The Cowboys didn’t waste much time before getting back in the win column, and they were undoubtedly thrilled to do it with Dak Prescott back under center. For all of the Cowboys’ rookies, it was their first game this year with Prescott playing the full game. Several of them had some big moments, too. Let’s take a look.
OL Tyler Smith
Tyler Smith drew two very hard challenges in each of the previous two games, but against Detroit he mostly squared off with fellow rookie Aidan Hutchinson. It wasn’t a return to dominance for Smith, but it was certainly better than he’s been lately.
Hutchinson was the second overall pick for a reason, and he gave Smith plenty to handle on Sunday. Smith gave up a sack and was charged with allowing two pressures on the day, in addition to being called for a penalty. He had trouble with Hutchinson’s speed for most of the game.
Tyler Smith vs Aiden Hutchinson. Aiden won the hand battle and is so good outside. It’s over from there. Most of Tyler’s issues have been on outside moves. This league is hard. pic.twitter.com/xdgvF80O6H— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) October 24, 2022
It wasn’t all bad, though. Smith is a physical specimen, and that still flashes plenty when run blocking. He got to show it off in pass protection too, and schooled his fellow rookie on when to avoid using power moves against certain linemen.
Aidan Hutchinson tried to bullrush Tyler Smith, got buried six feet under! pic.twitter.com/YA1XicKQNj— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) October 23, 2022
Smith’s performance against the Lions was about on par for his season-long performance, which is to say a mixed bag. The good moments have looked incredible, while the bad have mostly been things where Smith is still just growing. That’s to be expected with him, but the rookie is looking more and more confident each week.
EDGE Sam Williams
If you’ve been following along with these weekly rookie reports, then you know Sam Williams has been quietly great this season. The rookie edge rusher had recorded at least one pressure in each of the last four weeks despite playing a limited amount of snaps.
Well, there was nothing quiet about Williams’ play on Sunday. He still had a light workload, playing on just 14 defensive snaps, but Williams produced three splash plays in a big way. He had two sacks, one of which featured a really cool strip and immediate recovery, and body slammed a Lions running back without drawing a penalty.
Cowboys rookie DE Sam Williams is still nowhere near his developmental ceiling, and that is what excites team most. His 14 defensive snaps in Sunday's win over Lions included his first two career NFL sacks with a body slam (no penalty) in between. pic.twitter.com/ilZevnzBAu— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 24, 2022
A big reason for Williams’ snap count remaining low this year has been due to the stellar play of Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler. But Williams has been making strides as the season goes on, and he forced everyone to take notice this week. Time will tell if it leads to more snaps going forward.
WR Jalen Tolbert
If anyone was hoping that Dak Prescott’s return might lead to a coming out party for rookie Jalen Tolbert, you may need to hold your breath for another week. Tolbert only saw one snap on offense and he wasn’t targeted. He also only played on six special teams snaps.
TE Jake Ferguson
Dalton Schultz returned this week after missing the Eagles game, but he was still clearly playing through pain. As the game went on, though, Dallas moved away from as many of their two-tight-end sets, which meant less time for Jake Ferguson. The rookie saw just 24 snaps on offense, and he caught his only target for seven yards.
Ferguson is going to get more opportunities, especially with what he’s shown so far this season. His reduced role in this one likely had more to do with Dak Prescott just not having as much chemistry with the rookie as he does with veterans like Schultz.
OT Matt Waletzko
Prior to this game, Matt Waletzko was added to the injured reserve after re-aggravating a recurring shoulder injury. He’s going to need surgery for the injury, and it’s anticipated that his season is over.
CB DaRon Bland
DaRon Bland played a small role in this game, but that’s about to change. Jourdan Lewis suffered a Lisfranc injury in the game and his season is done. That means Bland, who filled in for Lewis against Detroit, will become the starter in the slot going forward.
Bland has already filled in for Lewis once before, and he played well, recording an interception against the Commanders. In the seven defensive snaps he played against the Lions, Bland recorded one tackle and allowed a completion of five yards on his lone target.
LB Damone Clark
Damone Clark was inactive for this game as he remains on the NFI list. However, the Cowboys activated his 21-day practice window recently, so they’ll need to officially activate him this week if the rookie linebacker is going to return at all this year.
LB Devin Harper
Devin Harper was inactive for this game.
TE Peyton Hendershot
Peyton Hendershot has had an awesome ride so far in his young NFL career. He went from undrafted to making the Cowboys roster to leading all tight ends in snaps just a week ago. And on Sunday, Hendershot was rewarded for it all with his first career touchdown catch.
It’s worth pointing out that the first teammate to come over and celebrate the score was fellow rookie Jake Ferguson, but it didn’t take long before the entire offense mobbed Hendershot. It was a nice moment for a guy who scratched and clawed his way to get here, and has done plenty of dirty work in a thankless blocking role much of the year. Have a day, Peyton Hendershot!
S Markquese Bell
Markquese Bell was inactive for this game.
RB Malik Davis
Malik Davis continued his role on special teams, logging 16 snaps there and helping as a blocker on KaVontae Turpin’s several big returns.