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Scout's Eye: Forecasting The Practice Squad

Posted Aug 30, 2014


IRVING, Texas – There’s a lot to say about each of the players the Cowboys released on Saturday afternoon, as you’ll see below. The process of finalizing the roster and the practice squad won’t be done until the weekend is over, but I wanted to take a look at all of the cuts and try to forecast their chances of remaining with the Cowboys.

Here’s a look at all the Saturday cuts, beginning with the biggest name among them:

  • Ryan Williams, RB: I had a strong feeling that it could have gone either way for Williams on this final spot on the 53. He came into camp and turned a lot heads, gaining a great deal of respect --not only from his teammates, but coaches as well. There is nothing that Williams should be ashamed about with the shot that he gave in order to try and fight his way onto the roster. His ability to physically run the ball but also to catch it out of the backfield will not go unnoticed by teams around the league. If Williams has a weakness it is as a pass blocker and he has yet to have success on special teams. Each day he worked to try and improve on his pass blocking in order to become a more complete back. He was making progress but in the end the front office felt that Joseph Randle was further along in all areas.
  • Terrance Mitchell, CB: A player with a tremendous amount of talent but was just never quite able to put it all together -- both mentally and physically -- like Tyler Patmon was able to. He arrived to the squad late from Oregon but managed to make up a ton of ground. To his credit he took so many snaps because of the injuries to other corners and never backed down. If  he clears waivers, he is one of my ten practice squad players because I want to work with him for another day.
  • Uche Nwaneri, OG: My initial thoughts were that Nwaneri was brought in just to help with the second offensive line in these preseason games, but he showed more promise than that. Did not play well against the Broncos, which most likely led to his release off the squad. Looked more like the player in Jacksonville struggling with power and quickness. Team could have gotten a salary credit on his roster spot but front office decided to go in another direction. Like Dezmon Briscoe, will be on Emergency Boards across the league after his work in this camp.
  • Dartwan Bush, DE: Doesn’t physically look like a defensive end, but just watch his tape and you will come away impressed with his ability. He’s explosive in the way he comes off the ball to work around the blocker. When he gets the corner he can get to the quarterback. Because of his lack of bulk there are times where he gets controlled at the point of attack. Will be on this practice squad if he clears waivers.
  • DJ Adams, RB: Was brought onto the squad when Ben Malena was injured against the Chargers. Limited athletic ability but carried the ball with toughness. Caught the ball well in the passing game but struggled with awareness and feel for blitz pickup and physically getting the job done. Cowboys will go another direction for a practice squad back if they have to.
  • Josh Aladenoye, OT: Never had an issue with how he was able to play on his feet, but there were far too many times where you saw him being driven back into the quarterback. Always felt like he was jumping the count because he was not quick enough to handle a rush. Likely be looking for better to put on the practice squad.
  • Kenneth Boatright, DE: After Martez Wilson was waived at the cut to 75, I was interested to see how Boatright would respond to getting more of an opportunity to work with the first and second defensive units. After the Broncos game, I thought he had done enough to make this final 53 but that wasn’t the case. What hurt his chances, and this was even before that Broncos game, was that he wasn’t nearly consistent enough down-after-down when rushing the passer. There were too many snaps where he was stuck on blocks, but this is something that he can improve on with strength and technique training. I would like to see him get on this practice squad when it is set.
  • Dezmon Briscoe, WR: Showed a willingness to go inside and catch the football. Missed time during training camp when he suffered a concussion during the Blue-White scrimmage. He’s sneaky-quick in the way he runs routes. Knows how to separate and secure the ball. Veteran that can no longer spend time on the practice squad but should be on plenty of Emergency Boards around the league.
  • LaRon Byrd, WR: If the club carried a sixth receiver, he would have been my guy. Knew it was going to be an uphill climb and really did a nice job of coming on in these last two games. Plays with outstanding toughness but limited speed. Did a much better job of running routes and adjusting to the ball in flight than he did in his previous stop in Arizona. Would love to have him on the practice squad if he clears.
  • Stephen Goodin, OG: Not good enough to make this final 53 but will have an opportunity to develop on the practice squad if given the opportunity. Will need to work more on his athletic skills than his strength. There were snaps in these preseason games where I felt like rushers with quickness caused him problems. 
