The Dallas Cowboys 2017 rookies have some pretty big shoes to fill after what the 2016 draft class was able to accomplish a season ago. It will be a little bit more difficult for them, because there are very few of them that are expected to start or see a significant role this season, but you never know what will happen.
We have already seen injuries become a problem, which has forced a few of the Cowboy's rookies into a more prominent role already this season. Fortunately, the majority of them have performed well and a few of them have exceeded expectations so much that they might have just earned themselves more playing time. These are the rookies I want to focus on in this article.
Now, before I get started I want to clarify that I don't think the Dallas Cowboys first two draft picks have done anything yet to see an increased workload. I think Taco Charlton has done well, but is probably best in a situation role until he develops more. Unfortunately, Chidobe Awuzie continues to battle the injury bug and hasn't been able to stay on the field long enough to prove himself.
Keeping all of that in mind, continue to read below to see the Dallas Cowboys rookies that I believe could possibly see more playing time based on the way they have played so far this season.
Dallas Cowboys rookie Jordan Lewis' off-season mostly consisted of a pending domestic domestic violence case and injuries. Those two things have kept him off the practice field and hindered his development. Fortunately though, he made his NFL debut against the Denver Broncos and ended up having to play quite a bit as an injury replacement.
In Lewis' first career game in the NFL, he was able to make six tackles, and pick off QB Trevor Siemian, returning it for 25 yards. Unfortunately, it didn't have much of an impact in the game, but it was a positive sign of the player he can become.
Jourdan Lewis was once again thrust into action in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals due to injuries and followed up his impressive performance from the week prior. He was sticky in coverage the entire game against the Cardinals WRs and made some key open field tackles.
Lewis' performance over these first two games have likely earned him more playing time and possibly a starting position. At the worst, he could be the slot CB when the Cowboys defense plays nickel. Regardless of where he plays, there is no doubt that he has earned the right to be on the field more often.
Cowboys Nation have been chomping at the bit to see the Cowboys rookie WR Ryan Switzer see more of a role on offense. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen and he has only seen a few snaps on the offensive side of the ball. But, after seeing him have some success in the return game, you can see why an increased role on offense could be in the cards rather soon.
Switzer will no doubt be compared to Cole Beasley because of their similar size, but #10 is just a little bit bigger and more explosive with the ball in his hands. We did see him involved on offense a little bit against the Cardinals when he lined up in the backfield and was on the receiving end of a quick toss, but it only left us wanting more.
With so many mouths to feed on the offensive side of the ball, it's going to be difficult to increase Switzer's role. But, I can foresee where offensive coordinator Scott Linehan gets him more involved and has specific packages in place just for Switzer. Hopefully, it sooner rather than later.
Dallas Cowboys rookie Xavier Woods is kind of a do it all defensive back. He can play safety, cornerback, and can play in the slot as well. It's that versatility that has gotten hbm on the field already, and he has done nothing to dissuade me from thinking he deserves more playing time. In fact, I would pound the table for it if I was on the coaching staff.
Jeff Heath hasn't really done anything wrong, but he hasn't been overly impressive either. Xavier Woods however is more athletic and could possibly be an upgrade when paired next to Byron Jones. Now, I don't think this will happen anytime soon, but it is something to keep in mind.
I do however believe Xavier Woods needs to be on the field more often. His versatility to play any position in the secondary allows defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to get really creative with his coverages, something we saw against the Cardinals Monday night. There were several instances where he had six defensive backs on the field and just three down lineman. It's something we could see more of as the season progresses.
It's no secret that I've been a big fan of Noah Brown's dating back before the draft. I was personally ecstatic to see him drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round, because I personally had a fourth-round grade on him.
Brown is still raw as a WR, but the skill set he has right now could be extremely valuable on offense for the Cowboys. After being inactive the first week of the season, the coaching staff decided to add them to the active roster the last two weeks. And, if you were watching him like I was, you probably noticed why.
