The Cowboys did the improbable on Sunday and pulled off an upset win over the reigning AFC champion Bengals. Let’s take a look at how each of their rookies did in the gutsy win.
One thing to note: rookie defensive tackle John Ridgeway, who was inactive a week ago, was not on the roster for this week. He was cut in order to make room for several player elevations due to injury with the intention of bringing him back, but he was claimed by the Washington Commanders on Monday.
OL Tyler Smith
After making his NFL debut last week and playing mostly mistake free, Tyler Smith remained at left tackle against the Bengals. Smith’s performance in this one can be summed up in the same way as his debut: solid, but imperfect, play that simultaneously proves Smith has a very high ceiling but is still learning as the full time starter at tackle.
The most impressive thing about Smith, by far, was the improvement he made in just a week. Smith primarily faced off against Trey Hendrickson this week, a much different player from last week’s Shaq Barrett. With it came a change up in Smith’s play style:
The change in tactics worked well for Smith, who allowed just one pressure and zero sacks in the game. He also went the whole game without being penalized, another area of improvement from last week. Still, Smith didn’t do quite enough to warrant breaking out the anointing oil, but it was enough to encourage coaches and fans alike.
Cowboys rookie Tyler Smith has a 74% pass block win rate at tackle this season -- worst among qualifiers through the Week 2 late afternoon window.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) September 19, 2022
(ESPN / NGS)
The conclusion to be drawn from Smith’s stats here is pretty much exactly what we’ve witnessed in both games so far: Smith has plenty of room to improve, but it looks like this front office hit another home run in the first round of the draft.
EDGE Sam Williams
It doesn’t look like the Cowboys plan on getting Sam Williams too involved just yet. He had the second lowest snaps on defense last week, and against the Bengals his 10 snaps tied Trysten Hill for the lowest on the team.
Williams did record his first career tackle, blowing up a run play for a very nice tackle for loss. He also played on 17 special teams snaps, which seems like the role he’ll fill for the time being.
WR Jalen Tolbert
For the second time in as many games, Jalen Tolbert was inactive. The decision was frustrating, even with the Cowboys notching a win. Then, on Monday, Stephen Jones suggested that the reasoning had to do with injuries and not how the team views Tolbert:
Whatever the reason, it’s a disappointment to say the least that Tolbert has yet to see the field in his rookie year after being hyped up so much throughout the offseason and preseason.
TE Jake Ferguson
After hardly seeing the field last week, Jake Ferguson got a lot more action against Cincinnati. He played on 34 offensive snaps, just over half of the time the offense was on the field. Yet for the second game in a row, Ferguson didn’t see the ball come his way. For his part, though, Ferguson more than held his own as a blocker in the running game.
OT Matt Waletzko
Just like last week, Matt Waletzko only saw the field as a blocker for Brett Maher’s kicks.
CB DaRon Bland
DaRon Bland saw all 13 of his snaps in this game come on special teams, which is the anticipated role for the rookie unless the secondary endures any injuries.
LB Damone Clark
Damone Clark is on the non-football injured reserve list and did not play.
LB Devin Harper
Devin Harper tied with Rico Dowdle for the second highest amount of special teams snaps in this game with 18. That’s a very encouraging sign for the rookie, who was drafted with his special teams ability in mind.
WR Dennis Houston
Dennis Houston was once again the Cowboys’ WR3 in this game, with Tolbert inactive again and Michael Gallup not set to return yet. Houston struggled mightily last week, and against the Bengals he was only targeted once despite playing on a third of offensive snaps.
Part of this likely has to do with the lack of chemistry between he and Cooper Rush, as Houston’s biggest moments in training camp came with Dak Prescott throwing the ball. Still, with Gallup’s return looming just around the corner, and James Washington still waiting in the wings, Houston may have a practice squad gig in his near future.
TE Peyton Hendershot
As the third tight end, Peyton Hendershot didn’t see much action in this game, with just seven snaps on offense. That’s to be expected, given his role, but Hendershot may be asked to do more after Dalton Schultz appeared to ding his knee late in Sunday’s game.
S Markquese Bell
Markquese Bell made his NFL debut after being inactive last week. However, Israel Mukuamu got the action in place of the injured Jayron Kearse, which relegated Bell to just nine snaps on special teams.
C Alec Lindstrom
Alec Lindstrom was called up from the practice squad to provide depth along the interior of the offensive line with Connor McGovern being out. However, Lindstrom did not play a down in the game, and is likely to return to the practice squad.