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2022 Cowboys rookie report: Tyler Smith had a rough Thanksgiving

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Cowboys rookies had an impact, both good and bad, on the Thanksgiving game.

The Cowboys managed to put together a very strong second half on Thanksgiving and notch a convincing win over the Giants despite a sloppy start to the game. For the team, it marked their first win on Thanksgiving since 2018. But for this rookie class, it marked their first Thanksgiving game ever. Let’s check out who had a big day.

OL Tyler Smith

All things considered, Tyler Smith has performed well above expectations this year. That said, the Cowboys have to be counting down the days until Tyron Smith returns from injury so that they can move the younger Smith to guard. After all, the rookie looked much more natural there in his brief time against the Vikings.

Back at left tackle against the Giants, Smith once again struggled in pass protection. He allowed seven pressures and three hits on the quarterback, both of which were single-game highs for him. He was also called for two penalties in the game, which has been a recurring theme for the rookie who leads the team in penalties by a wide margin.

Smith has been a force in the run game, but he’s still raw in pass protection. That’s why the Cowboys initially wanted him to play guard this year anyway. And while Smith deserves recognition for his efforts, he hasn’t done anything to change the Cowboys’ minds as they start thinking about which game marks the return of their future Hall of Fame tackle.

EDGE Sam Williams

For the first time since the Eagles game, Sam Williams failed to record a tackle. That’s a testament to how good the rookie has been in his limited role. Williams played on 41% of the defensive snaps and registered one pressure. That now makes it eight straight games where Williams has recorded at least one pressure despite never playing on more than 18 pass rush reps.

Williams hasn’t been playing much in games this year - and it’s not a coincidence that his so-so stat line this week also came in a game where Dorance Armstrong had another big day - but the rookie edge rusher has consistently made the most of his opportunities. There’s a strong argument to be made that Williams has been the Cowboys’ best rookie so far on a per play basis.

WR Jalen Tolbert

Jalen Tolbert logged a catch last Sunday during the blowout win over the Vikings, but that didn’t carry over into this game. Tolbert was on the field for just four offensive snaps, the second fewest on the team. The rookie receiver has struggled to see the field all year, and will likely be bounced from the active roster if/when a certain free agent receiver joins the team.

TE Jake Ferguson

It’s been easy for Jake Ferguson to fade into the background since Dalton Schultz started to get fully healthy from his injury, but the rookie tight end has still been grinding away. Against the Giants, 31 of Ferguson’s 36 snaps saw him function as a blocker, something Ferguson has excelled at all year.

The Cowboys seemingly rewarded him for it too: with just five routes run, Ferguson was targeted three times and caught all three for a career high 57 yards. It was a performance very much indicative of Ferguson’s overall play style, putting in the hours doing the thankless work and then capitalizing when he gets rewarded for it.

OT Matt Waletzko

Matt Waletzko is on the injured reserve.

CB DaRon Bland

DaRon Bland continues to make marginal progress after his very rough performance against the Packers. Bland was targeted five times in the Giants game and allowed completions on all five throws. However, only one of those catches went for more than five yards, and Bland - who finished with five tackles - did a good job of bringing receivers down pretty quickly after giving up the catch.

Bland is still figuring out how to deny receivers in coverage, which isn’t a surprise considering he had just one season of FBS experience in college and even that wasn’t at a Power 5 school. But Bland has made up for his learning curve by getting himself in good position to do what he does best: wrap up tackling.

LB Damone Clark

It really cannot be overstated how special Damone Clark’s story is right now. He dropped from likely second-round pick to late-fifth-round pick due to spinal fusion surgery, and here he is playing meaningful snaps on Thanksgiving. It truly is remarkable.

More remarkable is that Clark has been thrown into the fire and responded well. His 46 snaps against the Giants were the second most of any Cowboys linebacker, and it’s Clark’s third time in four games playing more than 40 snaps. He also finished tied with Trevon Diggs for the second most tackles on the team and led the team in stops on run defense.

Clark has looked great in his first few games in action, and you could figure he’ll get better with more time on the field. If Clark continues at this rate, he could end up being one of the biggest steals of this draft.

LB Devin Harper

Devin Harper is on the injured reserve.

TE Peyton Hendershot

Peyton Hendershot had a mostly quiet day - nearly two thirds of his 20 offensive snaps came as a blocker - but the one play where the rookie tight end got some real action will be remembered for a while.

With the Cowboys leading by one score in the fourth quarter and facing second and goal, they called Hendershot’s number on a rare tight end jet sweep. Hendershot took the ball - his first career carry - and barreled into the endzone for the touchdown. But it was the whack-a-mole celebration that made this even more memorable:

S Markquese Bell

Markquese Bell was inactive for this game.

RB Malik Davis

Malik Davis failed to see any action on offense this time around, which meant he officially returned to his usual special teams only role. Davis played on 61% of special teams snaps, tying with the likes of C.J. Goodwin. That’s a good indication of how valuable Davis is to this team already, even if he isn’t toting the rock anymore.


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