Dallas Cowboys: Biggest Snubs and Surprises from 53-Man Roster Cut
The Dallas Cowboys’ final 53-man roster is in for the 2013 season. As with most teams, there were some surprises out of Big D. Most notably, the team decided to keep five tight ends on the roster—one more than the cornerbacks they retained. They had some flexibility since they don’t have a fullback on the roster, but Dallas also kept four true tailbacks.
Nonetheless, it was clear the Cowboys decided to retain depth at the positions they deem their weakest. That’s most obvious at safety, where they shockingly kept six players. The same goes for defensive tackle; with Jay Ratliff on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the Cowboys kept five tackles on the roster.
Let’s break down some of the individual surprises and snubs.
Snubbed: LB Brandon Magee
Magee was far and away my top “snub” for Dallas.
He quietly dominated the preseason, recording 20 tackles in just 102 snaps. He didn’t have the same big plays as DeVonte Holloman, but those types of things are relatively fluky. By that, I mean we can’t really tell much about a player from a handful of plays, one way or the other. The Cowboys should be looking for consistent production, which they got from Magee in the preseason.
Plus, you might recall that the ‘Boys reportedly had Magee higher than Holloman on their board. They chose Holloman because they figured they could sign Magee as an undrafted free agent, and they were right. So we know that Dallas really liked Magee from the start.
And now the team has placed Nate Livings on injured reserve and traded for veteran linebacker Edgar Jones. That seems like a bizarre move; why not just keep Magee from the start?
Surprise: S Danny McCray
I’m pretty shocked that McCray will be around for another season, primarily because we all pretty much know he’s not going to offer anything on defense.
Last year, offenses picked on McCray all year, targeting his receiver 42 times, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He gave up a 71.4 percent completion rate, 12.2 yards per attempt and a 118.5 passer rating.
McCray is obviously around for his value on special teams. I understand the idea there, but I think teams should generally fill up their bench with players who can potentially rise to start on offense or defense. McCray is a low-upside player.
If the Cowboys know they have a hole at safety, why not try to fill those roster spots with young players who could potentially develop into something great? It just seems like it’s much easier to replace a quality special teams player than it is to find a good safety.
Snubbed: CB Sterling Moore
Moore seemed like a lock to make the 53-man roster.
Just 23 years old, Moore played well last year and didn’t seem to do anything to lose his roster spot this preseason. He didn’t make any standout plays, either, with just one pass deflection and five tackles.
Moore was probably just on the wrong end of Dallas’s decision to go heavy at the tight end, defensive tackle and safety positions. Cornerback is such a strength for this team that Moore became expendable, although it’s worth noting that none of the Cowboys’ safeties have the versatility to play cornerback.
Surprise: LB Ernie Sims
Let me start by saying that Sims is deserving of making the final roster. I thought he was pretty good in Dallas in 2012, and he fits very well into Monte Kiffin’s scheme.
But the Cowboys are presumably going to start Justin Durant—another veteran—and they obviously have Holloman as well.
And with the trade for Jones and the acquisition of Kyle Bosworth, as reported by Brandon George of SportsDay, the ‘Boys now have three veteran linebackers who are backups. So while Sims should be on a 53-man roster, it’s just surprising that Dallas would keep three veterans, including a low-level linebacker who was probably going to get cut in Kansas City, over Magee.
Snubbed: S Micah Pellerin
Pellerin is a 6'0", 194-pound cornerback with 4.61 speed and rather short arms. He recorded a 33" vertical and 9’8" broad jump, so we know he’s not a very explosive player.
I don’t think he should have made the roster, but he was still a “snub” because it seemed like the Cowboys really liked him.
Pellerin performed well in the preseason. He allowed just a 43.8 percent completion rate on 16 targets and only 4.9 YPA, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Pellerin also gave up two scores, but as such a low-frequency event, it would be foolish to judge someone on touchdowns over such a small sample size. So if the Cowboys initially liked Pellerin and he performed well, it’s surprising that he’s not on the final roster.
Surprise: TE Andre Smith
The Cowboys kept Smith around because he can play special teams and he’s by far the team’s best run-blocking tight end. Pro Football Focus graded him as such in the preseason (subscription required). So Smith can probably help Dallas in their “Jumbo” packages in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
But why five tight ends? It just seems like overkill given that the Cowboys used 12 personnel—one running back and two tight ends—on just 176 snaps in 2012.
Snubbed: WR Eric Rogers
Rogers won’t be on anyone else’s “snubbed” list since he didn’t even make the first cut last week.
But he’s a 6'3", 210-pound receiver, and size is by far the biggest predictor of success at the position. Take a look at the top 10 wide receivers in yards in 2012. The average size is 6'2" and 218 pounds. The average!
Wide receivers differentiate themselves by scoring touchdowns, and small receivers can rarely do that well in the red zone. So while Cole Beasley is quick and might be able to help in limited situations, he can’t get up the field and doesn’t contribute near the goal line.
I’d take the flier on Rogers, who has the potential to develop into a true No. 1 that Beasley does not have.
Surprise: G David Arkin
I thought the chances of Arkin making the final roster were around 0.1 percent.
A fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Arkin played both right guard and offensive tackle at Missouri State. He wasn’t an elite prospect and hasn’t really shown anything in games to suggest that he’ll become something special.
And with the Cowboys’ abundance of low-level interior line talent, it’s really surprising that Arkin is still around.
Snubbed: DT Jerome Long
Pro Football Focus actually graded Long as the Cowboys’ top defender during the preseason (subscription required).
The 6'5", 295-pound defensive tackle was a seventh-round pick by the Chiefs in 2011, and he was outstanding as a pass-rusher in the Cowboys’ exhibition games. Long registered nine pressures in 82 pass-rush snaps. That 11.0 percent pressure rate is remarkable for an interior defensive lineman, albeit on a limited sample of plays.
I’m shocked Dallas kept five defensive tackles yet still didn’t retain Long.
Surprise: S Eric Frampton
Frampton filled in nicely in 2012. He didn’t allow a catch in 117 snaps in coverage. He was targeted only three times, meaning he likely had quality coverage.
Still, Frampton is a mediocre 29-year-old safety. With Heath, Wilcox and McCray also acting as backups in Dallas, it seems like the Cowboys were really keeping players solely for special teams reasons. That’s probably not the best way to develop long-term talent.