Scout's Eye: Assessing The UDFA Linebackers


FRISCO, Texas – All through the pre-draft process, it feels like there are players you could be doing more work on.

The Cowboys' activity in undrafted free agency proves exactly why. On Saturday night, they signed seven different free agents with draftable grades on their board – which should provide even more competition on the roster when this group reports to training camp.

To familiarize myself – and you – with the newcomers, I'll be brushing up on my tape and writing reports on these guys over the next few days.

My reports continue today with a pair of linebackers.

Name: Luke Gifford

Position: LB

College: Nebraska

Height/Weight: 6'3/243

Scouting Report:

  • The first thing you see is the effort. Gifford fights hard to avoid blocks but there are snaps where he gets hooked up and can't disengage.
  • Plays with awareness to find the ball. Hard to fool him on the edge.
  • The Cornhuskers used him as a blitzer. He tries to use pass rush moves to free himself.
  • Watching him in coverage, his pass drops are simple. He just drops into a zone, then reacts to the ball.
  • He will close down from the backside. Plays with a burst.
  • One thing I'll say for him: he is a physical tackler. He caused a fumble in the Ohio State game with a big tackle.
  • He is at his best when he can run from the backside.
  • Judging from the tape, he seems to have good play strength. He was able to hang in there and go blow-for-blow against the two Iowa tight ends, who were both first-round picks.

Name: Justin Phillips

Position: LBCollege: Oklahoma State

Height/Weight: 5'11/224

Scouting Report:

  • Another confident tackler. Phillips always wraps up, and he does a nice job of chasing the ball.
  • Can work down the line of scrimmage and make the play.
  • Despite his smaller stature, he plays with some range. He has a real nose for the ball.
  • Will work himself into position to make the stop.
  • Plays with a burst. Can close some ground when he's on the move.
  • This is a physical player along the goal line. He's not afraid to step up and make the tackle.
  • Shows some pop as a blitzer. Can affect the pocket when he rushes.
  • If he does have an issue, there are snaps where he needs to play better with his hands. It's not uncommon to see him get hung up on blocks.
  • He needs to be more careful not to guess on the play. You will see him take the wrong side on occasion.
  • There are snaps where he's too aggressive and he gets washed out of the play.
  • His instincts aren't ideal, as you can see he needs to find the ball quicker in coverage. But I respect the way he plays the game -- tough.

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