Did you know that if you mention the term "Pet Cat" to fans of other teams you'll probably draw nothing more than a blank stare? Yet among Cowboys fans, almost everybody knows what a pet cat is. Why is that?
"Pet Cat" is a Parcells-ism, a term Bill Parcells popularized among Cowboys fans during his tenure as head coach in Dallas. The term initially referred to a prospect a coach, scout or owner had taken a particular liking to, often based on little more than a whim, and whom they would then try to draft, regardless of what the scouting consensus was.
Among Cowboys fans, pet cat has since come to refer to a player who is a bubble player (even making the practice squad is often considered pet cat success) and is commonly selected from the very bottom of the roster where you'll find late-round draft picks, undrafted free agents or even street free agents. The pet cat is often - and preferably - chosen without the slightest factual or quantifiable basis. In fact, some would argue that you do not choose your pet cat, your pet cat chooses you.
Some might consider a fourth-round pick like Ryan Switzer pet cat-eligible, but selecting fourth-rounder or higher is considered a Patriots move in the land of honorable pet cat selectors.
Every year after rookie minicamp, we ask our members to commit to their pet cats for the season. And we kick it off by having the front page writers select their pet cats. Here's who nine of us picked:
Danny Phantom: Jahad Thomas, RB, Temple
When you have Ezekiel Elliott as your workhorse running back, you want the ball in his hands as much as possible. That doesn't leave a lot of opportunities for other running backs, especially an undrafted free agent. But Thomas' skill set fits real well with what the Cowboys need. With no Lance Dunbar around, the team could use another receiving back to fill this role. Thomas is an excellent receiver, catching 33 passes for 418 yards with six touchdowns in 2016. And while he doesn't have that elite speed, his footwork is outstanding and makes him look faster than he really is. He's got excellent vision, and when you take into account the blocking he'll have in Dallas, he makes for an elusive runner. With another rookie, Ryan Switzer stealing half of Lucky Whitehead's return responsibilities, it would be easy to just plug Thomas in for the kick return part. He's played special teams all four years in college so he has that appeal as well.
Last year I selected Anthony Brown as my pet cat and besides his raw ability, I touched on his high character to max out his potential, as he had a degree in Organized Leadership and Supervision. For Thomas, it's his iron fortitude that impresses me. He was voted by his teammates to wear a single-digit number which is a sign of toughness inside the Temple program. And that's something Mr. Dunbar didn't have.
Cole Patterson: Jahad Thomas, RB, Temple
Ezekiel Elliott is the best running back in the NFL, but even he needs a break or two during a game. Jahad Thomas has the potential to become a reliable reserve back that can help in both the run game and with Dak through the air. Like Dan alluded to, Thomas has the ability to hurt defenses by lining up in the slot and catching underneath passes out of the back field. Thomas also returned kicks for over 1,000 yards and a score during his Temple career, which can only him make the roster.
VAfan: Jordan Carrell, DT, Colorado
The Cowboys' last pick in the seventh round, Carrell is a long shot to make the team, but there is something about him that I like. In my post on the defensive line, I put together a little table comparing Jay Ratliff, a 7th rounder when he was selected, Joey Ivie, and Jordan Carrell. Carrell wasn't up to Ratliff's numbers, but he was better than Ivie at the 3 cone, 20-yard shuttle, broad jump, vertical jump, and 40-yard dash, suggesting he may have a little quickness to him. At Colorado as a senior, he had 51 tackles (the most on their D-line) and 5.5 sacks, which is nice from the interior. Plus, he appears to have a great upbeat attitude. He's easy to root for.
Dawn Macelli: Jordan Carrell, DT, Colorado
I have been waiting for OCC's annual pet cat post ever since I did my interview piece with Colorado blog Ralphie Report that gave us a chance to know what the big defensive tackle was all about. Jordan might not be ready for prime time yet, but he is the player who will spare no effort in getting to that point. The effort that he put into transitioning from the JUCO level to major college football gives us a look at the type of effort he will put in for the Cowboys. He is dedicated to improving himself both physically and mentally. Carrell is one of those guys one needs in the locker room. He may not have the pedigree or even talent of some other players but he more than makes up for that with his work ethic.
