The Cowboys lost to the Commanders on Sunday, and just about everything that could go wrong in the game did go wrong. There were very few individual players with performances to write home about, and that extends to the rookies. Let’s take a look.
OL Tyler Smith
This was not the way Tyler Smith wanted his regular season to wrap up. For the first time all season, Smith played the entire game at left guard, the position he had originally been playing at throughout the preseason. Smith didn’t look great there, giving up two pressures and a hit on the quarterback.
Pass protection has been a struggle for the rookie all year, and he leads the team in sacks and pressures allowed. The idea was that moving him inside to guard would make it easier for Smith to hold up in pass protection, but that wasn’t the case Sunday. He also drew a penalty for holding, which officially gives him more than double the second most penalized player on the team.
EDGE Sam Williams
Sam Williams is going to be a problem for opposing offenses once he gets more playing time in this defense. Right now, there’s no problem in using him in spurts while the likes of Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler go to work.
Williams had a big day in a few snaps against Washington. He recorded a sack, his fourth of the season, despite only playing on eight pass rush reps. His only other tackle was a tackle for loss on a run play, where Williams once again flashed his burst and disruption ability. Williams only played 15 total snaps, but it was enough to remind everyone of what he’s capable of.
WR Jalen Tolbert
Jalen Tolbert was inactive for this game.
TE Jake Ferguson
Jake Ferguson didn’t see much playing time in this one, totaling just 15 snaps on offense. Of those 15 snaps, 11 asked Ferguson to block in the run game. He did catch his lone target, picking up four yards on first down early on in the game. Ferguson has flashed potential as a receiver all year, so hopefully he’ll get more run in the playoffs.
OT Matt Waletzko
Matt Waletzko is on the injured reserve.
CB DaRon Bland
DaRon Bland’s 30 snaps played on Sunday was the fewest he’s had since the game against the Lions, when he had to fill in for Jourdan Lewis in the second half. That’s because Bland suffered a chest injury that kept him from returning to the game. The good news is that it doesn’t appear serious.
Cowboys rookie CB DaRon Bland (chest) exited Sunday during the third quarter, and there appears to be no concern about his status moving forward. He is expected to be fine for next Monday’s playoff game in Tampa, a person familiar with situation said.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) January 9, 2023
As for Bland’s actual performance, it was one of his best of the year. He only allowed one completion on his three targets, and that catch resulted in a tackle for a loss of three yards. It appeared that Washington was making a concerted effort to avoid throwing Bland’s way, which is a big reversal from how Bland’s career started out.
LB Damone Clark
Damone Clark has been having a rather gradual rise to prominence in this defense, especially after Leighton Vander Esch’s injury afforded him more playing time. But Sunday’s game brought Clark back down to Earth a bit.
He was especially bad in coverage, which has been Clark’s Achilles heel so far. Clark was targeted twice and gave up completions both times. One catch was the Commanders’ first touchdown of the day, and the other went for an easy first down.
Clark also had a rough day in run defense. He totaled three tackles, but his average depth of tackle was 8.5 yards, easily the worst figure he’s posted all year. Clark also recorded his first career missed tackle, and it came on Sam Howell’s touchdown run late in the game.
LB Devin Harper
Devin Harper is on the injured reserve.
TE Peyton Hendershot
Peyton Hendershot was the target of plenty of derision last week when he practically handed an interception to the defense. Unfortunately, Hendershot didn’t get much of a chance to make up for it this week, playing on just three offensive snaps all day. All three of those came as a run blocker as well.
S Markquese Bell
Markquese Bell was inactive for this game.
RB Malik Davis
Malik Davis spent the majority of this game doing work on special teams, as he has for most of the year. He did see six snaps on offense towards the end of the game, when Dallas pulled their starters. Davis received five carries in that span, and his 19 rushing yards actually tied Tony Pollard for the team lead on the day. While that’s nice for Davis, it’s more so a testament to how much this offense struggled on Sunday.