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2022 Cowboys rookie report: DaRon Bland’s very big night against Colts

Plus, Tyler Smith had his best game of the year.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Cowboys had a whole lot of fun on Sunday night as they thrashed the wayward Colts to the tune of a 54-19 final score. Any time a team wins by that much, a lot of things are going right. And for the Cowboys, they saw a lot of great things from their rookie class in this one.

OL Tyler Smith

Tyler Smith may have put up his best performance all year on Sunday night, which was very refreshing to see after the rookie struggled in the Cowboys’ last game. For just the second time all year, Smith didn’t allow a single pressure. Both of those games have come in the last three weeks, a good sign of how Smith is progressing.

Smith also saw live game snaps at left guard for the second time this year, once again playing next to veteran Jason Peters. While Smith had a great game at tackle, he once again looked noticeably more comfortable at guard. That’s a great development, as Tyron Smith is expected to have his 21-day practice window activated this week.

EDGE Sam Williams

The Cowboys have a complete gem in rookie Sam Williams. He once again played minimal snaps - Williams’ 21 defensive snaps made up less than a third of total snaps available - but made an impact in multiple ways. He very nearly got a sack on Matt Ryan, but had to settle for a pressure and quarterback hit. Williams also blew up a run play for a big tackle for loss. Additionally, he recovered a fumble.

Williams now has 14 pressures on the year, doing so at a nearly 12% rate, and has logged at least one pressure in each of his last nine games. The only thing holding Williams back at this point is the other talented edge rushers ahead of him on the depth chart.

WR Jalen Tolbert

Jalen Tolbert continues to see very little of the field on offense, with just 12 snaps on Sunday night. Most of those came when Dallas pulled their starters late in the fourth quarter. Tolbert is almost guaranteed to find himself on the inactive list in the event that the Cowboys add a receiver to their roster in the coming weeks.

TE Jake Ferguson

Jake Ferguson has been an excellent blocking tight end all year and the Cowboys know it. On Sunday night, Ferguson was used a blocker more than any other non-OL on the field, and he once again helped open up holes in the run game. Ferguson has also been a reliable safety valve in the passing game, though his two catches for -1 yard this week won’t have anyone starting his Rookie of the Year campaign.

OT Matt Waletzko

Matt Waletzko is on the injured reserve.

CB DaRon Bland

Now we come to the man of the hour, DaRon Bland. Since taking over as the starting slot corner when Jourdan Lewis went down for the year with an injury, Bland has been the most targeted Cowboys defender. That isn’t surprising, and it also shouldn’t be surprising that Bland was allowing completions on 91% of his targets since becoming a starter. To his credit, though, Bland rarely let those completions turn into big gains after the catch.

Well, Bland took a massive step forward this week. Sure, it was the Colts, so it’s very premature to start sketching his Hall of Fame bust, but Bland was great in coverage. He was targeted five times and only allowed two catches, with one catch being stopped for no gain. Oh, and he snagged not one but two interceptions on the night. Let’s have a look:

It was promising to see Bland start forcing incompletions, which had been a struggle for him, but it was a step further when he started making plays on the ball as well. The caveat is that this was a really, really bad Colts offense, but this is still very encouraging for Bland.

LB Damone Clark

With Anthony Barr returning from injury for the first time since Week 8, many expected Damone Clark’s role to be diminished. That turned out not to be accurate, as Clark played on 11 more defensive snaps than Barr in this one. That could just be the Cowboys trying to ease Barr back into action, but Clark’s play thus far has made that luxury possible. And nothing changed Sunday night, either.

Clark registered three tackles on the day and also forced the fumble that Malik Hooker returned for a touchdown. Clark has quickly become an integral part of this linebacker rotation despite only making his NFL debut a few weeks ago and also not having a real offseason to get acclimated to the team. His star is shining bright.

LB Devin Harper

Devin Harper is on the injured reserve.

TE Peyton Hendershot

The Peyton Hendershot Experience continued on its regular trajectory Sunday night, as the rookie tight end saw plenty of action as a run blocker on his minimal 15 offensive snaps. Hendershot didn’t see a target (or carry, for that matter) on the night but did draw another penalty, although it was canceled out by an offsetting penalty from the Colts.

Hendershot has undoubtedly been a revelation this year, and the Cowboys have two talented young tight ends between he and Ferguson. But right now, Hendershot’s biggest weakness, by far, is his discipline. He’s been a penalty magnet, and it needs to be cleaned up sooner rather than later.

S Markquese Bell

Markquese Bell was inactive for this game.

RB Malik Davis

It wasn’t too long ago that Malik Davis came just inches (and a replay review) away from his first career touchdown. With the Cowboys enjoying yet another blowout win, Davis got a shot to tote the rock a little bit. And this time, the undrafted rookie would not be denied.

Not only did Davis get his first career touchdown, but he gave the Cowboys a sizzling hot 50-burger in the process. Have a day, Malik Davis, you’ve earned it.

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