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First-round draft pick Dan Williams of Illinois, who at nose tackle plays one of the least glamorous position in the NFL, plugs the middle with increased efficiency to allow others to make plays.

Second-round selection Daryl Washington of TCU has started all season. He and fellow inside linebacker Paris Lenin had a team-high eight tackles against Dallas. Washington had a tackle for loss, quarterback hit and forced fumble.

Fourth-round selection O’Brien Schofield from Illinois had significant action with starting outside linebacker Joey Porter out with a triceps injury. Schofield got his first NFL sack, bringing down Stephen McGee to force a punt after Dallas had driven to midfield early in the fourth quarter.

That Schofield is playing at all is remarkable. He injured a knee practicing for the Senior Bowl, missing all summer workouts and training camp. He returned much earlier than expected to play on Oct. 31.

The youngsters’ showing creates a bit of optimism in a miserable 5-10 season.

“In a game like this,” Whisenhunt said, “that’s really exciting to see those guys get this experience and play well.”