How the Dallas Cowboys started against the Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t have gone worse. The Cowboys were down 20-3 by half-time. However, looking at the glass half-full, many players stood out and stepped up.
Here is the roster power ranking heading into Week 7 against the Detroit Lions.
10. Peyton Hendershot, TE
Hendershot was not the only tight end to stand out on Sunday night. Not only did he have two catches for 22 yards on five targets, but he also was great as a blocker.
He has cleaned up most of his mistakes. A few weeks ago, the rookie was flagged for a holding penalty on a run to the outside. On Sunday, Hendershot did have a penalty against him for illegal formation, but that problem is fixed with experience.
The development of these two rookie tight ends continues in Schultz’s absence.
9. Malik Hooker, S
Donovan Wilson is usually the safety that frequents this list, but he was not been the same tackler he was in previous games. His spot has been given to Hooker for this week.
When Wilson leads the team in tackles as a strong safety, he’s in the box, stopping the run early. When Hooker leads the team in tackles from the free position, running plays were getting to the second level.
Hooker finished the night with 12 tackles, ten of them by himself. Even though the Eagles succeeded in the running game, Miles Sanders’s longest night run was limited to 13 yards. Once plays came in Hooker’s direction, they usually stopped there.
8. Tyler Smith, LT
Besides the two costly hits on Cooper Rush, Smith did not allow much pressure in the pocket. If he found a way to stop Brandon Graham from hitting Rush on the deep ball to CeeDee Lamb, he would be higher on the list.
Tyler Smith is the next great lineman drafted by the Cowboys in the first round. He has the talent to neutralize a team’s best pass rusher and is dominant in run blocking. There is no denying what he has been able to do this season.
With each week that goes by, the rookie tackle is making the case to replace Tyron Smith sooner rather than later.
7. Dorance Armstrong, DE
Armstrong continues to impress week after week. That sentence should be in permanent ink for the rest of the season. When the Dallas offense failed to get anything on their opening drive, the momentum shifted back to the Eagles. Armstrong made sure it was short-lived.
The Eagles offense struggles when it’s forced to make up for lost yards. Armstrong’s sack did just enough to set Philly back on their opening drive, and it showed that the Dallas defense wouldn’t just roll over. On second down, he rushed up the middle and took Hurts down for a loss, tying his career-high in sacks for a season with five.
6. KaVontae Turpin, WR/KR
My co-host on The Writer’s Block Podcast, Jess Nevarez, talked to Turpin before the game, and he was confident there would be success in the return game. For how lackluster the Cowboys offense looked in the first half, it was Turpin’s 63-yard return that set up their only points before halftime on a short field.
Turpin finished with six total returns for 132 yards. Each week, he seems to see the field better and is bound to break one soon.
5. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE
Lawrence missed a straight sack on Jalen Hurts after he sidestepped out of the way. Even though he didn’t boost his numbers in his competition with Micah Parsons, Lawrence stood out in other ways.
The one trait that separates Tank from other defensive ends in the league is his run defense. Going against an Eagles offense that ranks top five among NFL teams in rushing, he showed up when it mattered. Lawrence had a tackle for loss and eight total tackles on the night. He was moving sideline-to-sideline tracking down runners. His sack numbers will go up, but Lawrence again proves his versatility.
4. Micah Parsons, DE/LB
The first half was rough. This might have been Parsons’ worst game of the season. Philadelphia’s offensive plan was to eliminate Parsons as a pass rusher. They would catch him on the read-options and force him to make a decision. However, that didn’t last for long.
Once Lane Johnson went out with a concussion and Jack Driscoll took over, the Lion started to feast. Parsons was applying constant pressure and winning against Driscoll. It put pressure on the Eagles offense and allowed Dallas to get back in the game. Moving forward, Dan Quinn will figure out how to better use Parsons against the RPO offenses.
3. Terence Steele, RT
Steele’s name has not been mentioned much on this list. It could be because being a right tackle isn’t as flashy of a position, but Steele stood out on Sunday. One the Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run, the third-year tackle pushed All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox out of the picture.
There was another play when Steele pulled to the right side, and Cris Collinsworth jumped out of his chair watching him pancake an Eagles defender. Steele is a very athletic tackle and has been a core piece in the success of the Dallas run game. He looks like a different player from Week 1 to Week 6, and the Cowboys are better off because of it.
2. Jake Ferguson, TE
As mentioned, Hendershot was not the only rookie tight end to stand out. When Ferguson has had his opportunities this season, he has taken full advantage of them. The swim move touchdown play was a display of talent and athleticism.
It also showed off Ferguson’s football intelligence. When Cooper Rush had success throwing to Ferguson on the bootleg, the rookie felt the Eagles defender crashing down hard on previous receptions. On the touchdown play, he used the defender’s aggressive nature to stop and pivot out of the way and move upfield.
Ferguson is getting better with the ball in his hands, and he is a willing and able blocker in pass pro and run blocking. If he keeps up this momentum, he might be the Cowboys starting tight end in 2023.
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Sunday against the Eagles was a reminder of how great Elliott can be. He has been given many opportunities this season, but Sunday was the first time Elliott looked like his old self. In the second half, when Dallas had better success running the ball, Elliott didn’t just fall after contact. He ran through defenders or pulled out a spin move.
His touchdown run was perfectly blocked and showed his elusiveness making defenders miss, keeping his balance, and scoring when the Cowboys desperately needed a touchdown.
With Prescott likely coming back this weekend, Elliott will hopefully carry his momentum forward for the rest of the season and get back to being one of the best in the NFL.