Every week we’ll be looking at the Cowboys drafted rookies and seeing what impact, if any, they had on the previous game. At the end we’ll name a “Rookie of the Week” for the standout performer.
Until Tony Romo returns, it is likely that this year’s Rookie of the Week feature will be an ongoing battle between Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Hopefully, one of the defensive players will make a big play here or there to spice things up.
Here’s a summary of the performances from all nine of the Cowboys drafted rookies:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Week 4 was Elliott’s most productive so far. He had 138 yards rushing and 19 yards receiving, plus a touchdown. Although the total yardage was roughly the same last week, his 6.0 average per carry was far better than the 4.7 against the Bears.
Elliott has had his two best games without Tyron Smith in the lineup. While there may not be any real drop off between La’el Collins and Ronald Leary, the backup left guard has also played the majority of the snaps. While Scott Linehan deserves a lot of credit for scheming around these issues, Elliott’s dynamic ability is a also a major factor.
Elliott is now the NFL’s leading rusher after four weeks. Despite a slow start, he now has an 18-yard lead over Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell. With Le’Veon Bell being three weeks behind due to his suspension, Elliott has the inside track on leading the league in his first year.
Jaylon Smith, LB
Smith remains on the Non-Football Injury List and it is still unknown if he will play at all for the Cowboys in 2016.
Maliek Collins, DT
Collins was only credited with one tackle but it was a memorable one. He slipped into the backfield with a quick move and brought down Carlos Hyde at the line of scrimmage. Otherwise it was a quiet day for the rookie starter.
The Cowboys had to be concerned about stopping Hyde going into the week and, overall, did a solid job of it. Take away one 32-yard run and Hyde averaged just 3.0 yards on 14 carries. Collins was part of the rotation that helped get the job done.
Charles Tapper, DE
Tapper has been placed on Injured Reserve with ongoing back issues. He began to miss time early in the preseason and has never been able to return to practice. The end result is, essentially, a redshirt season for the fourth-round pick.
Dak Prescott, QB
After a slightly shaky start, Prescott finished the game as his usual impressive self. He had his first multi-touchdown game, throwing two first-half scores to Terrance Williams and Brice Butler.
Prescott had 245 yards and a 114.7 passer rating. He was over 70% on completions for the third-straight week. Best of all, he still has yet to throw an interception or fumble the ball in his short career.
Perhaps the best thing about this performance was that we got to see Prescott fight through some early issues. He had a few bad throws and watched his team go down 14-0. The rookie never appeared fazed by this, though, and only rallied to help his team move to 3-1. I know I say this every week, but it was probably his best day yet.
Anthony Brown, CB
Brown played his second-straight game as the slot corner while Orlando Scandrick remained sidelined with a hamstring issue. He performed very well despite being the 49ers’ clear strategy to go after the rookie.
Although San Francisco’s slot receiver Jeremy Kerley led the team with six catches, 88 yards, and a touchdown, his 33-yar scoring play did not come when Brown covering him. Kerley was targeted eight other times and had just five catches for 55 yards. Brown led the Cowboys with two pass deflections.
Kavon Frazier, S
Frazier got to suit up for the first time this year, but only due to injuries that forced other guys to sit. He was not visible in the game and was not credited with any statistics.
Darius Jackson, RB
Jackson was inactive. It will be hard for Jackson to make the 46-man game day roster as long as the Cowboys choose to make both Rod Smith and Keith Smith, fullbacks and special teams players, active each week.
Rico Gathers, TE
Gathers is still on the team’s practice squad; the only drafted player to not make the 53-man roster this season.
Last week’s game is the toughest yet for deciding between Prescott and Elliott for the “Rookie of the Week” honor. However, after much deliberation…
While both players were instrumental in the Cowboys’ victory over the 49ers, I have to give Zeke credit for uncorking the offense. Prescott wasn’t firing on all cylinders early in the game. Elliott was able to keep things stable enough for Dak to find his footing, picking up 42 yards on just eight first-half carries.
When the Cowboys faced a 1st-and-20 after a holding penalty, Zeke was able to get 19 yards on a screen pass. It was arguably the offensive play of the game as it helped keep the drive alive and set up Prescott’s first touchdown throw to Terrance Williams. Elliott had 25 yards on four carries to help put the team in scoring position.
Prescott’s leadership and poise were certainly still on display as he helped the Cowboys build and keep a lead in the second half. However, I think things might have imploded quickly if not for Elliott’s early performance.
Previous ROTW Winners
Week 3 – RB Ezekiel Elliott
Week 2 – QB Dak Prescott
Week 1 – QB Dak Prescott