Brown's ability to block in the running and passing game is a tremendous asset. The Cowboys have been lining him up in the slot and having him crash down and seal off the linebacker on outside zone plays and tosses. He may be a WR, but he blocks like a TE. I believe this particular skill set will get him on the field more often and help the offense. And, that's not been mentioning that he is another surehanded WR in the passing game.
Which Cowboys rookies do think deserve more playing time?
Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018
For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.
After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote
As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.
Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.
Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!
Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Week 15 Impact Games
It's hard to believe that we're looking at the Dallas Cowboys potentially clinching the NFC East this week, but that's how dramatic the turnaround has been over the last five games. Week 15 could lock Dallas into the playoffs and give them a lot of freedom over their final two games.
If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:
- New Orleans Saints (11-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
- Chicago Bears (9-4)
- Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
- Carolina Panthers (6-7)
- Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
- Washington Redskins (6-7)
- The Cowboys lost to Seattle earlier this year, but still remain the 4th seed as a division winner over a wild card team.
- The Panthers are ahead of the Eagles thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker.
- The Eagles are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker. They play each other again in Week 17.
- The Redskins beat the Panthers earlier this year, but their loss to Philadelphia within their own division negates that tiebreaker.
In truth, there's not much intrigue left for the Cowboys in this regular season. One win gives them the NFC East, and it would take the Saints or Rams dropping all three of their remaining games for Dallas to have a shot at a top-two seed.
So, barring the nearly impossible, Dallas is locked into either the 3rd or 4th seed. They will host one of the Wild Card teams in the first round of the playoffs.
The biggest thing to watch now is how the seeding shakes among the bottom four playoff teams. The Seahawks seem a cut above the likes of Minnesota, Carolina, or one of our NFC East friends, so avoiding them in the first round would be lovely.
Here are this week's games involving the NFC playoff contenders:
Dallas Cowboys @ Indianapolis Colts
We've already discussed what the Cowboys need to do, so let's talk about the Colts. Not only do they have home field advantage this week, but they are fighting for their playoff lives.
Indianapolis is one of four teams with a 7-6 record battling for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs. The Broncos are also in the mix at 6-7, giving none of these teams any cushion for losing.
Dallas has its own incentive to win, though. If they want to avoid Seattle in the first round, they probably need to take the #3 seed from the Chicago Bears. They need to keep winning and hope for the Bears to drop a game or two.
Ultimately, getting into the playoffs and starting at home is a huge reward. But anything that can help make the road a little easier is worth pursuing. It's no time to rest on your laurels.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
As we just discussed, we'd like to see Chicago drop a few games to give Dallas a shot at the #3 seed. This week isn't the worst opportunity, with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay still not completely eliminated from playoff contention.
Expecting much from the Packers here is unwise. They've had a coaching change and appear to be in a state of organizational disarray. But they still have Rodgers, and crazy things always happens in rivalry games.
So while these are two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, you never know what could happen given the variable elements. By all means, root for the Cheeseheads.
Miami Dolphins @ Minnesota Vikings
Your rooting interest here comes down to a simple question; who do you prefer to play among that last bunch of Wild Card teams? Who does Dallas match up best against between the Vikings, Panthers, and Eagles?
I think we'd all agree that we don't want to see the Eagles a third time. Beating a team three times in one year is tough to do, and especially given how close last week's meeting was.
The Panthers beat Dallas in the season opener, but that was in Carolina and well before the Cowboys were playing at a high level. A second meeting could go very differently, especially with the recent slumping by the Panthers.
Both Carolina and Minnesota are struggling, with one on a five-game losing streak and the latter having lost their last two. The Vikings just fired their offensive coordinator, so neither of these teams appear to be going into the postseason with any real momentum.
At this point, I'd say it's a toss-up between the Panthers and Vikings. Both are much preferable to seeing the Eagles again, so I would just keep rooting for both to win. In either case, they knock out Philadelphia.
We'll reassess the threat level of Carolina and Minnesota as playoff opponents in a few weeks.
Washington Redskins @ Jacksonville Jaguars
I didn't mention the Redskins among those last three teams because they may not win another game this year. Their QB situation is so bad that even the Jaguars look good by comparison.
