Last week was pretty bad for just about every rookie on the Cowboys, with Tyler Biadasz being the lone strong performer. But the rookie class rebounded against the Eagles, and Trevon Diggs was especially good, putting the rest of the league on notice. The Cowboys really had the best possible outcome in this game: they made the Eagles look really bad, yet still lost to preserve their high draft pick, all while being reminded how bright the future looks with this crop of young talent.
CeeDee Lamb, WR
The mere fact that CeeDee Lamb caught a pass this week is enough to be an improvement over last week. But Lamb did more than that, catching four of his five targets for 27 yards and also racking up 19 yards on his lone carry, courtesy of a tricky reverse play early in the game.
Due to the performance of Ben DiNucci in his first career start, there wasn’t really a whole lot for Lamb to do, but he did what he could under the circumstances. On one play in particular on the opening drive of the game, Lamb took a short pass for 12 yards on a third and long to move the chains. It kept the drive alive and moved them into field goal range, allowing Dallas to strike first.
It wasn’t anything eye-popping, but just another solid performance from the rookie receiver who looked like anything but a rookie. If Andy Dalton does indeed return next week, look for Lamb to see even more action.
Trevon Diggs, CB
It’s been the same story each week for Diggs: make a few good plays here and there, and also get beat pretty bad. There’s been a wild amount of variance between the good and bad for the rookie cornerback, but that’s usually the case for rookie cornerbacks. It was more of the same on Sunday night, but in a very different way. Diggs gave up points, but he also had two incredible picks in the endzone. The first one, the first of his career, was certainly one to remember:
First off, it’s an incredible catch for anyone to make, let alone a defender. But beyond that, the fact that Diggs got his shin and knee down and in bounds only adds to the craziness of the pick. However, Diggs would go on to to one-up himself later on:
Trevon Diggs: “You’ve got to have a short memory. I’m a competitor too, I like to fight too. I’m going to keep fighting always in the game. That’s all that was. He had got me, and then it’s my turn now. One play doesn’t define who you are.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 2, 2020
(Video: @NFL) pic.twitter.com/H8hPv3Yoe7
Once again, Diggs looked like a wide receiver as he caught the ball, but he followed it up with the awareness of where he and everyone else was on the field to know that running with the ball was a smart move. As a result, he picked up 33 yards on the return, an extra eight yards from if he had stayed in the endzone for the touchback.
It wasn’t a perfect night for Diggs, he did get beat on the night, but the rookie had four passes defensed and let the team in tackles. That, in addition to the takeaways, was another reminder that this kid is going to be something special. He’s been thrown into the fire this year, but Diggs is clearly being molded into a professional by the adversity.
Neville Gallimore, DT
After cutting Dontari Poe last week, it seemed possible Neville Gallimore would see an expanded role going forward. That may still be the case long term, but it certainly wasn’t on Sunday night. After Mike Nolan discussed the need for better gap integrity last week, he gave most of the snaps on the interior of the defensive line to Antwaun Woods and Tyrone Crawford. This makes sense, as Gallimore has struggled in run defense this year.
Gallimore’s 17 defensive snaps were barely more than Justin Hamilton, and he didn’t do much with those precious few snaps. Newly-acquired nose tackle Eli Ankou will be eligible to play next week, which will give us a better idea of Gallimore’s place in this defensive line rotation and if his decline in snaps was a sign of things to come or just a gameplan-related change.
Reggie Robinson III, DB
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Reggie Robinson was inactive. Even after cutting Daryl Worley, Robinson couldn’t get dressed for the game, as Dallas called up Saivion Smith from the practice squad on gameday. There are better odds of Ben DiNucci completing a pass more than five yards down the field than Robinson appearing in a game this year.
Tyler Biadasz, C
Joe Looney made it back into practice this past week and was on the active roster for Sunday night’s game, so the fact that Tyler Biadasz remained the starter speaks volumes about how well the rookie has been playing.
He followed it up with another good performance, and he frequently paired with Zack Martin on some duo blocks that freed up lots of space in the running game. Biadasz also showed off his mobility in getting to the second level with high frequency yet again.