Dave Halprin: Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State
A big-bodied receiver with great potential, you also got to love the way the kid will throw a block. The Cowboys like their receivers big and they like them to block in the running game, and Brown might make his name initially as a physical player willing to mix it up. Don't sleep on his skills though, he's shown he can be a big-play guy, he just needs to be consistent. The rook has a high ceiling, if he can manage to hang on in his first year, he could blossom into a true contributor.
Michael Sisemore: Xavier Woods, SS, LA Tech
Woods to the Cowboys made too much sense and it happened two rounds later than they graded him. Woods will need to refine his tackling skills and has to show he belongs in the NFL. However, this cat had 14 interceptions in three seasons. If there is a play to be made, he's usually a catalyst. Woods has coverage abilities, he made a ton of tackles, a ton of plays, and he's a leader. Jeff Heath may be getting his opportunity to shine but Woods is the future. Time waits for no man and Woods doesn't either. There are a few rookies that could unseat some veterans during the course of this season. Xavier Woods should recognize this opportunity and take advantage of open competition. Seize your moment, Mr. Kitty.
One Cool Customer: Joe Jones, LB, Northwestern
I've been banging the SPARQ drum so hard the last three years, I simply have to go with the sparqiest guy the Cowboys picked up as a UDFA this year. Jones has a SPARQ in the 77th percentile, the highest value of any UDFA the Cowboys brought in, and the second highest of this entire rookie class (behind only Chidobe Awuzie, 98th percentile), so he is my natural choice.
Simply making the practice squad would already be a success for Jones, though there's a chance he could move up to te 53-man roster first as a special teams ace, and then maybe as a contributor on defense at some point. His pass coverage skills saw him lining up in the slot frequently in Northwestern’s pass defense last year, and his athleticism (he ran a 4.49 at his pro day, which would have made him the second fastest LB at the Combine behind Jabrill Peppers) give him the type of versatility the Cowboys like.
Tom Ryle: Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan
It's time for the Cowboys to correct the missed opportunity they had last season. I'm referring, of course, to how they tried to find the backup quarterback of the future, but overshot the mark and got their starter in Dak Prescott. Now, UDFA Cooper Rush has a chance to do the nearly impossible: Get Scott Linehan to move on from Kellen Moore as the QB2.
Moore is regularly praised by the staff and Prescott for being like an extra coach or offensive coordinator on the sideline. That's all great, but the idea of the backup quarterback is for them to play competently on the field. Moore has had limited opportunities, and really hasn't displayed any particularly convincing ability. And there is no getting around the fact he is listed (perhaps generously) as being 6-0 and 200 lbs, which is just kinda small for a quarterback, especially if they are not exceptionally mobile. Rush has a much more typical size for an NFL passer at 6-3 and 228 lbs. Otherwise, he is described almost exactly like Moore, right down to the suspect arm strength. For a team that probably needs to upgrade at QB2, Rush offers a better version of what they have already. He may be fated for the practice squad, at least his rookie year, but that would be a win for now and allow him to come back and fight for the job next season.
Joseph.Hatz: Lewis Neal, DL LSU
Led LSU in sacks with eight in 2015 when playing as a 4-3 defensive end, although he struggled adjusting to the 3-4 the Tigers switched to during his senior season. He was still able to finish fourth on the team in sacks though, despite playing out of position. He's a tweener, not really athletic enough to play full-time on the edge and not big enough to play full-time inside but he fits the profile of an overlooked, undersized, low center of gravity, slower DE type that Marinelli can pack a few lbs on and attempt to convert to a 3-technique who can also play some on the edge on occasion. He shouldn't make the roster this year given the depth on the line but I think he's a strong candidate for the practice squad who could make the roster in Year two given his work ethic and passion for the game.
