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 11 victory over the Baltimore Ravens:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
The Ravens boasted the league's top-ranked run defense going into Sunday, and they lived up to the hype. Baltimore held Elliott to just 3.9 yards per carry, his lowest production rate since Week 1. However, nobody came away from this one feeling Elliott didn't play a major part in the victory.
Elliott still turned in 97 yards rushing and 30 receiving, staying plenty productive despite the tough opponent. He didn't allow any frustration on his early carries, or the team's three-straight punts to start the game, to rattle him. Elliott kept grinding and eventually broke through.
Zeke's path to the NFL rushing title is even smoother after this week. He is now well over 200 yards ahead of David Johnson, Melvin Gordon, and other top rushers. DeMarco Murray is only 102 yards behind but still has his bye week coming. At this point, an injury appears the only thing that could stop Zeke from getting the title.
Jaylon Smith, LB
Smith was activated form the Non-Football Injury list on Monday. With that, the Cowboys started the 21-day timer on Smith either joining the active roster or being put on Injured Reserve.
While this is better than him just going to IR now, Smith's chances of playing this year still aren't good. This is simply a cost-free way for the Cowboys to keep the door open for three more weeks. Barring a sudden medical surprise, though, Smith's debut will hopefully come next season.
Maliek Collins, DT
It's been a quiet few weeks for Collins. He was credited with two tackles but did not make his presence known with any impact plays. It was a bad in general for the defensive line; only one sack on Joe Flacco and a 6.3 rushing average for the Ravens' offense.
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
After a few early inaccurate throws and taking a sack, Prescott settled down and turned in another brilliant performance. With 301 yards and three touchdowns on 75% passing, Prescott earned his third-straight passer rating of 120 or better.
At the very beginning, you had to wonder if Tony Romo's presence on the sideline wasn't unnerving Prescott a little. It would be only be natural, and perhaps that little added pressure did rattle our young quarterback right out of the gates. But as he's done time and again, Prescott found his groove and only got better as the game went on.
Anthony Brown, CB
Brown flashed his talent more than once, never more than a diving pass deflection along the sideline against Mike Wallace. The Ravens' receivers both had nice days, but it seemed that Brandon Carr was on the wrong end of the biggest plays.
When Orlando Scandrick has to go out briefly with one of his many injuries, Brown was again thrust into a primary role. It's amazing to see how much the kid's had to handle this season, especially as just a sixth-round pick. Prescott and Elliott may be the stars of this draft class, but Anthony Brown could be the biggest surprise of all.
Kavon Frazier, S
Another week on the active 46 but with no stats to show for it. Frazier appears to be nothing more than an emergency option at safety at this point.
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. Last week, Dallas elected to call up Vince Mayle instead of Gathers to fill the open roster spot from Geoff Swaim's injury. As expected, Gathers is still a project player who needs time.
Dak and Zeke both played big parts in the win. However, one guy's star shone just a little brighter. The Rookie of the Week is...
Aside from just having the better statistical performance, Prescott had to live up to the added hype after having the torch passed from Tony Romo. The potential for a media frenzy was only a few turnovers away, but Prescott didn't allow any pressure to take him outside of his game.
The days of talking about Dak as an exceptional rookie are about over. He is now starting to be mentioned as a MVP candidate. His passer rating is below just Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, and that doesn't even factor in his rushing touchdowns.
Dak Prescott is quickly becoming more than just a great story. He's starting to look like a truly great player, regardless of age or draft status.
Previous ROTW Winners
Week 10 - RB Ezekiel Elliott
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
Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10
Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.
Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.
Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."
After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.
According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.
While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.
Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.
The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere
After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?
Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.
After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.
Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.
The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.
Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.
Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.
The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.
Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.
As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.
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