Of course, Biadasz’s pass protection is still his biggest weakness, and there were times he got beat by Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. But Biadasz continued his impressive play, dominating as a run blocker and showing off a really good partnership with Martin. He should make the Cowboys feel really good about the interior of this offensive line for years to come.
Bradlee Anae, EDGE
The Bradlee Anae Fan Club is not doing well. When Everson Griffen got traded away, there was a hope it would lead to more snaps for Anae, but that turned out to not be true. Anae at least made it onto the active roster, and he did participate on special teams, but the rookie pass rusher didn’t see the field on defense.
Ben DiNucci, QB
Well, the Nooch turned out to be exactly what he was supposed to be: a developmental prospect at quarterback who hardly had any time this offseason to get acquainted with the first-team offense, or whatever is left of it. DiNucci was supposed to see the field as much as Reggie Robinson this year, if not less, but circumstances dictated something else. So the rookie was thrown into a less than desirable situation:
Please appreciate the impossible situation Ben DiNucci was in. No OTAs or mini-camp. No preseason games. And then the abbreviated training camp was spent trying to get Dak and Andy Dalton ready for the season. Throw in a windy night and Fletcher Cox and...well, you get the idea— Babe Laufenberg (@BabeLaufenberg) November 2, 2020
That said... man, did DiNucci look bad. His throwing mechanics were horrendous, he had poor anticipation for his receivers, and is definitely going to have a zero in the awareness rating in the next Madden roster update. Much like the next rookie on this list, expectations should have been incredibly low, and DiNucci played exactly the way he should’ve been expected to play.
Still, his final stat line - 21/40 with 180 passing yards, no touchdowns, and no picks - gave him a better passer rating than Carson Wentz. DiNucci also added 22 rushing yards on five carries, although his two fumbles resulted in his QBR being eight points below that of Wentz. In short, the Cowboys’ third-string rookie quarterback played about as well as the Eagles’ veteran franchise quarterback that cost them the second overall pick back in 2016.
Terence Steele, OT
Terence Steele has been preparing us for DiNucci all year long. “He’s obviously not good, but what did you expect?” is something that has been said about Steele for a while now. He’s an undrafted rookie that barely made the final roster and suddenly became the starting right tackle. That he’s one of the worst starting right tackles in the NFL this year is no surprise, and it’s hard to really expect anything else.
Again, that said, Steele is pretty bad. There aren’t exactly many other options out there right now, although fans have been loudly clamoring for Zack Martin to move to the right tackle spot, especially with Looney available again. It’s understandable to want to keep a Hall of Famer at his natural position, and that seems to be the mindset of McCarthy and Joe Philbin right now, but there has to be a breaking point eventually.
Steele was especially bad Sunday night, routinely getting beat by Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat. Contrary to prior weeks, where Steele has had flashes in the run game, he looked lost on several running plays as well, signaling he may actually be getting worse with time. Again, it’s hard to really fault him much for his play - he really shouldn’t be playing, but kind of has to right now - but the Cowboys are almost certainly counting down the days until they can get Brandon Knight back.
In the meantime, Steele will have to start next week against TJ Watt and the undefeated Steelers, so that’ll be fun.
Francis Bernard, LB
Sean Lee has returned, and while he was on a snap count for the game, the General’s presence meant a less-than-zero chance of Bernard seeing a defensive snap. His 15 snaps on special teams tied fellow linebackers Justin March and Joe Thomas, which is going to become the norm now that Dallas their top two linebackers back from injury to play alongside Jaylon Smith.
Sean McKeon, TE
Sean McKeon has only been brought onto the field for special teams and for jumbo packages at the goal line, so it’s no surprise that he didn’t see the field on offense against the Eagles. That would require the offense to get close to the endzone, and only Greg Zuerlein did that on Sunday night.
Rico Dowdle, RB
Rico Dowdle was once again only used on special teams, although his name was prominently featured when the camera was watching Ezekiel Elliott on the sideline, so there’s some nice exposure for the rookie.