The Cowboys were lauded by many for their impressive draft haul this year featuring CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs with their top two picks. On Sunday night those rookies got to make their first impressions in the NFL. While the game itself ended in a disappointing loss, there was plenty to get excited about with these rookies. Let’s review their individual performances.
CeeDee Lamb, WR
The Cowboys’ top rookie, their shiny new toy, had a highly anticipated debut and ended up looking... like a normal receiver. That’s actually a compliment, given that many rookie wide receivers tend to struggle to adapt to the NFL.
Lamb saw a lot of playing time, with his 59 offensive snaps being 82% of the total offensive snaps throughout the game. In fact, Lamb had just four fewer snaps than Ezekiel Elliott, which shows the level of trust this coaching staff has in him. Lamb also saw two special teams snaps in the form of punt returns; one was a fair catch, while the other was returned for 20 yards.
All in all, Lamb finished with five catches on six targets for 59 yards. But it was his first catch, which came on the second offensive possession of the game, that showed his big potential. The 33-yard haul flipped field position for the Cowboys, who scored a touchdown just two plays later.
CeeDee Lamb hauls in his first catch as a Cowboy! pic.twitter.com/zIER4q2vEG— Cowboys Nation (@CowboysNationCP) September 14, 2020
But Lamb’s biggest play was perhaps the one he didn’t make. When Dallas opted to go for it on fourth and three, Kellen Moore called up a crossing route for Lamb. But the rookie was a bit too shallow in his route, and he was tackled a yard short of the first-down marker. After the game, Lamb described the play as “Not really a rookie mistake, but a mistake from a rookie. I need to make that conversion, make that play, and I didn’t.”
Still, Lamb was productive in both the offense and on special teams. He didn’t see a high volume of passes thrown his way, as Amari Cooper’s 14 targets led the team by far, but when Lamb’s number was called, he answered. It was a good first outing, but the rookie is only scratching the surface.
Trevon Diggs, CB
For as much hype as Lamb received thus far, Diggs may have been better in Week 1. The rookie out of Alabama was one of four Cowboys defenders to play all 73 defensive snaps, joining Xavier Woods, Jaylon Smith, and Anthony Brown in that category. He was also in on 24% of the Cowboys’ special teams snaps, showing his versatility right off the bat.
As far as the stat line goes, Diggs finished with three tackles and nothing else. He was tough in coverage and showcased his ability as a willing tackler as well. In particular, Diggs sifted through the bodies to make a big third-down tackle, forcing the Rams to punt.
Diggs also nearly recorded an interception on a tipped ball, but was just slightly too far away to come down with it. Despite the good performance, Diggs received a tough lesson in how you can have excellent coverage and still give up the catch. Coincidentally, it was fellow rookie receiver Van Jefferson who taught said lesson.
Van Jefferson on Trevon Diggs— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 14, 2020
Still, Diggs showed exactly what he showed in training camp: a rookie cornerback that plays like anything but a rookie cornerback. His footwork, both in coverage and coming down in run support, was superb. Diggs looks the part of a really good defender, but he was just unlucky in this game.
The Cowboys’ third-round pick rarely saw the field Sunday night. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan ended up using his defensive ends, namely Tyrone Crawford and Everson Griffen, on the interior a lot more than anyone expected, which meant starting defensive tackles Dontari Poe and Trysten Hill got most of the reps the rest of the night.
That led to Gallimore receiving just six defensive snaps. Not surprisingly, he did very little in that short span of time. But this likely won’t be the norm, as Gallimore should see more of the field going forward. More than anything, Nolan’s decision to go light on defensive tackles was likely driven by the need to generate more pass rush. Gallimore should hopefully see a more proper NFL debut next week against Atlanta.
Reggie Robinson, the cornerback out of Tulsa who’s now listed as a safety, did not play as he was not included on the active roster.
Tyler Biadsasz, C
Tyler Biadasz is the Cowboys’ center of the future, but the shortened offseason pretty much guaranteed that veteran Joe Looney would be the starter, at least for now. Still, Biadasz was able to get some action. He had four snaps on special teams, serving as a blocker on kick attempts, and even got two snaps on offense when Connor Williams had to leave the game to put his shoe back on.
It was a very small sample size, and it involved Biadasz playing at left guard, but the rookie was solid in those two snaps. He didn’t get blown up or abused, which is positive. Other than that, not much to go off of for Biadasz, who may as well be redshirting this year.
Bradlee Anae, EDGE
Few non-starters turned as many heads in training camp this year as Bradlee Anae, who consistently beat the second-team offensive tackles in practices and made plays. It was more than enough for Anae, a fifth-round pick, to make the final roster. But playing the same position as Griffen, Aldon Smith, and Dorance Armstrong meant very few opportunities for the Utah pass rusher.
As it turns out, Anae didn’t see a single defensive snap. However, he tied for the most special teams snaps with 15, which is where Anae will prove his value this season. He may not have come up with any tackles or other stats, but Anae showed he’s willing to do the dirty work for this team while the bigger names take care of business.
Ben DiNucci, QB
Like Robinson, DiNucci was not included on the active roster on Sunday. Something about having a franchise quarterback ahead of him on the depth chart.
Terence Steele, OT
With less than an hour before kickoff, we learned that undrafted rookie Terence Steele would be starting at right tackle instead of Cam Erving. It was certainly a surprise, but Steele played all 72 offensive snaps.
While Steele won’t be pushing for La’el Collins’ job any time soon, he certainly wasn’t a liability either. Those worried about another Atlanta fiasco were put at ease. Steele struggled at times, and gave up a sack near the end of the game, but for an undrafted rookie making his first start without so much as a preseason game under his belt, things could have been much worse. Expect Steele to hold that job down until Collins returns.
Rico Dowdle, RB
Another undrafted rookie who made the team, Dowdle was mostly used for depth behind Zeke and Tony Pollard. As such, he didn’t see an offensive snap at all, but was in on nine special teams snaps. With John Fassel in town, special teams ability is highly valued, and it’s what helped Dowdle stand out and make this team.
Sean McKeon, TE
As the team’s fourth tight end, McKeon was listed as inactive for this game. However, with Blake Jarwin out for the year now, McKeon will likely get a shot at being activated going forward.