Cowboys’ Rookie Players Get On-Field Experience

Tom Fox / The Dallas Morning News Photographer

The speed of the professional game is something that is discussed each season when rookies take the field for the first time. Sometimes these young players are able to step up and make plays right away, while other players take a little longer to develop the necessary skills to excel.  

Thursday night’s Hall of Fame game was the first time fans got to see the newest Cowboys in on-field action. Some of them took advantage of the moment, while others struggled to make an impact. 

Micah Parsons was the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2021, and he wasted no time getting out and making a difference. Parsons was a reliable threat to the running game throughout the first few series and showed off his athleticism by rapidly identifying a loose ball fumble and diving to recover it. He amassed three solo tackles in the brief time he was on the field. 

Rookie Cornerback Nashon Wright showed up and performed with 4 solo tackles and one assist. Wright did a lot to shut down the Steelers Chase Claypool, though Claypool did reel in a deep pass in the second half that he was slow to get up from.  

A guy who is showing that he wants a spot is sixth-round pick Quinton Bohanna. Though his stat line doesn’t reflect his on-field action with one tackle and two assists, the new nose tackle pushed his way into the backfield on numerous occasions and showed excellent hustle while chasing down plays. 

The offense struggled throughout the game, though it was evident that Garrett Gilbert is the leader for QB2. Gilbert went 9 for 13 and 104 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in a little more than one-quarter of play. Cooper Rush finished his outing with 8 of 13 and 70 yards. The final stat line for Ben DiNucci was 7 of 17 for 84 yards and an interception.  

Probably the biggest take-away for Cowboys fans is that the first-team defense that took the field did a great job of preventing the Steelers from moving the ball efficiently, bottled up the run game throughout, and performed as a unit. Several projected starters were on the field, including Tackles La’el Collins and Tyron Smith. Both players suffered season-ending injuries last season. 

The offense appeared disorganized at this point in the season. With many of the key elements of the Cowboys’ first offense off the field, it was an opportunity for some of the younger players to get action.  

In one of the more odd decisions of the night, the Cowboys sent punter Hunter Niswander out on special teams to place a kick. His first attempt missed so widely that it became a running joke the day after. Niswander also missed a 52-yard attempt at the end of the second half. His one score was from 29 yards.  

The first preseason game of the year is a unique opportunity for coaches to evaluate some of the younger, less experienced players and see how different combinations of players work for the team. The Cowboys and Steelers will get a total of four preseason games this year because of Thursday’s Hall of Fame game, giving coaches extra time and the opportunity to evaluate players before roster cuts on August 17th. 

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