The Dallas Cowboys have finalized their practice squad for the 2017 season and it’s sort of has an All-Preseason team vibe to it.
This is the Cowboys' 10-player practice squad: pic.twitter.com/6B0bEKWURP— Brandon George (@DMN_George) September 3, 2017
After taking a hard look at those ten names, some of these guys were very solid players in their four preseason performances. Here are a few observations of the finalized practice squad:
Cowboys coaches didn’t get burned
It’s always hard to cut guys that you would like to keep but just aren’t ready for the big show just yet. Coaches always get nervous with some of those business decisions because then you leave a guy out there that’s someone else may like. It’s like the old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
We’ve seen in the past where the Cowboys try and sneak a guy to the practice squad like Alex Tanney or Matt Moore. By the time they blink, those guys are snagged by another team. We’ve also seen the Cowboys’ have success in keeping guys that we never thought would make it to the practice squad return to the Cowboys.
Our own O.C.C. penned a column about this very thing yesterday. Sometimes we over-evaluate our own guys, like we did with Ben Gardner in 2015, 79% of us knew he would be picked up:
Ben Gardner of course would not end up getting picked up by any team until he was signed to the Chargers practice squad in November.
Today, the Dallas Cowboys were on the right side of that coin when they got quite a few of their own guys back. Now, onto the players they kept.
Lewis “The Real Deal” Neal
If you asked fellow LSU-alumni Bryan Broaddus and David Helman, they were quite sure that Neal would be kept as the fourth defensive tackle. When he was a goner in the cut to 53, they assumed he was going to be one of the most coveted former Cowboys, 28% of BTB agreed too.
It was a huge win for them to being Neal to their practice squad. He’s extremely versatile and can give you push from the middle at both spots. He’s even light enough to be split outside at end too. He’s a bit on the small side but built really well in his lower half where he shows to carry that power. Where Neal wins is with great hand placement and ability to play with leverage. Neal is often first to pop the blocker and disengage to make the tackle on the ball carrier.
In the preseason, he got two starts, he far outplayed the two seventh round picks that had the initial leg up. He recorded three tackles for a loss and was credited with a sack. Despite his “tweener-size”, Lewis Neal gets noticed a lot this preseason, he was very disruptive.
Seizing the Guards
It’s pretty noticeable that the Cowboys are always committed to their offensive line and that includes the practice squad. Kadeem Edwards, Dan Skipper, and Nate Theaker will all get a chance to compete for a future spot on this vaunted offensive line. Jonathan Cooper is the incumbent starter but unless he proves he can handle the job, the Cowboys will be looking for competition next summer.
Edwards was a former fifth-round pick from the Buccaneers in 2014. He had the best camp and preseason of the three. He’s got outstanding size and he’s a very motivated player. You can see that Edwards has improved his technique which was one of his biggest detractors. Edwards has some nastiness in him and prides himself on finishing his opponent.
Theaker is a tough competitor that has played multiple positions. He dominated his Divison II competition at tackle and guard. In the NFL, he will have to develop at guard but he’s got the intelligence and teachable traits to become an eventual NFL starting guard. The Cowboys like him because he’s durable (42 of 43 games played), he is an angry blocker who was lauded by teammates, and was a team captain.
Skipper had the most trouble but he does have the upside of pedigree working for him. He’s so tall at 6’10 that folks marvel at his size but he’s was a really solid as a run blocker. Like the other two guards, he’s an intelligent player that knows what he can do. His size works against him sometimes because it hurts his ability to play with leverage and showcase power.
The Pass Catchers
The receivers at the bottom of the roster really played well and they have those traits that you like to develop.
Lance Lenoir had two touchdowns that helped Cooper Rush put wins on the board. As a punt returner, he wasn’t very exciting and fumbled twice, losing one of them. However, Lenoir did catch six passes for 100 receiving yards and averaged almost 17 yards per catch. He had some Terrance Williams-style sideline catches but his biggest play was that 44-yard touchdown to put the Raiders to bed.
Brian Brown, the former Richmond star, was also a very reliable target. He didn’t have the touchdowns that Lenoir had but he was a vertical threat. On his seven receptions, he averaged over nine yards a catch. He got himself open and was reliable.
Blake Jarwin is the exact type of player you try and develop at tight end. He’s athletic and tough but he’s a bit light in the shorts. He’ll need work in blocking assignments but he knows how to work the intermediate area of the passing game. He’s got high upside as a pass-catching tight end.
Last but not least the others
The Cowboys had to be thrilled to get Marquez White back, who had some solid plays in the preseason but got dinged up a bit. White was beaten by Duke Thomas before he got hurt but getting a long corner to keep developing is a major plus. White has upside and experience playing against big competition back at FSU.
Richard Ash has been around for the Cowboys and they would like to keep developing him. He didn’t standout quite as much as Lewis Neal but he was a better option than Jordan Carrell or Joey Ivie.
There’s value in keeping guys like Jameill Showers around. You have to give him some credit for making plays as a first-year converted safety. He also has played roles for them during season prep that has made him a valuable practice player.
All in all, the Cowboys’ practice squad looks to be a pretty good group of developmental talent, what say you?