Every week we’ll be looking at the Cowboys drafted rookies from 2016 and seeing what impact, if any, they had on the previous game.
Here’s a summary of the performances and statuses from all nine of the Cowboys drafted rookies after the Week 13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Elliott’s lowest rushing total since Week 2 was a surprise as Minnesota’s run defense was only 14th in the NFL going into the game. If not for one 30-yard run late in the game, Elliott would’ve had just 2.9 average with 56 yards on 19 carries. He almost made matter worse with a fumble but thankfully recovered it himself.
The Vikings did an impressive job of closing off the running lanes. You can’t even use the “12 three games in 12 days” excuse as Minnesota had played the same schedule. Talk of the “rookie wall” and Zeke getting worn down over the season will certainly increase after this performance, but I saw more blocking issues than any problems with Elliott.
Jaylon Smith, LB
Smith has one more week to practice before he either has to join the 53-man roster or be placed on Injured Reserve. The odds are that he will be heading to IR.
Maliek Collins, DT
Collins got his third sack of the season in addition to another QB hit and a tackle for loss. With Minnesota missing so many offensive line starters, it would’ve been a disappointment if the Cowboys defense couldn’t make some plays behind the line of scrimmage.
That is one thing to keep in mind about Collins. His three sacks this year aren’t a bad number for a rotation defensive tackle. However, two came against the league’s worst team (Cleveland Browns) and this one came against one of the worst offensive lines. We’re still waiting to see Collins make an impact against better competition.
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 wasn’t a big day on the stat sheet as Prescott only had 139 yards through the air. However, Dak made crucial plays to help pull the team out of harm’s way.
There was plenty of adversity to overcome. Prescott was sacked three times, the most he’s been hit all year except for Week 2 against Washington. One of those sacks was a blindside hit that cause a fumble, courtesy of Doug Free‘s ever-declining blocking.
After the Cowboys’ first three drives ended with two punts and that aforementioned fumble, Dak found Dez Bryant for a 56-yard bomb that set up a goal-line touchdown by Ezekiel Elliott. The play gave the Cowboys some much-needed momentum. Later on, Dak took advantage of a fumbled punt return by the Vikings with a touchdown throw to Bryant.
With the Vikings’ pass defense stingy all day, Prescott made some critical first-down plays running the ball. He never forced things and, once again, didn’t throw an interception. This game could have swung on just one more turnover, but Dak’s ongoing avoidance of interceptions is a key part to this win and several others this year.
Anthony Brown, CB
Brown had a pass deflection so nice that words just can’t do it justice. Ergo…
There’s so much to like on just this one play. Brown doesn’t even begin to bite on Charles Johnson shimmy move. Then he pivots so fast to follow the receiver up the field that Johnson doesn’t gain one bit of ground. Brown closes on the receiver and the ball perfectly, without ever looking behind him, to make a penalty-free deflection.
Chris Collinsworth was raving about Anthony Brown during the broadcast and a play like this shows you why. Dallas has found a true gem in the sixth round and a guy who will likely be a starter in next year’s defense.
Usually, you’re desperate to get a starting CB back onto the field because of issues with backups. However, Brown’s play has allowed Dallas to take it easy with Orlando Scandrick’s recovery. It’s been an incredible luxury this season, especially given the other injury problems with Morris Claiborne.
Kavon Frazier, S
There wasn’t much playing time to be had for Frazier this week. Barry Church returned and played full-time reps. Frazier did record a single tackle.
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.