Now that you've seen which players the BTB writers have picked as their pet cats, check out the up-to-the-minute Cowboys roster below and tell us:
Who is your pet cat to make the roster this year?
|Opening Day Roster 2016||2016 Practice squad|
|1||Bailey, Dan||PK||46||DeBord, Clay||OT|
|2||Beasley, Cole||WR||47||Edwards, Kadeem||OG|
|3||Brown, Anthony||CB||48||Gathers, Rico||TE|
|4||Bryant, Dez||WR||49||Jones, Andy||WR|
|5||Butler, Brice||WR||50||Seamster, Sammy||CB|
|6||Collins, La'el||OG||51||Showers, Jameill||S|
|7||Collins, Maliek||DT||52||Smith, Rod||RB|
|8||Crawford, Tyrone||DE||2017 Free Agent acquisitions|
|9||Elliott, Ezekiel||RB||53||Bell, Byron||OT|
|10||Frazier, Kavon||S||54||Blanton, Robert||S|
|11||Frederick, Travis||OC||55||Carroll, Nolan||CB|
|12||Green, Chaz||OG||56||Irwin-Hill, Sam||P|
|13||Heath, Jeff||S||57||Moore, Damontre||DE|
|14||Hitchens, Anthony||LB||58||Paea, Stephen||DT|
|15||Irving, David||DT||2017 Reserve/Future signings|
|16||Jones, Byron||S||59||Hamlett, Connor||TE|
|17||Jones, Chris||P||60||Jones, Lenny||DE|
|18||Ladouceur, LP||LS||61||Lotulelei, John||LB|
|19||Lee, Sean||LB||62||McKinnon, Jeremiah||CB|
|20||Looney, Joe||OG||63||Nwachukwu, Uzoma||WR|
|21||Martin, Zack||OG||64||Thomas, Duke||CB|
|22||Mayowa, Benson||DE||65||Wood, Zach||DE|
|23||Morris, Alfred||RB||2017 Draft picks|
|24||Nzeocha, Mark||LB||66||Awuzie, Chidobe||CB|
|25||Prescott, Dak||QB||67||Brown, Noah||WR|
|26||Scandrick, Orlando||CB||68||Carrell, Jordan||DT|
|27||Smith, Keith||FB||69||Charlton, Taco||DE|
|28||Smith, Tyron||OT||70||Ivie, Joey||DT|
|29||Swaim, Geoff||TE||71||Lewis, Jourdan||CB|
|30||Tapper, Charles||DE||72||Switzer, Ryan||WR|
|31||Thornton, Cedric||DT||73||White, Marquez||CB|
|32||Whitehead, Lucky||WR||74||Woods, Xavier||S|
|33||Wilber, Kyle||LB||2017 Undrafted Free Agents|
|34||Williams, Terrance||WR||75||Baron, Woody||DT|
|35||Wilson, Damien||LB||76||Blake Jarwin||TE|
|36||Witten, Jason||TE||77||Brown, Brian||WR|
|2016 IR/PUP/NFI||78||Gilchrist, Kennan||LB|
|37||Hanna, James||TE||79||Jones, Joe||LB|
|38||Lawrence, Demarcus||DE||80||Neal, Lewis||DE|
|39||McFadden, Darren||RB||81||Rush, Cooper||QB|
|40||Moore, Kellen||QB||82||Skipper, Dan||OT|
|41||Smith, Jaylon||LB||83||Theaker, Nate||OG|
|2016 In-season signings||84||Thomas, Jahad||RB|
|42||Ash, Richard||DT||85||Wacha, Lucas||LB|
|43||Cleary, Emmett||OT||2017 Post-draft free agent signing|
|44||Cooper, Jonathan||OG||86||Burbank, Ross||OL|
|45||McFadden, Leon||CB||87||Carter, Ruben||OL|