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.
Until Tony Romo returns, it is likely that this year’s Rookie of the Week feature will be an ongoing battle between Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Hopefully, one of the defensive players will make a big play here or there to spice things up.
Here’s a summary of the performances from all nine of the Cowboys drafted rookies:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
After averaging 142 yard in his last four games, Elliott’s rushing total dropped to an abysmal 96 yards against the Eagles. He also had 52 receiving yards, a new career high, on four catches.
This game, more than any so far, validated the Cowboys use of their fourth-overall pick on Elliott. Many, including me, felt that you could find a bargain option to play running back and still get solid production. While this is still probably true, the difference between Elliott and a more pedestrian RB are the plays where special talent makes something out of nothing.
We saw it when Elliott vaulted over an Eagles defender for extra yardage, or when he bounced off a crowded line of scrimmage and took it out side for a big gain. We saw it when he dove down the sideline to pick up first downs. Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris could be top-five rushers in this offense, but they won’t make those brilliant plays. Elliott is a true superstar and, at this point, arguably the best RB in the NFL.
Jaylon Smith, LB
Smith remains on the Non-Football Injury List and it is still unknown if he will play at all for the Cowboys in 2016. Jerry Jones did say yesterday on a radio show that he’s not yet dismissed Smith making his debit this year.
Maliek Collins, DT
It was a quiet day for Collins, who was credited with just a single tackle. With DeMarcus Lawrence’s return and David Irving’s recent production, the defensive line rotation may be giving Collins less opportunities than he had early in the year.
Charles Tapper, DE
Tapper was placed on Injured Reserve with ongoing back issues. He began to miss time early in the preseason and has never been able to return to practice. The end result is, essentially, a redshirt season for the fourth-round pick.
Dak Prescott, QB
Completing just about 50% of his throws and throwing a bad redzone interception, Prescott looked more like a rookie than at any point since the season opener. At least, that was the story until the fourth quarter.
On the drives that tied and won the game for the Cowboys, Dak completed 10-of-13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. It was the kind of clutch performance that so many of the great quarterbacks are known for; overcoming even self-imposed adversity to lead the team victory. It’s one that doesn’t just set Prescott apart from rookies, but from many veteran quarterbacks in the league today.
On top of the storybook ending, Prescott added a career-high 38 yards rushing and another touchdown on the ground. He now has four rushing touchdowns this year; the most of any quarterback in the NFL. Cam Newton and Tyrold Taylor are behind him with three each.
Anthony Brown, CB
With Orlando Scandrick coming back, Brown was not seen much and had no recorded statistics. His disappearance will be short-lived, though, as Morris Claiborne is now going to miss time. Brown will likely return to the slot corner role he’d be playing most of the season and the veteran Scandrick will play outside.
Kavon Frazier, S
Frazier went back to being a game day inactive last week. That is almost sure to change now that Barry Church will be out with a broken forearm. Frazier may finally be seen on the field this season.
Darius Jackson, RB
Jackson was inactive once again. Despite Lance Dunbar’s injury absence, Jackson has not even dressed for games. It appears his only chance will come at the end of the year if the Cowboys have a game or two that doesn’t impact playoff standings.
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.
Neither Elliott or Prescott had one of the best games statistically. Therefore, you really have to look at the other elements of the game to pick between them. The overall story of the game certainly belonged to one guy over the other.
Zeke’s day was better overall in terms of production, but Dak made the biggest plays when the pressure was highest.
For those tracking the “Dak Prescott vs. Tony Romo” debate, this game gave material for both sides to work with. Dak’s struggles early, like his one loss against the Giants, give the Romo camp evidence of why the veteran could be an upgrade.
However, Dak’s personal comeback in the game was right out of the Tony Romo playbook. His spin out of trouble on the final play, hitting Jason Witten for the game-winning touchdown, as about as Romo-like as it gets.
Week after week, Dak Prescott shows why he’s more than just an impressive rookie. He’s an impressive quarterback, leader, and person. Even if the Cowboys go back to Tony Romo in the coming weeks, the future of this franchise is in excellent hands.
Previous ROTW Winners
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