Granted, Jacksonville is lousy right now. Washington might be able to go down there and get a win, but neither team has anything to play for now. This one may come down to whether or not the Jaguars have gone into tank mode.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Seattle just walloped the Niners 43-16 a couple of weeks ago, and changing venues is unlikely to make that much difference. The Seahawks are a legit NFC contender and San Francisco is already thinking about the offseason. A Seattle loss would be great, but it ain't happening this week.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams
While catching the Rams and getting a top-two seed would be great, it's barely plausible. The far more concrete benefit here is seeing the Eagles lose and getting them further away from a possible Wild Card spot.
In fact, an Eagles' loss this week would give Dallas the NFC East even if the Cowboys fall in Indianapolis. That's not the way we want to win the division, but you take what you can get.
With the breaking news that Carson Wentz is unlikely to play this week with a back injury, you'd generally think this suits the Cowboys' interests. But Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is still the backup in Philadelphia, so is anything really for certain?
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
We have every reason to root for Carolina here. For one, it helps the Panthers stay ahead of the Eagles in the Wild Card race. Also, it brings the Saints one loss closer to possibly being caught by Dallas. A Saints win doesn't really benefit us all.
Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess
The Dallas Cowboys came away with a huge win against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles, putting them in a commanding position in the NFC East. They're up two games in the division and one of the more underrated story lines from the victory is Ezekiel Elliott's game. He had a huge day that no one is talking about.
Elliott had 28 carries for 113 yards and then caught 12 passes on 13 targets en route to his big performance in the 29-23 win over the Eagles. That's probably the quietest 40 touch, 192 total yard game you'll ever hear about. And yet, that's where we are. Please read that stat line again, because in all of our talk about Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and the defense, Ezekiel Elliott's stat line is absolutely ridiculous.
The receiving element that Elliott is providing the biggest difference to the offense this season. He's been a huge asset to Dak Prescott in the passing game as both a primary target and a check down option in the short part of the field. If Elliott isn't showing that he's the best running back in the league, with what he's doing with a broke down offensive line, then people will never give him the credit he's due.
For the last three years, the Dallas Cowboys and their fan base has known what an elite player the Cowboys have in Elliott. He's easily one of the best runners in the NFL, but if you talk to the general NFL fanbase or analysts around the league, Elliott doesn't get the same kind of love as players like Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell receive from the national media. The knock against Elliott has been that he doesn't bring the same value as a receiver. With what he has done over the last six weeks, and really all season long, it's safe to say, that won't be a knock against the Cowboys All-Pro running back.
Among running backs this season, Ezekiel Elliott ranks sixth in targets (77), fifth in receptions (65). seventh in yards (502), and is tied for 12th in receiving touchdowns with three. Elliott is the seventh highest rated running back when targeted among running backs with at least 50 targets this season.
Over the last six weeks, since the Amari Cooper trade, only Christian McCaffrey has more targets, receptions, and yards than Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott's previous career high was in 2016 when he caught 32 passes on 39 targets. With three games left in the season, Elliott has more than doubled his previous career high from that season. Over the last six weeks, he's caught 40 passes with an average of 6.7 receptions per game.
Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best total yardage season in the NFL. If he continues at his current per game averages, Elliott would finish the season with 330 carries for 1,553 rushing yards, 80 catches on 100 targets for 618 yards and 10 total touchdowns. He's been great this year, but he's been even better over the last six games. At his per game averages for the last six games, over a 16 game season, Elliott's numbers would look like this; 363 carries for 1,715 yards rushing, 107 receptions on 120 targets for 872 yards, and 13 total touchdowns.
It's rare that Ezekiel Elliott has a game like he did on Sunday and it goes largely unnoticed by Cowboys Nation, but that's just how tremendous Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were. In a game where the Cowboys got big games and big plays through the passing game, it was Elliott's steadiness that held things together and helped sustain drives like the fourth and one conversion in overtime. Even with Amari Cooper elevating his game since coming to the Cowboys, there's no question that Ezekiel Elliott is the Cowboys best skill position player. Expect more big games for Elliott as the Cowboys continue to "Feed Zeke."
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