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
Smith has two more weeks to practice before he either has to join the 53-man roster or be placed on Injured Reserve. There is no indication at this time
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
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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