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2022 Cowboys rookie report: DaRon Bland steals the show (and the ball)

Meanwhile, Tyler Smith had his fair share of struggles.

Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Cowboys notched their third straight win of the year after beating the Washington Commanders, and they did it with a little bit of help from their rookie class. Tyler Smith is the crown jewel in this group, of course, but DaRon Bland stole the show after being called upon to start with little preparation time. Let’s get into it.

OL Tyler Smith

This was probably Tyler Smith's worst game of the year so far, which says more about how good he’s been thus far. Against the Commanders, Smith surrendered three pressures - he had given up just four in his three other games - and was also charged with giving up a hit on Cooper Rush.

Washington made extensive use of stunts on their defensive line, and it seemed to cause confusion for Smith. Instability at the left guard spot next to him - Connor McGovern returned to the starting lineup, but rotated with Jason Peters - probably didn’t make it any easier to handle all the trickery.

Smith also didn’t appear as dominant in the run game. The Cowboys ran the ball behind Smith six times in the game and totaled just eight rushing yards; three of those carries were stopped for a loss of yards. While that isn’t all on Smith, it was a considerable difference from how he’s been playing this year.

EDGE Sam Williams

The Cowboys pass rush is performing at a very high level right now, so it’s not exactly surprising to not see Sam Williams get much run yet. If Dallas needed Williams to play more, it would be a problem.

As such, Williams notched just 17 snaps on defense, second least on that side of the ball. He made the most of the opportunity, though, and came away with two tackles, a pressure, and a quarterback hit. That’s now three total pressures in the last two weeks for Williams despite a limited workload.

WR Jalen Tolbert

With Michael Gallup returning to the field this week, that made Jalen Tolbert the odd man out again. Tolbert was back on the inactive list just a week after making his NFL debut.

TE Jake Ferguson

Jake Ferguson filled in admirably last week as the starting tight end, but he was back to his TE2 role this week. Combined with Gallup’s return, Ferguson saw less snaps than usual, as the Dallas opted for more three receiver looks in this game. As such, Ferguson only played on 17 snaps, though he did catch his lone target for seven yards.

OT Matt Waletzko

Matt Waletzko found himself on the inactive list for this game, mostly due to Connor McGovern’s return from injury.

CB DaRon Bland

DaRon Bland found out shortly before kickoff that he’d be starting at the nickel cornerback spot, as Jourdan Lewis injured himself during pregame warmups. It marked the first time Bland had seen the field on defense all year, and he responded very well.

Bland played on 80% of the defensive snaps and, unsurprisingly, was targeted more than any other Cowboys defender. While he gave up completions on nine of his 11 targets, Bland made three tackles on the day and didn’t give up any big plays.

He did make one, though, jumping in front of a pass to pick it off late in the fourth quarter, effectively sealing the win for the Cowboys. On the whole, Bland finished the game allowing a passer rating of 65.9 when targeted, a very good mark for a rookie playing his first snaps on defense.

LB Damone Clark

Damone Clark is on the non-football injured reserve list and did not play.

LB Devin Harper

In a bit of a surprise move, Devin Harper was inactive for this game. Harper was getting a lot of special teams reps through the first three games of the year, but Dallas didn’t dress him this week.

TE Peyton Hendershot

With Dalton Schultz returning this week, Peyton Hendershot was back in the TE3 spot, which meant little run for him on offense. His four snaps on that side of the ball were the lowest among the Cowboys, even behind KaVontae Turpin. Hendershot also logged 17 special teams snaps.

S Markquese Bell

Markquese Bell didn’t see the field on defense but did log 14 special teams snaps. He might be in danger of falling to the inactive list next week, though, when Jayron Kearse likely makes his return from injury.

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