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
Elliott’s first game was far from memorable. He finished with just 51 yards on 20 carries for an ugly 2.5 yard average. The dual threat wasn’t there for Elliott, either, as he had just one catch for a single yard.
The Giants were committed to stopping the run and loaded up the box against the rookie. Elliott fought for extra yards when able but was mostly shut down. His best run was on his first career touchdown, a well-blocked play that Elliott finished with an athletic dive across the goal line.
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 active but did not appear in the box score and made no discernible impact. It is unlikely he saw much playing time as the Cowboys’ defense was not on the field much, leaving Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, and Cedric Thornton fresh.
Charles Tapper, DE
Still dealing with a nagging back issue, Tapper was a game day inactive this week. There is no specific timetable for his return, although recent comments from Jason Garrett said that Tapper was making progress and shouldn’t be out much longer.
Dak Prescott, QB
The statistics aren’t kind for Prescott; a 69.4 passer rating and a 55.6 completion percentage. However, they don’t really tell the story.
Prescott appeared to do the most that he could with what was available. He extended some plays and allowed receivers to get open when the initial reads weren’t there. Dak was let down a few times by Dez Bryant on deep throws that the star receiver usually comes up with.
Prescott’s lack of touchdowns is offset by the lack of interceptons, fumbles, or even sacks allowed. He had a few overthrown balls but for the most part was on target and making good decisions. He did far more to keep the Cowboys in the game than cost them a victory.
Anthony Brown, CB
Brown was the only active cornerback behind the top three. He had to briefly relieve Orlando Scandrick as the slot corner when Scandrick suffered a minor hamstring issue. Brown was credited with one tackle but also got beat on a wheel-route touchdown catch by Sterling Shepard.
Kavon Frazier, S
At the bottom of the five-man depth chart at safety, Frazier was not active for the Giants game. He is likely to stay that way unless an injury opens up a spot for him.
Darius Jackson, RB
Jackson was also inactive for Week 1 as Dallas dressed Alfred Morris and Lance Dunbar. 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.
In what I think is a fairly clear choice, the standout Rookie of the Week is…
His box score wasn’t pretty but his play was still as poised and controlled as what we saw in the preseason. Prescott showed a clear improvement in the quarterback play from what we had in last year’s backups. He will need to get better in the redzone, but that will come with more time and chemistry with his receivers.
This isn’t to say that Ezekiel Elliott was all to blame for his slow day. I did not like Scott Linehan’s play-calling at all, both on the actual run plays and on the overall balance and rhythm of the offense. He did not find ways to force the Giants away from the line of scrimmage and give Elliott a chance.
Next week, the Cowboys get to take on a Washington defense that just got pummeled by the Steelers. Elliott should be salivating when we watches the film on what DeAngelo Williams accomplished. My early prediction is that he will have a big week and put the NFL on notice, just a week later than we expected.