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.