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.
Here's a summary of the performances and statuses from all nine of the Cowboys drafted rookies after the Week 10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
In what's quickly becoming one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history, Elliott saved some career firsts for a tough matchup in Pittsburgh. Zeke crossed the 200-yard mark in total yardage for the first time, helped largely by an 83-yard receiving touchdown. That score, along with two rushing, gave him his highest touchdown total in a game as well.
The 83-yard reception was the longest by a Cowboys player since 2012. That one was an 85-yarder from Dez Bryant. It's only fitting that Zeke Elliott would come close; by far the Cowboys most exciting offensive weapon since Dez joined the team.
With 114 yards rushing, Elliott remains firmly on top of the NFL leaderboard. He is the only RB to cross the 1,000-yard mark this season. What's more, he's done it in just nine games. His closest competion, DeMarco Murray (930 yds) and Melvin Gordon (838 yds), have yet to get their bye week.
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. This is the last week that Smith can remain on that list and not impact the Cowboys roster limit. He will likely be put on Injured Reserve on Monday.
Maliek Collins, DT
Coming off his two-sack showcase last week, Collins did not add any big plays to his highlight reel. However, he was part of helping the Cowboys limit Le'Veon Bell to just 57 yards on 17 carries. Dallas boasts the NFL's third best run defense after 10 weeks and Collins, a starter in the base defense, is a major part of that.
Charles Tapper, DE
Tapper is 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
Prescott put together another gorgeuous stat line; 319 yards and two touchdowns on 69% passing. Dak's 121.7 passer rating was his third-best this season, which given the road environment and opponent is especially impressive. A blindside hit led to a fumble on the opening drive, but otherwise Prescott was his usual fantastic self.
What really strikes you about Prescott is how he's stepped up in pressure situations. I remember watching a rookie Eli Manning and being impressed with how, despite struggling for three quarters, he had the ability to turn it on in the clutch. For all the jokes and memes he's generated, Eli has two Super Bowl rings and some of the biggest plays in football history on his resume.
Prescott is playing great football in nearly every situation but that late-game spark is something that will only mean big things in the years to come. The Cowboys QB job is now officially his to lose, but that pressure doesn't worry me in the slightest. Dak has an uncanny maturity for his age and there's no reason to think he won't keep thriving.
Anthony Brown, CB
Sunday was the closest thing to rookie hazing that Brown has experienced this year. Drawing the tough assignment of guarding Antonio Brown, arguably the best WR in the NFL, the Cowboys' sixth-round rookie corner had the same issues that some of the league's best cover men face.
Antonio's big day of 154 yards and 14 catches didn't all come on Anthony's watch. When Orlando Scandrick went out with an injury, Anthony Brown moved into the slot and Leon McFadden played outside. It was McFadden who gave up Antonio Brown's only touchdown of the day, along with some other late receptions.
Kavon Frazier, S
Active and now the number-four safety with Barry Church's injury, Frazier finally recorded his first NFL tackle. He will be used sparingly, but at least the rookie finally put something in the box score.
Darius Jackson, RB
Having yet to dress this season, it appears Jackson's only shot at playing this year will be if Dallas has nothing to play for in one of the final regular season games. There is also the chance he could be released to make room for Darren McFadden.
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. With Geoff Swaim suffering a pectoral injury that requires surgery and James Hanna not yet ready to return, the door is now open for Gathers to get called up to the active roster. Dallas has yet to make a move to fill their need.
Like we say almost every week, both Dak and Zeke had great games. Both played huge roles in the Cowboys victory. However, one guy not only made the biggest plays but also scored when it mattered most:
Elliott scored the Cowboys' final two touchdowns on runs of 14 and 32 yards. His 83-yard reception came with the team trailing 12-3 and sitting at 2nd-and-18 behind their own 20-yard line.
Clearly, Elliott delivered in the game's biggest moments. While the offensive line certainly plays a huge part in his success, Elliott has already given more than enough examples of how his special talent makes a difference. Last year we watched Darren McFadden be productive behind this line, but Elliott is being truly dominant.
In Pittsburgh, he was easily the difference between victory and defeat.
Previous ROTW Winners
Week 9 - DT Maliek Collins
Week 8 - QB Dak Prescott
Week 6 - QB Dak Prescott
Week 5 - RB Ezekiel Elliott
Week 4 - RB Ezekiel Elliott
Week 3 - RB Ezekiel Elliott
Week 2 - QB Dak Prescott
Week 1 - QB Dak Prescott
WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason
NFL teams have wrapped up their offseason activities with the close of OTAs, especially where the players are concerned, and await the start of training camps next month. In reviewing the last few months, ESPN had their local reporters each pick a surprise standout from their team's practices. Todd Archer, who covers the Dallas Cowboys full time, selected veteran receiver Randall Cobb.
Cobb is in his first season with Dallas after signing as a free agent last March. He's spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, but has struggled with injuries the last few seasons.
Here were Archer's observations on how Randall is doing so far with the Cowboys:
Normally a player with Cobb's résumé -- 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns during his career -- would not be considered for a category like this. But injuries limited him to only nine games and 38 catches for Green Bay in 2018, and it was hard to know what the Cowboys were getting in the veteran receiver.
If the offseason work is any indication, they have found a replacement for Cole Beasley. Cobb's versatility can expand the offense for others, such as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb looked quick in and out of his breaks and fast enough to make plays down the field. Will he put up the 1,287 yards he had in 2014? No, but he gives Dak Prescott a security blanket in the slot who can turn a small gain into a big one.
The notion of Cobb replacing Beasley is a big one. While we'd like to think that Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will provide plenty of firepower for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott has enjoyed a reliable threat from the slot position since he arrived.
Randall Cobb, when healthy, can do more than just make clutch catches. He has good run-after-catch skills and perhaps bring more big play potential than Beasley did.
If Cooper and Gallup do emerge as a dangerous starting duo on the outside, Cobb should have even more opportunities to punish defenses than Beasley did.
If nothing else, it's very encouraging to hear that one of the Cowboys' few 2019 free agent moves is already reaping benefits. Cobb still needs to bring it over a full season to really justify the move, but these early reports are cause for excitement.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
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