Grading the Dallas Cowboys Rookies After First 2 Weeks of 2012 Season
Two weeks into the 2012 season and the Dallas Cowboys have had mixed results, and, in extent, so has its rookie class.
Actually, many members of the 2012 class have seen little to no playing time, with Claiborne and tight end James Hanna garnering the most snaps.
However, it's never too early to access the performance of these young players. So, here are grades for each Cowboy rookie two weeks into the year.
Morris Claiborne, CB
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When the Cowboys moved up to the No. 6 pick in the NFL draft to select Claiborne it meant that expectations would be high for the rookie. And for the most part, he's handled them well.
In his NFL, debut Claiborne had a difficult task—contain Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks, who is one of the top receivers in the league, caught some balls but Claiborne did a heck of a job limiting his impact. Nicks only recorded four receptions for 38 yards in the opener and seemed to be bothered by Claiborne's effective use of the press technique at the line of scrimmage.
Head coach Jason Garrett was impressed not only by his play but by Claiborne's poise as well, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“He's played in a lot of big time games in his career and it didn’t look like he was in awe of the situation at all,” coach Jason Garrett said. “They have good receivers up there in New York, they throw the football well. We put him in some situations where he had to cover those guys by himself and I thought he did a good job.
That performance carried over into Week 2. Seattle may have had a big day against the Cowboys defense, but Claiborne and the rest of the Dallas pass defense had a decent day.
Claiborne was solid in coverage and was really only beat on a few crossing patterns and underneath routes.
Overall, Claiborne is living up to his billing as one of the top defensive players in his draft class.
Tyrone Crawford, DE
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When Dallas selected Tyrone Crawford in the third round it was a pick based on potential.
Crawford has natural athleticism and a gift for finding his way to the quarterback; however, he still needs a lot of work to become a force.
But he impressed the team in training camp, and that play has earned the rookie some snaps in pass-rushing third-down situations. He has had his bright spots, but through two games he is still a work in progress.
Crawford has shown some flashes of his speed and power, but it's only resulted in one tackle in limited action. He's still raw, and while he does have potential, he still has a lot of work to do before he transforms into an impact player.
James Hanna, TE
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Out of all of the Cowboys draft picks, James Hanna could be the most intriguing.
At 6'4", 252 pounds, Hanna is an imposing physical presence at the tight end position. Couple that with his soft hands and 4.46 speed, and Hanna has the potential to be a dangerous threat in the passing game.
In Oklahoma's quick-strike spread attack, Hanna's talents were underutilized, which explains his lack of huge numbers in college. But so far in his time with the Cowboys, Hanna has impressed.
He performed well in the preseason, showing off his athleticism downfield while running precise routes over the middle.
Still, despite his apparent talent, Hanna is stuck behind a experienced pair of veterans, Jason Witten and Jason Phillips, who have limited his playing time thus far. But in the snaps he has seen, Hanna has performed well.
He's caught the ball when given the opportunity—he has one reception for 10 yards this season—and has shown remarkable progress blocking. Expect to see much more of Hanna by season's end, as his blend of size and speed will make him a great tool for the offense.
Kyle Wilber, LB
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Kyle Wilber missed his first game in a Cowboys' uniform while recovering from thumb surgery, and against the Seahawks it was the same story.
Wilber was inactive, again, in Sunday's loss to Seattle. Still, despite the setback, he's almost ready to play, but he admits it will be an adjustment to hit the field with a thumb cast when he comes back, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.
“It’s still kind of different,” Wilber said. “I use my thumb a lot to grip somebody at outside linebacker going against offensive linemen and it’s not like I can do it with the club. It’s hard to control.”
When Wilber comes back, he won't see much time because he sits behind a deep linebacking corps, but with his aggressiveness and speed he will be a huge asset on special teams.
Still, without having played a snap, it's too early to judge Wilber's impact.
Matt Johnson, Safety
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Dallas' fourth-round pick, Matt Johnson, missed all of rookie minicamp with an injury, and then he was out almost all of training camp with a hamstring injury. Now, Johnson has been inactive for the first two contests with the same hamstring issue.
The Cowboys drafted Johnson because of the potential he displayed as a playmaker in the secondary at Eastern Washington, but they have yet to see any of his gifts register for Dallas.
He made the roster because the Cowboys were intrigued with his skills, but if he doesn't hit the field soon he could find himself on injured reserve so Dallas could use his roster spot for someone who can produce right away.