The Cowboys - specifically Will McClay - have been lauded for their excellent drafts as of late, but this 2020 class may shape up to be their best one yet. CeeDee Lamb continues to look like a star, Trevon Diggs is playing more like a first-round pick than some cornerbacks who were actually first-round picks, and Tyler Biadasz has already put himself among some of the most talented centers in the league.
But the one player really lacking the production relative to his draft pedigree thus far was Neville Gallimore. The former Sooner interior lineman changed all that on Sunday, though, as he had a coming out party against the Steelers. Let’s check out these rookies.
CeeDee Lamb, WR
It’s hard to believe that 16 other teams picked someone before CeeDee Lamb this year, because the rookie has been that good. While a lot of rookie receivers are making noise this year, few have been as consistently sensational as Lamb. He continued that on Sunday with four catches for a team-leading 71 yards against one of the best defenses in the NFL. He also scored the Cowboys’ first touchdown since Week 6 against the Cardinals:
Late in the game, when Dallas was making one last ditch effort to push the ball down the field and try to complete the upset, Lamb also helped out Garrett Gilbert with this incredible toe-tapping sideline catch:
Simply put, Lamb is a star already. It’s impossible to overstate how incredible he’s been this year, especially with a limited offseason. The one deviation from the norm this week for Lamb: no punt returns. Instead it was Cedrick Wilson, which ended up being a coaching decision because they were setting up for the lateral reverse to C.J. Goodwin.
Brilliant gamesmanship aside, Lamb has been lights out in his rookie year and made fools out of at least the Broncos and Raiders, both of whom selected receivers ahead of Lamb this year. The Cowboys have a playmaker on their hands here.
Trevon Diggs, CB
This section of the rookie report is a little bittersweet, as it comes with the news that Trevon Diggs is likely missing the remainder of his rookie season with a broken foot. That injury occurred in the second half of the Steelers game, and resulted in Diggs playing just 77% of defensive snaps, whereas he usually plays at or very close to 100% of the defensive snaps.
Diggs’ absence coincided with the Steelers’ offense coming back to life and moving the ball better, although that wasn’t the sole reason. Still, Diggs has been a valuable part of a secondary that has, in large part, been terrible this year. Case in point: despite not finishing the game, Diggs still led the defense in tackles with seven.
This is likely the last time we’ll see Diggs this year, and it’s really just the way this year has gone for the Cowboys. The bright side is they’re getting Chidobe Awuzie back after the bye, so the secondary won’t have a steep dropoff in talent. But the shortened rookie season for Diggs proved that the Cowboys got a steal with their second-round pick.
Neville Gallimore, DT
This was the big one this week. Gallimore has been slowly working his way into the defensive line rotation ever since Dontari Poe fell out of favor with the coaching staff, and on Sunday he played over 50% of the defensive snaps for the first time in his career. Only Antwaun Woods played more snaps at defensive tackle, showing the staff is committed to seeing what they have in Gallimore.
In his playing time up until this point, Gallimore has shown a twitchy penetrating style of play that gets easily washed out against the run. But against the Steelers, Gallimore was constantly filling holes, forcing running backs outside, and making stops in run defense. He was credited with three tackles, one tackle for loss, two pressures, and one hit on the quarterback.
It was a very well-rounded game for Gallimore, who needed to prove this year he could be an impact player against the run. It was also perfect timing, as the duo of Gallimore and Woods shut down the Steelers’ rushing attack and put the brunt of the offense on the shoulders of the banged up Ben Roethlisberger. It was just one game, but Gallimore looking like a stout anchor for the line is the pièce de résistance of this impressive draft class.
Reggie Robinson III, DB
Yes, he was inactive again; no, I don’t understand why. Diggs’ injury probably doesn’t change this either, since Awuzie will be coming back. For whatever reason, the Cowboys coaches really don’t want him playing, so much so that they put Saivion Smith onto the field when Diggs got hurt. Smith predictably got burned to a crisp, so how bad does Robinson have to be?
Tyler Biadasz, C
Tyler Biadasz has emerged as one of the best centers in the NFL already, and he entered the Steelers game leading all centers in run block win rate for the second time this year. But Biadasz ended up not playing in the game after he suffered a hamstring injury in the pre-game warmups. Joe Looney played at center instead.
Biadasz is estimated to miss two to three more weeks, which means just one or two games because of the bye this week. Still, it’s a blow to this offensive line, which was starting to find a groove on the interior with Biadasz, Connor Williams, and Zack Martin. It’s best to be cautious though, especially in a lost season, as Biadasz certainly looks like a major part of this line going forward.
Bradlee Anae, EDGE
It was a curious decision to not play Bradlee Anae continued this week, as the talented edge rusher from Utah wasn’t even on the active roster. It’s hard to complain too much with the talented play from both Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory, but every fanbase needs something to complain about, and this is definitely something.
Ben DiNucci, QB
The Nooch was inactive on Sunday, with Cooper Rush the backup ahead of him. There’s likely zero chance the Cowboys put him back on the field this year, as he doesn’t look ready to be on an NFL roster.
Terence Steele, OT
When it comes to Terence Steele, it’s been the same story each and every week. He’s definitely one of the worst starting tackles in the league, but that’s really because he was never supposed to be a starting tackle. That an undrafted rookie could start every game at right tackle with no preseason and play better than Chaz Green is a silver lining to take away. That’s really the only one.
Steele has flashed some talent, but he’s clearly a developmental tackle prospect. He looks like the kind of player coaches say “If we can stash this guy on our roster or practice squad for a year, he could really be something.” That was, of course, the plan for Steele in Dallas before every other offensive tackle vanished somehow.
Sunday’s game was another example of this dour reality for the Cowboys. Steele got beat by T.J. Watt pretty often, and he broke down on several running plays as well. He has yet to string together one good performance through a full game, which is exactly what we should expect from this caliber of player.
Francis Bernard, LB
Joe Thomas was inactive for Sunday’s game after dealing with an injury, and that meant more special teams snaps for Francis Bernard. He was tied with fellow linebackers Justin March and Luke Gifford for third most special teams snaps, which is going to be the case going forward unless more injuries pop up for these starting linebackers.
Sean McKeon, TE
Sean McKeon hadn’t seen the field on offense in a couple of weeks, as he only comes in for goal line situations where Dallas wants to use a three-tight end look. Given how dormant the Cowboys offense has been lately, that’s meant few opportunities for the rookie tight end. But on Sunday, he had plenty of opportunities, playing a career-high six offensive snaps on top of his regular special teams snaps.
Rico Dowdle, RB
Rico Dowdle has been almost exclusively a special teamer this year, which meant barely being able to notice him on the field. But on Sunday, he was noticed in a big way. After an unsportsmanlike penalty moved the Steelers’ kickoff to the 50-yard line, the shallow kick landed in Dowdle’s hands and, well, just watch:
The body control to keep his feet in bounds on the sideline here is impressive, and Dowdle logged another chapter in the list of impressive special teams plays for the Cowboys on Sunday. Enjoy your brief time in the spotlight, Uncle Rico.
Sewo Olonilua, FB
It’s crazy to think that Ezekiel Elliott originally wasn’t supposed to play in this game, but when that seemed like a certainty when the Cowboys made some moves. Those moves included calling up Sewo Olonilua from the practice squad. A former running back in college, Dallas had moved Olonilua to fullback in training camp, but he offered emergency depth. Since Zeke ended up playing on Sunday, Olonilua was inactive.