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 12 victory over Washington:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Elliott had a solid day; 97 yards and two scores on 20 carries. It says a lot about the kid that we're now disappointed if he doesn't crack 100 yards. He did have 23 receiving yards, though, to improve his total.
In Week 2, Elliott had two fumbles in the first game against Washington. He has only put the ball on the ground once since then. Despite playing with as much aggression as possible, Elliott has protected the ball and clearly learned a lesson in his second professional game.
Jaylon Smith, LB
Maliek Collins, DT
Collins had two tackles and helped limit Washington's runners to just a 2.9 average. However, the story of this game was the lack of pressure on Kirk Cousins and Collins played a part in that also. His two-sack performance in Cleveland is looking like an aberration, unfortunately.
Charles Tapper, DE
Tapper went on Injured Reserve in Week 4 due to back issues. He was inactive the three games before that, making this a redshirt season for the fourth-round pick.
Dak Prescott, QB
It was a quiet day for Prescott; just 195 yards and one touchdown through the air. He did have a career-high with 39 rushing yards and another score running, though. The key, as we'll expound on at the end of this article, was the lack of turnovers.
One of the best things I saw in this game was the newfound chemistry between Dak and Dez Bryant. In Weeks 1-3, Bryant only had 11 catches on 23 targets (48%). Over the last three games, it's improved to 17 catches on 24 targets (71%). That improving rapport will be invaluable in the postseason.
Anthony Brown, CB
Brown had seven tackles and a pass deflection, but it was a rough day overall for the pass defense. Though part of this was strategic after building a lead, Dallas gave up a whopping 449 passing yards and three touchdowns to Kirk Cousins.
To his credit, Brown was not noticeably attacked. He's been targeted in past weeks by other opponents, but it appeared that Washington was going after Brandon Carr more. Like his fellow rookies on offense, Brown is exceeding expectations.
Kavon Frazier, S
For what I think is the first time all season, I finally saw Frazier on the field. Not only was he credit with a tackle, but you saw him flying in to help Anthony Brown defend a pass in the endzone. Frazier was able to get some playing time after J.J. Wilcox left with a thigh injury.
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.
Dak and Zeke didn't have any turnovers. Given the drop in overall offensive production from both, and just a five-point win, this was a critical factor. Considering his larger role in things, I have to give the Rookie of the Week to…
One turnover could've given this Washington this game. Given that he touches the ball on every play, I have to give the nod to Prescott for avoiding them.
In all of the debating about Prescott and Tony Romo for the starting job, Romo's potential for costly interceptions wasn't brought up much. I think this was to show Tony a little respect and perhaps due to some selective memories. But there is no denying that Prescott plays a safer brand of football than Romo, and in a game like this one that just might have been the difference between a win and a loss.
Prescott doesn't ever look like he's pressing the issue. Even when his team is backed up from a penalty or sack, he just keep executing without forcing throws. Tony Romo did some amazing things as our QB, but his play-making came with a price. Trying to make something out of nothing doesn't always go your way.
For this team with its struggling defense, Prescott's lack of turnovers has been critical to keeping offenses backed up and having to drive the field. His style of play is best for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys, and this win validated it.
Previous ROTW Winners
Week 11 – QB Dak Prescott
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