The roster churns. The Cowboys had to release Ahmad Dixon to make room for C.J. Spillman. Dixon was drafted in the seventh round and had excited the fanbase with his hard-hitting preseason play. The kid is a fearless hitter, but needs refinement in other aspects of the game, like pass coverage. It's likely the Cowboys will sign him to the practice squad and coach him up.
Spillman's big contribution should be on special teams. He's experienced, and he knows the 49ers. Here is how Niners Nation described Spillman in May of this year.
C.J. Spillman was once released for poor special teams play. That's something I have to say every time I talk about Spillman because he's just been so incredible at what he does. Spillman never seemed like someone who was overly fast or athletic, but he's consistently the first one to the ball on kick coverage, and he might be the surest tackler of all of the 49ers defensive backs.
Spillman is a special teams ace, which obviously doesn't lend a lot of confidence to his spot on the roster on this team. The 49ers have a tendency to let special teams players go at the drop of a hat, but they've invested in Spillman a bit so I don't see it happening here specifically. Spillman hasn't slowed down, from what I can tell, so taking a look at his 2013 season really just amounts to "yep, he's still good at that thing he does."
As far as actually playing on defense is concerned, Spillman does have his uses. He's brought in whenever the 49ers need to make a sure tackle, like at the goal line or in a third-and-long situation. It's unclear if he'll still be used in that capacity going forward with the changes at safety, but it's worth noting that he knows the defense better than Antoine Bethea at this point. And, like his special teams play, I saw nothing to be worried about last season.
Sounds like a quality bottom-of-the-roster pickup. Some of the 49ers beat writers suggest the team questioned his motivation, but they note that definitely won't be an issue in Week 1 of the season.
#49ers always questioned Spillman's motivation. I'm guessing that won't be an issue for him at least in Week 1.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 31, 2014
Dallas also signed a fullback to the practice squad. His name is Nikita Whitlock, and here is his unusual story via Cincy Jungle.
The Bengals chose not to keep a true fullback on the roster this year, and that meant there was no place for Nikita Whitlock. The former Wake Forest defensive tackle was converted to fullback this offseason during the pre-draft process, and he made the transition very nicely. In terms of just blocking, he was the best fullback on the roster during training camp and through the preseason, but his inability to do anything else led to him being waived.
Whitlock, a college free agent signed after the 2014 NFL draft, played 44 snaps in four preseason games. According to the grading system used by Pro Football Focus, Whitlock scored a +1.4 in run blocking and a +1.6 overall. Obviously, as a first-year rookie, Whitlock will have eligibility on the team's practice squad.
The Cowboys still need to make a move to get linebacker Korey Toomer on the roster.