The Cowboys didn’t dominate on Thursday, but they did enough to get the win, and by a comfortable margin. Not everyone was perfect in this game, and that certainly applies to the rookie class as well. Let’s break down how each of them performed.
OL Tyler Smith
Tyler Smith was coming off the best game of his career, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see him take a minor step back this week, especially coming on a short week. Smith tied for the team lead in pressures allowed in this game, with three total, but he didn’t give up any sacks. That’s now the eighth time in nine games that Smith has held his opponent without a sack, an impressive feat for the rookie.
Smith endured a shuffle towards the end of the game, moving to left guard after Connor McGovern moved to center in place of the injured Tyler Biadasz. Smith played the entire fourth quarter there, and likely will do so again next week with Biadasz out for the regular season finale.
EDGE Sam Williams
Welcome back, Sam Williams! After missing last week due to a car accident, Williams returned to the field and logged 26 snaps on defense, just five fewer than DeMarcus Lawrence. Unsurprisingly, Williams picked up right where he left off, tying Dante Fowler for the second most pressures on the day with three.
Williams also saw ten snaps on special teams, which is about the norm for him. But there were two occasions where Williams was just inches away from blocking a punt. Much like his pressures on defense, Williams still made an impact despite not getting all the way home.
WR Jalen Tolbert
Jalen Tolbert was inactive for this game.
TE Jake Ferguson
Unfortunately for Jake Ferguson, he received some camera time for all the wrong reasons early in the game. Ferguson was tasked with blocking hulking defensive lineman Mario Edwards on a run play, and Ferguson didn’t really stand a chance. The play got blown up for a loss, and the broadcast made sure everyone knew it was Ferguson’s fault.
Ferguson made up for it a little bit later, though, catching his lone target on a screen and showcasing some nifty footwork to pick up seven yards. That was one of just three routes Ferguson even ran, with 20 of his 23 snaps coming as a blocker. Ferguson was solid in 19 of those blocking reps, as he has been most of the year, but it was unfortunate that he got called out for the one poor rep.
OT Matt Waletzko
Matt Waletzko is on the injured reserve.
CB DaRon Bland
DaRon Bland has emerged recently as a ball hawk for the Cowboys, and it was apparent that Josh Dobbs and the Titans took note. Bland received just three targets on Thursday and all three were against different players.
Bland did allow receptions on all three targets, but two of those were caught behind the line of scrimmage while the other one was stopped for zero yards after the catch. The only one of those three catches that went for a first down came on a screen play as well. All in all, it was a quiet night for Bland, as the opponent decided not to try and test the team leader in interceptions.
LB Damone Clark
Damone Clark may have had his best game of his young career this week, and it’s easy to see that the rookie is growing more confident each week. His seven tackles on Thursday were tied for the second most on the team. Clark also led the team in run stops and had the lowest average depth of tackle of any defender with multiple tackles.
One of the things I love about #Cowboys LB Damone Clark is that he doesn't miss tackles.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) December 30, 2022
Zero missed tackles since Week 10.
Much of Clark’s struggles since playing a larger portion of snaps have stemmed from his inexperience diagnosing run plays. But this game saw Clark playing fast and decisive football, and once he makes a read he flies in like a missile. It’s exciting to watch Clark round into form as the playoffs approach.
LB Devin Harper
Devin Harper is on the injured reserve.
TE Peyton Hendershot
Oh, Peyton Hendershot. The rookie has been a feel good story all year, carving out a role on this offense as the third tight end and even having a couple highlight moments. But Thursday against the Titans was easily his worst game. Like Ferguson, Hendershot only ran three routes (blocking on 11 of his 14 snaps) and saw just one target.
Unfortunately, Hendershot badly bobbled his lone target and turned what should have been an easy 18-yard reception into an interception. It’s worth noting that there was rain for most of the first half of the game, but that doesn’t excuse Hendershot’s grievous mistake.
S Markquese Bell
Markquese Bell was inactive for this game.
RB Malik Davis
When the Cowboys made Tony Pollard inactive, it seemed likely that Malik Davis would get another opportunity to shine. And shine he did, as Davis led the team in rushing with 39 yards on 10 carries. His 3.9 yards per carry was twice as much as Ezekiel Elliott’s on the night. Davis also added 23 receiving yards on two catches.
Depending on what happens this Sunday with regards to the NFC East race, Davis may very well get another opportunity to make some plays in the regular season finale. That so many fans will be excited about that is a testament to how good Davis has been as an undrafted rookie.