Hidden gems don’t often appear in the first round. These players are expected to perform at a high standard. However, the Dallas Cowboys have such a player.
Let’s take a look at this player and another hidden gem from the Cowboys roster for 2022 NFL Season.
Cowboys Hidden Gems On 2022 Roster
Malik Hooker, a former first-rounder, has been one of the Cowboys’ most underrated players. His injury-ridden introduction to the NFL as well as his role in Dallas’ defense make him one of the Cowboys’ greatest hidden treasures.
Hooker was the second safety selected in the 2017 draft. The former Buckeye signed with the Cowboys on July 2021 to get his career back on track after two knee surgeries. While Hooker was mostly healthy during the 2021 season Dallas reduced his snap count significantly. Hooker played only 44% of Dallas’ defensive snaps in the last season. However, that was enough to show he still had a spot on the roster.
Hooker’s 2021 season was his best from a pass coverage perspective. Hooker was targeted by opposing quarterbacks who completed only 57.1% of their passes for an 80.8 passer rating. This is a career low for the veteran safety. Hooker was able to catch one interception last season. This could be partly due to Hooker’s versatility and Dallas’ propensity for moving him around the field. Hooker was a key member of the Cowboys’ linebacking corps in 2021. The Cowboys lost their linebacking corps quickly after last season. Hooker’s time spent protecting the run and finding ball-carriers in flats helped to keep one of their defensive weaknesses in check.
The Dallas front office noticed Hooker’s performance last season in limited snaps. Hooker was brought back by the Cowboys for $8 million in the offseason. But, the Dallas brass were not the only ones who were impressed with Hooker in 2021. Conor Orr from Sports Illustrated called Hooker Dallas’ most underrated player, citing Hooker’s versatility as run defender and why.
“The Cowboys gave up almost half an extra yard on carries in which Hooker wasn’t on the field,” Orr wrote. “He was, essentially, an additional, rangy linebacker in certain formations but also had the ability to swoop down and drop the hammer from the free safety spot whenever he was up top.”
Hooker, Dallas’s most underrated player is not the Cowboys only hidden gem.
The far right side of Dallas’ offensive lines is where you will find another hidden gem. The Cowboys’ front desk gave Terence Steele enough respect that they let La’el Collins, a former starting right tackle, go earlier in the offseason.
Collins was to lose the starting right tackle job at the beginning of 2021. Collins was suspended for five games beginning in Week 2. Last season, Collins was cited for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Enter Steele. This is a player Cowboys fans didn’t have much faith in before the 2021 season. Steele played in 14 games in 2020, and allowed nine sacks. Steele, despite a poor rookie season, was the next man up in Dallas after Collins’s retirement.
Steele made the most out of his second opportunity as a Cowboys offensive line starter. He allowed just two sacks last season in 13 starts. Steele’s performance at right tackle was so impressive that Dallas made Collins the guard after his suspension expired. Steele took 2021 as a necessary step in his career. Steele is the projected right tackle starter this year, a position he has never held. The Cowboys may be in for another performance boost from Steele in 2022, if the progression of the former undrafted-free agent from his rookie season to his sophomore campaign is anything to go by.