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2022 Cowboys rookie report: DaRon Bland comes through again

The Cowboys rookie class is doing very well in 2022.

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Cowboys were flying high in their win over the Bears this Sunday, and they’ll be rewarded with a week of rest now. It comes at the perfect time, as the Cowboys were dealing with several injuries that forced rookies into more prominent roles this week. Let’s take a look at how they did.

OL Tyler Smith

Tyler Smith had a very welcome return to form this week. After giving up eight pressures and three sacks in the last three games, Smith was charged with just one pressure and no sacks against Chicago. Some of that may have had something to do with the Bears trading away Robert Quinn, but Smith is still deserving of flowers.

Smith was also, as usual, a force to be reckoned with in the run game. That’s been his bread and butter this year, while pass protection has been his area of weakness at times. It was good to see Smith have a good showing in that aspect this week after struggling lately.

EDGE Sam Williams

Sam Williams was inactive this week after being limited in practice with a knee injury. It’s not expected to be serious, but more of a case of the Cowboys being cautious before the bye week.

WR Jalen Tolbert

With Noah Brown ruled out for this game, it seemed as if Jalen Tolbert might have a very real chance of finally making an impact. Then, Tolbert came onto the field for the first play of the game, making this his first official start.

That was pretty much it, though. Tolbert played on just 43% of the offensive snaps and didn’t see a single target in the passing game. Tight ends Dalton Schultz and Jake Ferguson saw significantly more snaps, as Dallas ran more 12 personnel in this game in lieu of playing Tolbert more, and even Peyton Hendershot was only four snaps behind Tolbert.

Perhaps the bye week will afford Tolbert more of an opportunity to find an identity within this offense. But with Brown likely to be healthy in two weeks, and James Washington nearing a return, that identity may end up squarely on the bench.

TE Jake Ferguson

Dalton Schultz might still be playing through pain, but he looked like his former self on Sunday. That meant less opportunities in the pass game for Jake Ferguson, who only saw one target on the day. However, he caught that lone target for a touchdown and proceeded to execute a pretty awesome celebration.

Ferguson still saw plenty of action though. He played on just over half of the offensive snaps and, as has been the case all year, did a lot of work as a run blocker. Ferguson has been willing to do the dirty work for this offense, and it’s nice to see him get rewarded for it in the endzone.

OT Matt Waletzko

Matt Waletzko is on the injured reserve.

CB DaRon Bland

DaRon Bland already played a full game as the top nickel corner, but this week he actually prepared for the increased role ahead of time. More than that, the Bears had a full week to figure out how to attack him. So how did Bland hold up?

Bland’s five targets tied with Trevon Diggs for the most in the game. Bears slot receiver Darnell Mooney made up four of those targets, and Mooney caught all four of them for 62 yards; two of those catches went for first downs.

Bland’s other target, though, came on a deep shot to the endzone for speedster Dante Pettis. On the replay, it appeared that Pettis dusted Bland for what should’ve been an easy touchdown. However, Bland displayed excellent makeup speed to close on it and actually break up the pass. The rookie struggled against Mooney, though that was to be expected. But Bland still showed the kind of promise that moved him up the depth chart during the preseason.

LB Damone Clark

What a story for Damone Clark. He had spinal fusion surgery ahead of the draft and the expectation was that he wouldn’t play at all this season. But Clark managed to be added to the roster earlier this week and practiced well enough to be active on game day.

Clark was expected to play solely on special teams, but when Anthony Barr went down early in the game, Clark was asked to step up. He ended up playing 40 snaps on defense, more than the recently acquired Johnathan Hankins and other veterans like Dorance Armstrong and Neville Gallimore. Clark finished with six tackles on the day and showed off his impressive speed.

Clark is likely going to return to his special teams role when Barr heals up, but it was promising to see him look so fluid after stepping into a larger role than anticipated in his NFL debut. Clark was considered a top linebacker prospect before his surgery, and it’s easy to see why.

LB Devin Harper

Devin Harper was added to the injured reserve ahead of this week’s game, though it seems like he’ll be able to return later in the year.

TE Peyton Hendershot

Much like Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot has done a lot of the dirty work this year. He got rewarded with his first career touchdown last week. Hendershot didn’t repeat that performance this week, but he had another solid game.

Hendershot played on just over a third of the offensive snaps against the Bears and hauled in both of his targets for a total of 15 yards; both catches went for a first down. Hendershot has been a nice revelation this season, and he offers a ton of flexibility to this offense as the third tight end.

S Markquese Bell

With Malik Hooker out for this game, Markquese Bell found himself back on the game day roster. While his normal role would’ve been to help on special teams, Bell found plenty of snaps on defense as all three of the safeties ahead of him missed minimal time with minor injuries at one point or another.

All told, Bell played on 15 snaps on defense and 17 snaps on special teams. He didn’t see much in the way of real action, but it speaks to just how deep this safety room is right now.

RB Malik Davis

Malik Davis deserves a ton of credit. Less than a month ago he was on the practice squad, and this past Sunday he was tasked with spelling Tony Pollard as the backup running back. He finished the day with 23 yards on eight carries and added 18 yards on two receptions, including one that very nearly went for a touchdown.

Davis will return to his special teams heavy role as the third running back after the bye, when Ezekiel Elliott returns, but it was a big day for the undrafted rookie. And with the Cowboys having contract decisions to make this offseason regarding both Elliott and Pollard, it’s nice to know that they have another guy in Davis who can make plays.

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