The Dallas Cowboys 2019 rookie draft class may not be the most impressive on paper, but they are expected to be contributors this year and hopefully for years to come. Last Saturday night against the San Francisco 49ers was their first taste of NFL action and some of them lived up to expectations, while others kind of faltered under the pressure. Which ones were which?
Instead of reviewing all of the Dallas Cowboys rookie draft class player by player, I decided to discuss and rank who I believed were the top five performers against the 49ers. You of course can agree or disagree with my rankings, but below are the top five rookies who I believe stood out the most.
#5: RB, Tony Pollard (36)
It was a small sample size, but I believe Running Back Tony Pollard was by far the most impressive ballcarrier for the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night against the San Francisco 49ers. He didn't look out of place running behind four out of five of the Dallas Cowboys starting offensive lineman and was quite impressive doing so, averaging 4 yards per carry. He showed no hesitancy running between the tackles and was decisive with his footwork and vision after receiving the handoff. Overall was a good starting point, but we still need to see a larger sample size.
#4: LBs, Luke Gifford (57) and Justin Phillips (44)
If not for an unfortunate ankle injury, Linebacker Luke Gifford might have ended up as the most impressive Dallas Cowboys rookie against the 49ers. He was flying all over the field pre-injury and was impressive in pass coverage with a pass breakup and interception. Because of the injury though I have him tying with fellow LB Justin Phillips in the No. 4 slot. Phillips benefited from Gifford's injury by receiving more playing time. He was all over the field as well and ended up tying for the team lead in tackles (4) with LB Chris Covington.
#3: DE, Jalen Jelks (74)
Defensive End Jalen Jelks was already turning a few heads in training camp, which is it was good to see him carry that over into the preseason game against the 49ers. His very first snap couldn't have gone any better if he had planned it himself. He ended up sacking the QB on his very first play of the game and continued to be disruptive throughout the contest. That's not too shabby for a seventh-round pick. The Dallas Cowboys may have another late-round steal on their hands if he can continue to play the way he has since arriving in Dallas.
#2: S, Donovan Wilson (37)
Safety Donovan Wilson continues to impress both in practice and now in an actual game situation. He's been good in run support and showed Saturday night against the 49ers he is also pretty adept at knowing has responsibility in pass coverage as well. Like fellow rookie Luke Gifford, Wilson also came away with an interception in San Francisco. He perfectly read the QBs eyes and put himself in position to make the play. It's a long shot he can emerge as a Day 1 starter opposite Xavier Woods, but if he can continue to impress he may earn the job at some point in 2019.
#1: DT, Ricky Walker (68)
Ricky Walker!? I know that's what many of you are thinking. He's without a doubt one of the most unknown rookies with the Dallas Cowboys this year, but he didn't play like it against the San Francisco 49ers. He actually ended up leading all of the Cowboys defensive lineman in tackles (3) and proved to be just the type of disruptive player Rod Marinelli is looking for in his DTs. I'm sad to say, but he outperformed fellow rookie DT Trysten Hill, who Dallas took in the second-round this year. I still have high hopes for Hill, but Walker might be somebody we want to keep an eye on from here on out.
Which Dallas Cowboys rookies stood out to you against the San Francisco 49ers?
Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.
However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.
That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.
With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.
One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.
Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.
HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.
The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.
Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.
The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.
Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.
Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.
Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.
Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition
In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.
Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot
Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.
If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.
Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting
The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.
His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.
Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again
Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard
stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.
While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.
Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer
Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.
But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.
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