  • Orie Lemon, LB: With the addition of Anthony Hitchens through the draft and Rolando McClain by trade he was never going to have a really good chance to make this team. Had practices in Oxnard where I never noticed that he was even on the field. If he was going to find his way onto the roster it was going to have to be on special teams, but that too never worked out for him. Veteran player that will most likely be injured settled.
  • Zach Minter, DT: Burst onto the scene in the Baltimore game, which allowed him more snaps in the Miami game. He could not carry the momentum forward. Did not play well enough in that opportunity but bounced back well against the Broncos. Was in on several third down stops at the point of attack. The solid play of Davon Coleman and Ken Bishop at defensive tackle put him on the street. 
  • Jamar Newsome, WR: Had moments of brilliance – then, in other practices, he wasn’t even noticeable. Thought he got outplayed by LaRon Byrd when it came to that sixth spot down the stretch. Improved as a route runner and his hands were dependable. Felt like he was given plenty of snaps to prove his worth on offense and even on special teams, but in the end, it just wasn’t enough. No longer is eligible for the practice squad so we will not see him here when those are set.
  • Ronald Patrick, C: Did not play his best against the Broncos when he had the opportunity for some extended work. Thought he handled himself well in the snaps that he received in practice to the point that the offensive coaches showed confidence in putting him in there to work with the second line. It was rare to see him on the ground and totally out of position. Is better one-on-one than if he has to reach or cut off a man going wide. Will battle his rear off to stay in position to attempt to finish his block. Should be on this practice squad and continue to get work. 
  • Caesar Rayford, DT: Coaches talk about flash players and he falls into that category. Appeared to settle in as a defensive tackle after starting his career with the Cowboys as an end. For a player that has his height, he moves with surprising ease and quickness. Can be explosive in the way he plays. When you see him work in drills he can make you say “Wow,” but that does not always translate to the field. Have seen him put pressure on blockers right off the snap then other times washed completely out of the play. Is one of those players that you feel like you have a handle on then the next snap you are wondering what happened to him? Could see him getting claimed for a team needing backup defensive linemen. If he clears, he is one of my ten on practice squad.
  • Dontavis Sapp, LB: Played as well as I believed he would when I studied his tape coming out of Tennessee. Was much better dealing with the run than he was defending the pass. When the ball was right at him, he was just fine because he could make the play. It was when he was in space that he tended to struggle the most. Cowboys will most likely go in another direction when it comes to considering him for the practice squad in my opinion. 
  • Keith Smith, LB: If I am going to develop a practice squad linebacker, Keith Smith is my guy. I didn’t feel like that he was ready to make the 53-man roster, but there are plenty of traits to work with here. This guy has a nose for the ball and the way he moves and runs to the ball is worth keeping around. For a player that looks like a big safety he is a physical player. He is not afraid to deliver a blow and he is a solid wrap up tackler. I am a big fan of this player.
  • Ryan Smith S: If I had a pet cat of the young secondary players, it was Ryan Smith. I liked his ability to play in coverage, but I also had some concerns about his ability to make tackles. He does a nice job of being around the ball, but there were times where he had an opportunity to make a play in space or in the hole that you would see him miss. This was also something that happened to him while he was at Auburn. Loved his smarts and willingness to try and mix it up but with Ahmad Dixon and Jemea Thomas on the roster there is a possibility that he will not be on the practice squad.
  • Will Smith, LB: Was disappointed that he did not play better in the chances he received. His movement and cover ability was not where it needed to be to make this roster. When plays were in front of him he had a much better chance of making them, but anything behind him or over his head was an issue. I can see this staff wanting to see if they can work with him on the practice squad, but I am not sure he would be fluid enough to play in this scheme.
  • Phillip Tanner, RB: I have always had a great deal of respect for how Tanner carried himself on and off the field. He came in and gave it his best shot, which is what scouts want to see. Will get an opportunity to work out for other teams around the league after Week 1, as they look to build their Emergency Boards or if they want to add a veteran player that could help on special teams. Too good of a person to be sitting around without a job.
  • Asa Watson, TE: Was a nice fit as that athletic tight end that teams are looking for. Is one of those guys that can really get up the field and work in space. He is more than a willing blocker but needs to develop more strength in order to handle those inline assignments or out on the edge. Going to try and hope that he makes it to the practice squad to get that work that he needs.
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