Sunday Night Football is coming to Arlington, Texas, as the Dallas Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the 2022 season. Each team has several familiar faces that were on the field when these two teams met in Week 1 to kick off the previous campaign, but there are some newcomers as well.
For Dallas, most of their additions were through the draft since they once again declined to go after too many free agents. Throw in the fact that a couple of starters such as Tyron Smith and Michael Gallup are injured and some of those rookies will be asked to step up immediately.
Jalen Tolbert and Tyler Smith will be asked to do the most since they’re starting at their respective positions. However, I believe Tolbert is poised to make a larger impact, whereas Smith has been set back slightly by this coaching staff since they played him at guard throughout the offseason before kicking him back to tackle when Tyron Smith was hurt.
Jalen Tolbert is set up for success for the Cowboys in Week 1
During the preseason, Dallas gave Tolbert plenty of reps as a starting wideout. Not everything worked out for them as the offensive line (which was full of reserves) struggled to give Cooper Rush, Will Grier, and Ben DiNucci enough time to throw the ball.
When they did have time, Tolbert was able to make a few plays. But even the times when the play didn’t work gave him some meaningful experience.
Now in Week 1, he faces a defense that was 21st in yardage surrendered last year. They also gave up more than 400 yards to Dallas last season in the opener.
On top of being susceptible to giving up chunks of yardage, Tampa Bay is likely to shift their safeties toward CeeDee Lamb, giving Tolbert plenty of opportunities in one-on-one coverage.
Tolbert also has a track record of showing up in the big games. While he played at South Alabama, he made life hard on SEC cornerbacks according to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. The best example of this was when Tolbert had 143 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions against Tennessee last November.
It’s not likely he repeats that performance, but he’s still set up for success in his NFL debut. Now he needs to just take advantage of the opportunity.