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Fri., Dec. 19, 2014 9:30 AM to 10:20 AM CST
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Eatman: Late Moves Show Big Emphasis On Special Teams
IRVING, Texas – This time of year is always a tough time to make judgments on the roster. And it’s not for a lack of news, but only because we should know by now the roster is far from fluid.
We’ve already seen a few changes since Saturday’s 22 roster moves to get down to 53 players.
But if we’ve seen any kind of theme here in the last few days pertaining to the roster, it’s a rare emphasis on improving the special teams units.
For starters, the Cowboys decided to keep both Danny McCray and Eric Frampton as backup safeties, along with Jeff Heath and J.J. Wilcox. Obviously, McCray had to reduce his salary from $1.32 million to about $730,000 or he would’ve likely been released. Still, they didn’t have to keep him and Frampton – two players who have lead the team in special teams tackles over the last three years.
McCray has been the special teams captain the last two years. He showed last year that he struggles as a safety, especially in coverage. But when it comes to covering kickoffs and punts, few have been as good or consistent as McCray in recent history.
Had you told me at the start of training camp the Cowboys would keep six safeties and NONE of them would be Matt Johnson, I would’ve been stunned. Johnson is on IR but he will be out for the season with a foot injury.
The one decision the Cowboys didn’t make regarding the kicking game centered on wide receiver. They chose to keep just five receivers, including Cole Beasley, who might be a better route-runner and slot player than Anthony Armstrong, who played every special teams unit and had more speed than arguably any other player on the squad.
But after the cuts, the Cowboys started making more special-teams related moves. A few hours after trimming the roster to 53, the club put Nate Livings on IR and traded a seventh-round pick to Kansas City for linebacker Edgar Jones, a six-year veteran who thrives on special teams. He is a hybrid linebacker/defensive end as a position, but special teams is his forte.
On Sunday, after the Cowboys sent Sean Lissemore to San Diego for 2015 seventh-round pick, they filled his spot by claiming linebacker Kyle Bosworth from the Giants. Yes, it’s that Bosworth – he’s the nephew of former Seattle Seahawk first-rounder Brian Bosworth. And Kyle is another local product, having starred at Plano West before attending UCLA. He played the last two years for the Jaguars, playing 25 games, including five starts last season.
Again, Bosworth is a special-teams player. That will be his role here with the Cowboys, who lost Alex Albright (back surgery) for the season in training camp as they placed him on a waived/injured list.
They tried to fill Albright’s spot from within. Rookies Brandon Magee, Cam Lawrence and Taylor Reed, along with first-year pro Caleb McSurdy all made it to the final preseason game. But the Cowboys chose to put all of them on waivers on Saturday.
The goal was to bring Magee back to the practice squad, but he was claimed off waivers by the Browns, who now absorb his $70,000 guaranteed money for 2013. Lawrence, an undrafted rookie from Mississippi State, has been added to the Cowboys’ practice squad.
But the Cowboys weren’t confident in any of them being ready to play Sept. 8 against the Giants. That’s why Bosworth has been signed. The same goes for Jones. And ditto for having both McCray and Frampton on the team.
I’m sure new special teams coach Rich Bisaccia is appreciative. After watching five games in the preseason, it was clear the kicking game had its issues. Although sometimes those tend to show up more because the players are being shuffled more than a deck of a cards in Vegas.
Who knows if the special teams miscues will carry over into the regular season. But if they do, it’s not likely they can blame personnel on this one.