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Instant Review: Evaluating How The Young Players Fared Against The Rams
LOS ANGELES – It wasn’t a pretty game, but the Cowboys did get a good look at their youth movement on Saturday night.
The 13-10 loss to the Rams offered a long look at the rookies and the newcomers that comprise the back half of this depth chart. For this game, we had our sights set on eight specific players and how they fared in the second preseason game of the year.
Here’s how they graded out.
WR Andy Jones -- With so many receivers out of the lineup, this was a great opportunity for Jones to step up. But the offense didn’t provide much of a spark at all, therefore Jones didn't have a shot to make a mark. He did catch three passes but for just 11 yards. And since he's in a battle with Noah Brown, Jones didn't have the upper hand Saturday night with Brown catching three for 41 yards. It's just one game, but whatever lead Jones seemed to have might have disappeared for the time being.
DT Lewis Neal -- Here's a guy who did take advantage of more playing time. Neal started the game and had a great play early on with a tackle for loss. It was his only tackle of the game, but impressive at least. The fact he can play both end and tackle should help his chances, not to mention the fact two -- maybe three, depending on Tyrone Crawford -- defensive ends could miss the first game of the season due to suspensions and injuries.
RB Rod Smith – Smith had a quiet night compared to the Hall of Fame Game, when he received 14 more carries (18 total) than another player on the field. Saturday he ran the ball only once for two yards, entering the game after Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris combined for 11 carries earlier against the Rams. Smith was already pushing for a roster spot along with McFadden and Morris, and Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension could give him an even better chance to make the team as a backup running back and special teams contributor. The Cowboys have liked what they’ve seen from him in practice as a powerful, decisive runner.
LB Mark Nzeocha – The third-year linebacker entered the game on defense early in the second quarter and appeared to do exactly what he needed to make an impression: he made a tackle working on multiple special teams units, and he forced a fumble on defense – the Cowboys’ only takeaway of the game despite multiple opportunities. Nzeocha did get moved out of the way on a 16-yard Rams run one play earlier, but he shows instincts as well as range for his 240-pound frame.
RB Ronnie Hillman – I was surprised that Hillman didn't get more of an opportunity but with the way that the second half went, it was understandable. With the offense having to throw the ball toward the end of the game to come back, his ability to run did not come into play. He did have the opportunity to make a catch in the flat, but that was really all he was able to do. There weren't those explosive loose plays that we had seen during the Compete Periods where he could win one-on-one. Very quiet night overall.
CB Sammy Seamster -- Of all the secondary players in this game, I felt that Seamster was the one guy that didn't show up. To be honest, I was more impressed with Duke Thomas and what he was able to accomplish. Seamster wasn't involved in the game like Thomas. In watching Thomas, he was a better player in coverage and when he had to defend the run did a better job of stepping up. There was a time during the game where Joe Baker had to remind Seamster about his technique and alignment after he misplayed a route. I was expecting a better showing from Seamster after having playing well during these practices in Oxnard.
OG Nate Theaker – I was hoping I’d get a longer look at the rookie guard, but the coaching staff opted to let the veterans work deeper into the night. Theaker took the field in the fourth quarter, around the same time Luke McCown entered the game. I thought he looked pretty good, all things considered – but it is worth noting that the offense stalled repeatedly by that late point in the game. That’s the frustrating thing about these preseason games. You never know how many snaps you’re going to get.
DT Woody Baron – The stat keepers didn’t give him any credit for them, but I counted at least two tackles for Mr. Baron. The young defensive tackle entered the game after halftime and seemed to handle himself pretty well from my vantage point. He pushed the line and aided on a couple of tackles, and I thought he did a fantastic job of collapsing the pocket to help assist Lenny Jones on the Cowboys’ second sack of the night.