The Cowboys reeled off their second consecutive win on Monday night over the division rival Giants, and they did so with a little help from their rookie class. In an encouraging move, several rookies not named Tyler Smith managed to turn heads this week, although the rookie tackle was also very good. Let’s get into it.
OL Tyler Smith
Tyler Smith continues to prove all of his doubters so very wrong, and proving Mike McCarthy and Joe Philbin right for wanting to keep him at left tackle even though Jason Peters was ready to play. Smith was penalized for a false start and gave up a pressure in Monday’s game, but that was it.
He also showed off his athleticism as a run blocker, springing Ezekiel Elliott for a big 27-yard gain on a crucial third and long.
Cowboys rookie LT Tyler Smith’s combination of athleticism and play style will make him a long-term problem for defenses when he’s blocking in space. A long reel of plays like this to come over course of NFL career. pic.twitter.com/eCtzuc2eiU— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 27, 2022
Smith also did this while Peters and Matt Farniok were rotating in at left guard, which should have made things harder for Smith. That they didn’t speaks to his growing level of comfort in the role. Smith hasn’t been perfect, but he’s getting better and better each week. For a guy who was deemed this franchise’s left tackle of the future, Smith is making a strong argument for the future being right now.
EDGE Sam Williams
Sam Williams continues to play a minor supporting role for this defense, which is understandable given how many edge rushers Dallas has right now. But Williams did see more defensive snaps on Monday than he previously has this season, and the rookie responded by notching two pressures and two tackles.
He was also part of a late hit penalty on Daniel Jones, although officiating expert John Parry explained that the league’s new emphasis on the rule this season meant that the play shouldn’t have been called. Williams’ penalty was offset in the end anyway, so no harm and no foul, but a good teaching moment for the rookie.
WR Jalen Tolbert
Jalen Tolbert made his long awaited NFL debut, although it wasn’t too memorable for the rookie. He played on just over a third of the offensive snaps. Cooper Rush targeted him twice and Tolbert ended the day with just one catch for four yards.
With Michael Gallup almost guaranteed to make his return next week, it will be interesting to see how that affects Tolbert after a less than impressive debut. It’s likely that patience will continue to be key when watching this receiver.
TE Jake Ferguson
Jake Ferguson entered his third career game with zero targets in the passing game. He knew that was about to change, since he was getting the start over an injured Dalton Schultz. And the rookie from Wisconsin responded very well to the sudden promotion.
Ferguson caught two of his three passes for 13 yards, proving reliable when the ball came his way. More than that, though, Ferguson popped off the screen as a blocker, routinely helping open holes for both Zeke and Tony Pollard in what turned out to be a big game running the football for Dallas.
Ferguson didn’t do anything to shake this team’s trust in Schultz, and they’ll certainly welcome the veteran tight end back with open arms when he returns, but Ferguson did prove he’s already a valuable cog in this offense so early into his career.
OT Matt Waletzko
As has been the case so far this season, Matt Waletzko was in blocking for all of Brett Maher’s kick attempts. That meant six special teams snaps for the rookie tackle.
CB DaRon Bland
DaRon Bland continues to see extensive work on special teams, with 13 snaps there on Monday.
LB Damone Clark
Damone Clark is on the non-football injured reserve list and did not play.
LB Devin Harper
Like Bland, Devin Harper is factoring in heavily on special teams. His 17 special teams snaps tied with Peyton Hendershot for the most by a rookie in Monday night’s game, showcasing how much John Fassel trusts the rookie linebacker.
TE Peyton Hendershot
Like Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot entered the game with zero targets, though he had seen considerably less snaps than his fellow rookie tight end. Moving into Ferguson’s role for this game, Hendershot changed that.
He caught all three of his targets for 43 yards, including one that he took 29 yards on his own. Two of Hendershot’s three catches went for first downs, highlighting the pass-catching skills that helped Hendershot make this roster as an undrafted free agent.
It wasn’t all perfect for Hendershot, though. He had some struggles as a run blocker and was called for two penalties - a false start and a hold. But this was a net positive for Hendershot, who proved he can be relied on going forward. That likely won’t happen much with Schultz returning, but it’s good to know this tight end room is in good hands.
S Markquese Bell
Markquese Bell saw most of his work come on special teams, matching Bland for total snaps on Fassel’s unit. However, Bell did see the field on defense for one play, and he made the most of it by notching a tackle on a jet sweep run from Giants running back Matt Breida.