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 14 loss to the New York Giants:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
In the first game of his professional career, Elliott was held to just 51 yards on 20 carries. Zeke showed his growth on Sunday, nearly doubling his production against the same Giants defense. Elliott finished 107 yards and a 4.5 average, crossing the 100-yard mark for the first time since Week 10 in Pittsburgh.
Scott Linehan did more to stop Elliott last week than the Giants defense. Despite Zeke's consistent production, Dallas still threw the ball 37 times to just 24 carries for their star running back. Considering that Dallas either had the lead or was tied for the majority of the game, this imbalance is hard to explain.
Jaylon Smith, LB
Today is the deadline for Smith to either join the 53-man roster or be placed on Injured Reserve. There is no indication that he is physically ready to return, so expect him to be placed on IR sometime by this afternoon.
Maliek Collins, DT
Collins had another solid day with two tackles and a QB hit. The Giants' running backs were held to just 95 yards on 31 carries, barely over three yards per touch. There are still plenty of rotating parts on the defensive line, but Collins is at least getting credited as a starter every week. That is no small thing for a rookie, especially with a veteran like Cedric Thornton behind him.
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
This was the worst day for Dak Prescott so far in the NFL, both statistically and in the general narrative. A rookie quarterback losing in his first-ever game is not a surprise or even much of a disappointment. In Week 14, it hurts a lot more.
Prescott's 45.4 passer rating was the lowest of his career so far. It's only the third time this season his rating fell below 100, and the third week in a row that he's had less than 200 yards passing. It is also the first game in which he's thrown more than one interception.
I've never seen Dak look more rattled than in this game. He held the bell far too long and created sacks for the Giants. He did not recognize a few running opportunities and was trying to force the issue with the pass. It also looked like he may have been keying too log on one specific receiver.
The two interceptions Dak threw were a mixed bag. The first one looked like it was thrown to the right spot, but Dez Bryant just fell down. If Dez had finished the route it appeared he would've been in front of Janoris Jenkins and at least prevented the turnover.
The second pick is tougher to excuse. Dak threw the ball up into double coverage to give Dez a chance to make the play. I don't mind this sometimes when you have a guy with Bryant's talent, but Prescott put the ball where only the Giants really had a chance to make a play on it.
Tough day, but thankfully Dak's a tough kid. With two more primetime games ahead, he won't be lacking for spotlight as he tries to get back on track.
Anthony Brown, CB
Your first interception is always special for a defensive back, but Brown put some extra sauce on this one. Covering Victor Cruz, Brown perfectly read the play and jumped in front of Cruz to snag the ball. His coverage was flawless, and he did what so few Dallas secondary players seem capable of by actually completing the catch.
Other than a 61-yard touchdown by Odell Beckham, which came on Brandon Carr's watch, Dallas held the Giants passing game to just 132 yards. Anthony Brown is a major part of that effort, playing a key role while Morris Claiborne is out and Orlando Scandrick battles nagging injuries. He is easily the third-best rookie of the 2016 class.
Kavon Frazier, S
Frazier was active but was not visible in the game. He appears to be nothing more than an emergency option 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.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp
The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.
From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.
Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.
Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.
They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.
Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.
The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.
One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.
Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.
Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.
This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.
Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.
Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.
Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.
Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.
It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.
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