As is often the case in the realm of professional sports, one person's opportunity of a lifetime often coincides with the end of another person's dream.
The Dallas Cowboys today promoted rookie UDFA safety Jakar Hamilton from the practice squad, and is expected to make him active for the first game of his professional life on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Of course, to add Hamilton to the 53-man roster, a player had to be officially released. That man was 2011 fourth-round pick, guard David Arkin.
Hamilton's opportunity comes with Dallas having depth issues at the safety spot. The club will be without starting free safety, third-round rookie JJ Wilcox, who will miss the contest with a knee sprain. SS Barry Church will be paired with another undrafted rookie free agent, Jeff Heath, who got the most defensive snaps of his season last week against Philadelphia.
Most reports of Heath were that he fared pretty well and didn't look overwhelmed by the situation. The game on Sunday will be a homecoming of sorts for the rookie, as he purchased 80 tickets for family and friends, even before Wilcox hurt his knee in Tuesday's practice that thrust him into the starting lineup.
Now Hamilton will be a primary backup, along with Danny McCray, who's been relegated to special teams duty for the season. McCray logged just two defensive snaps on the year after disastrous results last season amidst mounting injuries at the position.
Jakar is an interesting prospect who has been on the radar of BTBers since the spring. He was a Dallas Day invite, a designation that holds increasing weight with the evaluation process of Cowboys brass over the last couple seasons. He even warranted a fifth-round grade on their infamously leaked 2013 draft board.
Hamilton came out of tiny South Carolina State University, but has major college program pedigree. Hamilton was ahead of fellow 2012 draft class members Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams and Sanders Commings at the University of Georgia before missing time with an injury and a terminal illness in his family. He decided that his best path would be a transfer.
That path led him to a training camp invite from the Cowboys, where he starred from deep on the depth chart early and often, as recognized in this camp report from DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus.
This morning I liked what I saw from J.J. Wilcox at safety but in the afternoon he took a seat to Jakar Hamilton who didn't start off his morning all that great but was able to rally with some nice plays.
In the one-on-one drills against the running backs and tight ends, Hamilton in coverage against Gavin Escobar was carrying him up the field and as the ball arrived was able to rip the ball from his hands for an interception as Escobar was trying to bring it to his body.
Then later in the team period, Hamilton playing as a single high safety from the middle of the field was able to shoot to the sideline to play a route that Jared Green had beaten Dustin Harris badly on up the field. Hamilton was in great shape to defend the ball on the play. It was a nice day from the two young safeties.
And now that journey has led Hamilton to the Cowboys 53-man roster, and a chance to prove he belongs with the big boys. That is something that David Arkin was never able to do.
In 2011, no draft pick was questioned more than Arkin's out of Missouri State. Most likely based on inside information from the team, Arkin snuck into Rick Gosselin's Top 100 ranking right before the draft, at No. 100. Dallas would draft him with the 110th pick in the draft that year.
Fourth-round picks have very little chance of panning out, in general. Earlier this year, OCC put the research in that found that only 22% of fourth round selections between 2010 and 2012 had become primary starters. The problem with Arkin's tenure isn't that he didn't pan out to be a Pro Bowl player or even a starter, it's that he couldn't even play a snap for the team.
Sunday would have been the 40th regular season game for the Cowboys since Arkin was drafted, and despite carrying anywhere from 7-10 offensive linemen on a given week, Arkin's number had only been activated once, and never called. Over that stretch, Dallas has signed and played the following: Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Derrick Dockery, Kevin Kowalski, Ron Leary, Brian Waters. As Arkin also spent time trying to find a spot at center, one could also include Ryan Cook in the conversation.
When I instant message'd OCC to inform him of the transaction of bringing his pet cat aboard at the cost of Arkin's slot, his reaction?
Arkin was a draft pick associated with former line coach Hudson Houck, who was removed from that position for Bill Callahan following Arkin's rookie year. As I discussed in June 2012, word was that Callahan was not at all impressed by Arkin when he was evaluating tape of the prospect. Initial reports were that Arkin's strength was nowhere near what would be necessary to play on a professional level. Head coach Jason Garrett hinted that the team knew his rookie year was not going to see him on the field anytime soon.
"We had our eyes wide open as to what his developmental process would be, the expectations for a guy like that coming from a smaller school is not to jump in there and play immediately,"
"There are a lot of things we liked about him intangibly. He's a tough guy, he loves to play football. Physically, we feel like he has the traits as well, but it's going to be a process." - DMN
The Cowboys brass must really have their eyes open now, as Arkin is no longer with the team. It appears that his era with the club is over, although he does maintain practice-squad eligibility should no other franchise put a waiver claim in on him. That will be sorted out next week. For now, the move leaves Dallas with 9 offensive linemen on their roster.
Hamilton, on the other hand, must feel like his career is bubbling over with opportunity. He might be a short-timer, for now, on the roster. However he also will now have the chance to prove he belongs in the pros.