The Cowboys as a whole played a very uneven game against the Texans, looking terrible for much of it before looking unstoppable in the final two minutes to gut out a win. Not surprisingly, it was a mixed bag of results for the rookie class as well. Let’s take a closer look.
OL Tyler Smith
Coming off his best performance of the year, Tyler Smith took a step back in pass protection against the Texans. He gave up four pressures on the day, the second most he’s allowed in a game all season, and also allowed a hit on the quarterback. Still, it wasn’t all bad for Smith:
Gotta love Tyler Smith. His fire is on full display. Yes, I am a convert and am happy to be wrong about the big stud. pic.twitter.com/Ykmgev42Zv— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) December 12, 2022
Smith has remained dominant in run blocking all year, but he’s predictably had ups and downs in pass protection. This week wasn’t his best, but you can still see the steady improvements he’s making and it’s enough to offer lots of hope for this young tackle’s future.
With Tyron Smith expected to make his return next week at left tackle, it’ll be fascinating to see the younger Smith at left guard. In the glimpses we’ve seen of him at that spot this season, he’s looked like a much better player.
EDGE Sam Williams
Sam Williams’ streak ended this week, as the rookie pass rusher failed to record a pressure for the first time since Week 2. In fairness to Williams, who had two tackles on the day, his 24% defensive snaps share was the lowest he’s seen since he left with an injury against the Lions. Furthermore, it was a down day across the board for the Cowboys pass rush, as only DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong had multiple pressures in this game.
Williams had also been listed on the injury report earlier in the week with an illness, which may have played a part in his smaller workload. It’s a testament to how good he’s playing that this game marked a step down from his usual standard.
WR Jalen Tolbert
With James Washington making his Cowboys debut against the Texans, that meant Jalen Tolbert found himself back on the inactive list this week. That will likely be the case going forward, especially with the signing of T.Y. Hilton.
TE Jake Ferguson
Jake Ferguson only played on eight offensive snaps before leaving with a concussion. It’s unclear what his status for next week is at this moment.
OT Matt Waletzko
Matt Waletzko is on the injured reserve.
CB DaRon Bland
DaRon Bland didn’t get any interceptions this week, but he did see a lot less balls thrown his way. Bland was targeted just twice, easily his fewest targets since taking over for Jourdan Lewis as the starter. Bland allowed completions on each of them, both to Amari Rodgers, and both passes were for first downs. That’s not great, but it’s also noteworthy that Bland wasn’t tested much.
On the other hand, Bland did a great job playing in run support, logging six tackles on the day. His physicality and tackling ability is a major reason why Bland is so highly regarded by this coaching staff, and it was on full display Sunday.
LB Damone Clark
Damone Clark saw two less snaps than Anthony Barr this week but continued to carve out a role as a prominent run defender on this defense. His six tackles on the day tied Bland for the second most on the team, and the average depth of his tackles was an even zero yards. That’s even more impressive considering he didn’t register any tackles for loss on the day, meaning Clark was consistently making tackles at the line of scrimmage.
Clark’s story of recovery this year has been special on its own, but the rookie keeps proving he’s more than just a nice story. Dallas appears to have a star in the making with Clark.
LB Devin Harper
Devin Harper is on the injured reserve.
TE Peyton Hendershot
With Ferguson leaving the game early on, Peyton Hendershot was noticeably leap-frogged by Sean McKeon in the tight end pecking order. As a result, Hendershot only played on 10 offensive snaps, with nine of those asking Hendershot to block; he did not see a target all day.
S Markquese Bell
Markquese Bell was inactive for this game.
RB Malik Davis
It wasn’t as exciting as scoring a touchdown, but Malik Davis played on 16 special teams snaps on the day as he returned to his usual role.