tyler Biadasz is already one of the best run-blocking centers in the NFL. But in the deflating loss to Washington, everyone looked bad, even the rooks.

CeeDee Lamb, WR

Lamb has made a seamless transition to the NFL this year, and most of these rookie reports have consisted almost entirely of praising him endlessly. It’s been warranted, but Lamb had himself not only a bad day, but a downright terrible day against the Football Team.

Lamb was targeted five times in the game and came away with zero catches. Most of them were dropped passes, and at least two were moments that would have resulted in a big gain to extend the offensive drive. With the state of this offense already, you need every big play you can get, and Lamb literally dropped the ball.

While Lamb has had the occasional mistake here or there, this was his first time looking like a rookie. With likely another new quarterback under center this week, things will only get harder for the Cowboys’ top pick. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds to the adversity in the face of his worst game as a professional.

Trevon Diggs, CB

Trevon Diggs is teetering dangerously close to becoming the next Chidobe Awuzie. For the past few years, there have been plenty of snaps where Awuzie would have near-perfect coverage against a receiver and still somehow give up the catch. Diggs’ rookie year has been a lot like that: doing a lot of things right, but still getting beat in the end.

To his credit, Diggs once again showed his commitment in the run game with two solo tackles and also recorded two passes defensed. However, he was going up against the highly impressive Terry McLaurin and learned the hard way what happens when you give Scary Terry an inch.

This isn’t the first time Diggs has been burned deep like this either. It’s happened against Seattle and Cleveland, and probably one other instance I’m not remembering. The rookie has shown he has all the traits to become a really good top corner, but he’s taking his hits as a rookie and one has to wonder if it’s something he’ll grow out of, especially with the distinct downward trend of the team as a whole.

Neville Gallimore, DT

Neville Gallimore continues to carve out a bigger role in this defensive line rotation. His 38 defensive snaps were once again a career high, and Gallimore actually recorded his first career start on Sunday.

He finished with four tackles, one of them for a loss, and flashed a bit in the pass rush. But Gallimore continued to look like a liability in run defense, not that anyone else on this defense hasn’t. It’s very clear that Gallimore is still the one-gap penetration type that he was in college, which is to be expected from a rookie with hardly any offseason.

With Dontari Poe out of Dallas, Gallimore seems like a good bet to see an even bigger workload going forward. The question will be if he can show gradual improvement in run defense, specifically when it comes to two-gap responsibilities, throughout the season.

Reggie Robinson III, DB

Reggie Robinson was inactive again, which makes you wonder how bad he must be to not even get a shot at the field with the play of these other defensive backs. Daryl Worley is in the same boat as Poe, so maybe that will open the door for the rookie out of Tulsa?

Tyler Biadasz, C

Tyler Biadasz was the best rookie on Sunday, although it’s a distinction won by default. But Biadasz has been really good in his rookie year. He entered the game leading all centers in run block win rate with an 82% win rate. After the game, Biadasz dropped to second in that category with 79%.

Much like Gallimore, Biadasz looks almost exactly like the guy we saw in college. The good news is that in college Biadasz was a dominant run blocker and serviceable pass blocker. That’s translated well to the NFL, and Biadasz has played so well that Mike McCarthy has already opted to stick with him at center when Joe Looney returns. Biadasz hasn’t made anyone forget about Travis Frederick yet, but he’s well on his way to measuring up to the Bearded One.

Bradlee Anae, EDGE

Fans of Bradlee Anae had to be frustrated on Sunday when the promising edge rusher was on the inactive list, largely due to Randy Gregory’s return to the team. But those same fans got a bit of good news two days later when Dallas traded away Everson Griffen.

This doesn’t mean Anae is about to see 40 snaps a game - he may not even break 10 snaps against Philadelphia - but it does open the door for more work for the former Utah standout. And based on the very few clips we’ve seen of Anae this year, that’s a good thing.

Ben DiNucci, QB

Last week, DiNucci made his NFL debut in garbage time and handed it off three times. This past week, he actually threw some passes. Andy Dalton’s vicious injury threw DiNucci into the game, and he ended up completing two of his three passes for 39 yards. DiNucci was also sacked three times and fumbled twice, so a real mixed bag for the third-string rookie.

With Dalton in the concussion protocol and likely unable to play against the Eagles, that means DiNucci will make his first career start just eight games into his professional career. This obviously isn’t ideal for the Cowboys, but it’ll be intriguing to see what the Nooch can do.

Terence Steele, OT

Terence Steele continues to start at right tackle because, well, there’s nobody else. If/when Brandon Knight returns, we’ll likely see either he or Cam Erving take over the right tackle spot, but Steele has started every single game this season.

The results haven’t been great, and nobody should have expected them to be for an undrafted rookie unexpectedly thrust into the starting lineup. According to Pro Football Focus, Steele gave up one sack Sunday against the Football Team, which is not bad considering the talent he was up against.

Of course, the eye test reveals a player who really shouldn’t be starting right now, but again there’s nobody else. Given the circumstances, Steele has performed admirably, especially in the run game. But Dallas likely won’t hesitate to get him on the bench when they can.

Francis Bernard, LB

Francis Bernard was active but didn’t see any defensive snaps on Sunday. Leighton Vander Esch’s return likely means Bernard will be relegated to solely special teams duty, and may even get moved to the practice squad when Sean Lee returns.

Sean McKeon, TE

Sean McKeon saw just one offensive snap on Sunday in his role as the third tight end. He’s mostly been brought in for goal line situations, and the offense didn’t really do much against Washington so his services weren’t needed.

Rico Dowdle, RB

After getting his first career rushing attempts last week in garbage time, it was back to special teams duty for Rico Dowdle, who recorded 10 special teams snaps.

Rashad Smith, LB

Rashad Smith was once again inactive Sunday, and on Monday he was waived for a punter.

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