The Cowboys’ win streak - and Cooper Rush’s perfect record - remained alive after an upset win over the Rams on the road. This wasn’t a game where many of the Cowboys rookies made an impact, but they all played their part in what was a total team win. Let’s look at how they all did.
OL Tyler Smith
Tyler Smith has been playing some great ball this year, especially for having gone through a musical chairs routine of which position he was playing in the offseason. But against the Rams, Smith drew a regular matchup against Aaron Donald. And it went about as well as any other offensive lineman that has to face Donald.
Donald beat Smith for two sacks in the game, one of which he also drew a holding penalty on, though it was declined. Smith struggled, to say the least, when he was matched up with Donald. But when he wasn’t, Smith looked every bit like the player we’ve been watching. He was serviceable in pass protection and very effective in run blocking.
And Smith shouldn’t get discredited for struggling against Donald, either. Everyone gets beat by Donald. In fact, Donald recorded four pressures when going against the likes of Connor McGovern, Tyler Biadasz, and even Zack Martin. This was definitely a “Welcome to the NFL” moment for Smith, but it was in no way an indictment of the rookie. He’s having a really solid year on the whole.
EDGE Sam Williams
Sam Williams is in a bit of a bind; he’s doing nothing but making plays when he’s on the field, but the stellar play of Dorance Armstrong is keeping him from seeing the field more often. That’s a good problem for Dallas to have, though likely frustrating for the rookie.
For the third week in a row, Williams saw his defensive snap share increase - it’s obvious the Cowboys are starting to ramp up his workload - but he still played on just 38% of snaps against the Rams. He had two big tackles in run support and generated a pressure on three of his ten pass rush plays in the game.
Through five games, Williams has been on the field for 24 pass rush reps and has generated six total pressures. That’s an impressive 25% pressure rate, especially when you consider Micah Parsons is sitting at a 30% pressure rate, albeit with significantly more reps. If it weren’t for Armstrong having a career year, we’d be seeing Williams a lot more. The rook has definitely earned it thus far.
WR Jalen Tolbert
Jalen Tolbert was inactive again this week, which is likely to be the norm with Michael Gallup firmly reestablished in this offense now.
TE Jake Ferguson
It was a pedestrian day for the Cowboys’ passing attack - Cooper Rush had just 10 completions on 16 attempts - so Jake Ferguson didn’t really do much as a receiver. But on a day when Dallas leaned heavily on the run, Ferguson made his money as a run blocker.
The Rams entered the game ranked third in run defense DVOA, but the Cowboys managed to amass 164 yards on the ground, with nearly a third of those yards coming on runs to the outside. Ferguson, and the rest of these tight ends, did a great job of helping to seal those edges and create running lanes against such a stout run defense.
OT Matt Waletzko
Matt Waletzko found himself back on the active roster this week with Jason Peters missing the game due to injury, but Waletzko didn’t take the field for any snaps.
CB DaRon Bland
With Jourdan Lewis back for this game, DaRon Bland resumed his regular special teams role this week and logged 15 snaps on the day.
LB Damone Clark
Damone Clark remains on the NFI list, so he didn’t play in this one, but he made news earlier in the week for having his 21 day practice window activated. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee Clark will play at some point this year, but it’s definitely an encouraging sign.
LB Devin Harper
Devin Harper was once again inactive this week, and that might be the new norm for him until something changes.
TE Peyton Hendershot
Here’s a surprise: Peyton Hendershot logged the most snaps against the Rams of all the Cowboys tight ends. Both Ferguson and Dalton Schultz were dealing with injuries, and Schultz’s seemed to flair up during the game, so Hendershot was relied upon a bit more than normal.
Like Ferguson, Hendershot was used almost exclusively as a run blocker, and he did well in that role. Hendershot did get called for a penalty that negated an eight-yard run from Ezekiel Elliott, so it wasn’t a perfect day for the rookie, but a solid one.
S Markquese Bell
Markquese Bell was inactive for the game, though it was to be expected with Jayron Kearse returning to the lineup. Bell performed admirably on special teams in his brief time on the active roster, and it’s a nice feeling to know the Cowboys have someone like him waiting in the wings.