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Offseason | 2024

Spagnola: The proof is in the dirt with this guy


FRISCO, Texas – Great the Dallas Cowboys found a big candidate (6-8, 322) in the first round of the NFL Draft they're hoping capable of moving from right to left tackle (Tyler Guyton) to replace the departed Tyron Smith.

Great they found a run-conscious defensive end in the second round (Marshawn Kneeland), and goodness knows this Cowboys defense needs to become more run conscious after too many times over the past couple of years being steamrolled by teams exploiting this deficiency.

And liked the second of two third-round picks (Marist Liufau), a linebacker. As we all know, lack of depth at linebacker last year derailed this team in some of the season's biggest games, including the first-round playoff loss to Green Bay when the Packers took advantage by running the ball against an undersized safety masquerading as a linebacker.

Plus, adding to the depth at cornerback and wide receiver, along with a fireplug type candidate at defensive tackle, bodes well for a must-needed successful draft for these guys.

But me, my favorite draft choice is Cooper Beebe with the ninth pick in the third round, technically the third guard off the board in the entire draft now being moved to center, the Cowboys using the draft choice acquired from Detroit for moving from the 24th selection in round one down five spots to 29.

Didn't know much about Beebe heading into the draft. Can't say ever consciously realized the 6-3, 322-pound lineman was playing for Kansas State when watching every snap in the Wildcats' 30-27 loss to Missouri when Tigers' kicker Harrison Mevis nailed a walk-off 61-yard field goal to finally counter a K-State team rushing for 152 yards.

But here is what turned me on to Beebe, a consensus All-America, the 2022 and 2023 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and one of nine FBS finalists for the 2023 William V. Campbell Trophy (known as the Academic Heisman) who was also named a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete:

A mere interview or two speaking volumes of his play style, personality and commitment to football. Here we go.

"My mindset is kind of dirt dudes," Beebe began. "I just try to go out there and put people in the dirt, and that's what I like to play with. I try to make dudes quit."
Then there was this:

"I would say I'm a pretty nasty guy. I'm a dude that tries to 'dirt' people anytime I can, but I'm also a dude that focuses on technique. I have that kind of mindset that I want to dirt dudes anytime I can. So it's kind of that nasty playstyle."

That's what I'm talkin' about. Music to my ears, right Big Newt?

Now, in case you're wondering, but probably not now, "dirting dudes" means knocking defenders off their feet. Put them down in the dirt, or in most cases nowadays make those rubber-filled turf pellets fly.

OK great, but talk can be cheap. So went on a mission to find examples of "dirt dudes" taking place. Oh my, there were many. Don't take my word. Google Beebe yourself. There's plenty.

One my favorites out there on the great wide web is the time Beebe, playing left guard, pulls to his right to take on a defender wearing No. 97. Engages head on and knocks the "dude" off his feet. But just about then, here comes No. 6, likely a safety, stepping over his fallen comrade only to meet head on with Beebe. Just imagine a nasty 322 now engaging with a spry 185 or so. I mean KABOOM, down in the dirt you go, too.

Think this one example might have been included in an answer when Beebe was asked after the Cowboys selected this "Dancing Bear" who allowed just five sacks in 1,488 pass-blocking snaps going back to his red-shirt freshman year of 2020 when he allowed four of those five, thus just one sack in his final 42 games at K-State:

"I think my best one is when I 'dirted' the kid from Houston," the tough guy turning 23 in two weeks says. "When I pulled out on the edge and I made his feet go above his head. I think it's probably the best 'dirt' story."

Let's not stop there.

"I have one against Kansas," he says, "where I put the linebacker into the ground and got up to the safety. Those are kind of two 'dirt' moments that come to mind."

Come to mind, maybe, but on video there are several. Far too many times, unsuspecting defenders are seen falling on their backsides, being what we normally call "de-cleated" with both feet up in the air off the ground.

Then there is this one pass blocking in a game against Oklahoma, mirroring the defender's every move, and as if growing disgusted with this little dance, enough being enough, Beebe simply buries the guy to the ground. Even in that snow covered game against Iowa State, there he is, planting a defender getting in his way on a run to the left.

Now again, get it. This is college. These are not the grown men Beebe will face in the NFL.

But hey, he did the same facing some grown men at Texas in 2022, Beebe regularly stoning the likes of Longhorn defensive linemen Byron Murphy, the 16th pick in this 2024 draft, along with T'Vondre Sweat, the 38th overall pick. Can guarantee you the Cowboys' third-round pick last year, former Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, is going like, "Oh no, not that guy again," after getting pushed around blitzing in that game against the Wildcats, knowing he'll have to practice some against Beebe this year.

Sure, Beebe will have to make the transition from guard to center. But truth be known, while at K-State am told in the Cats' effort to produce more versatile offensive linemen, Beebe actually got some after-practice snaps playing center. Then there is not only the blocking part when transitioning to center, but he'll also have his hands full mentally trying to recognize defenses, call out blocking assignments and, oh yeah, snapping the ball when bracing to block some 300-pound defensive tackle head-up on him. Remember, though, First Team Academic All-Big 12.

Of course, the Cowboys are high on their first of two third-round picks, one that must hit to qualify potentially passing on three other players they had their eyes on when trading down in the first round to then grab Guyton and pick up that most valuable extra third-round draft choice.

"I think we got the most out of that 24th pick in the first round by getting two offensive linemen," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "We weren't even trying to be coy of our interest in offensive linemen."

As for head coach Mike McCarthy, he'd only allow "(Beebe) will definitely be part of the center competition," meaning second-year previous backup center Brock Hoffman isn't the type to concede even an inch come training camp, McCarthy describing him as a guy who brings his lunch pail to work every day.

All good stuff, but how about this on Beebe's potential from someone outside this inner circle. Got a text after the draft from Dave Campo, the Cowboys' former head coach and defensive coordinator now retired and working for a Jacksonville radio station as an analyst, and goes like this:

"Cooper Beebe is the best pick the Cowboys made! He is a beast."

Followed by: "I wanted him here at Jax big time … he's a big nasty which is what the Jax don't have."

Can't wait to set eyes on him during training camp, er, maybe should say preseason games since "dirting dudes" during camp might be frowned upon. Sounds as if Beebe can't wait to get here, too, since the Secret Audio call to him surrounded by family members went something like this:

Jerry Jones: "Hello, Dallas Cowboy, this is Jerry Jones."

Beebe: "How's it going Jerry?"

Jerry: "Well, I'm talking to a Dallas Cowboy."

Beebe: (Joyous laughter) "Let's go," with screams in the background. "Oh, god."

And after the phone had been passed to McCarthy and offensive line coach Mike Solari, offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer got on the horn saying, "Hey, all we want you to do is come be you, brother. Come bring that play-style you got, man. Just do what you do. We are so jacked up. So excited, brother."

Beebe: "I'm excited too, Coach. Can't wait."

Neither can the Cowboys, along with me and now probably you, too, to see some dang "dirting" going on.

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