Report Card Grades for Dallas Cowboys' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
Dallas continued to address its biggest roster issues with these signings, some of which have a real chance at making the final roster. Fans should not forget that Tony Romo, Miles Austin and Barry Church all went undrafted.
August is not exactly around the corner, but with minicamps beginning soon, the Cowboys will have a chance to evaluate their new rookie class soon enough.
Now that the team has signed the bulk of its undrafted free agents, let's take a look at who they are and how well they fit with the 'Boys.
Josh Aladenoye, OT, Illinois State
The Cowboys could use some help depth-wise on the offensive line, which is why they signed five guards and tackles through undrafted free agency.
The first thing that most scouts notice about Illinois State product Josh Aladenoye is his durability. It's not often that a lineman can go two consecutive seasons without an injury, but that's what he did his final two years in college. Not only did he suit up in every game, but he started at tackle in all of them as well.
While he proved to be durable as well as a noticeable force in the running game, he doesn't have a real chance at making the final cut.
It's more likely that Dallas will stick with its usual veteran backups like Ronald Leary and Jermey Parnell than add young depth to back up a young starting group.
L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri
At 6'4", Missouri product L'Damian Washington is a solid signing at wide receiver based on his size alone.
He has the ability to win the football in jump-ball situations and knows how to best utilize his impressive frame. He needs to get better at reeling in catchable passes, but he has a fine chance of making the final roster.
The Cowboys have always been known to carry a decent amount of wide receivers throughout the regular season. Even with draftee Devin Street taking over Miles Austin's old roster spot, Washington can earn a place on the depth chart with a good training camp.
J.C. Copeland, FB, LSU
J.C. Copeland stands 5'11" and weighs in at 271 pounds. He is not an easy player to get around if you're a defender who is trying to tackle his running back.
Head coach Jason Garrett elected to go without a true fullback for much of the 2013 season, but it's likely he's willing to change that strategy this year.
Copeland showed a fine ability to clear way for rushers at LSU using his strength and size. He understands how to power through defenders. If he can make the most of the opportunities he'll have in camps and the preseason, he can definitely help the Dallas offense in 2014.
Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
Like Washington, Chris Boyd has the ideal size for an NFL wide receiver at 6'4", 206 pounds. He became an asset at Vanderbilt for his ability to catch the deep ball and outposition his defenders on a frequent basis.
Unfortunately, he has character flaws. He was dismissed from the Commodores football team this past season for his after-the-fact involvement in an alleged rape. Dallas has been known to gamble on guys with a few red flags, but don't expect it to happen with Boyd.
The Cowboys can't afford to take a chance on an undrafted guy who could be more trouble than he's worth.
Ben Malena, RB, Texas A&M
With Phillip Tanner gone, the Cowboys could have an opening on the running back depth chart. Texas A&M product Ben Malena was likely brought in to push backups Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle. That being said, he could make a case for Dallas to keep four rushers on its roster.
He is one of those running backs who fights for every yard whenever he touches the ball. He can grind out the short yards especially well, which is probably the role that suits him in the pros.
While he does possess some nice explosiveness, his 5'8", 194-pound frame does work against him at times.
Ryan Smith, S, Auburn
The Cowboys shocked more than a few experts this past draft when they decided to pass on a safety until the seventh round. Dallas selected Ahmad Dixon and has now signed three safeties as undrafted free agents.
One of the newest Cowboys safeties is Ryan Smith, who was most known for his impressive speed at Auburn.
At 6'1", 195 pounds, he also has a great frame for a safety. His height especially should come in handy when helping in coverage. The strong safety situation is a bit muddled at the moment, though. Dixon, Matt Johnson, J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath and Jakar Hamilton are all looking to start opposite Barry Church.
Smith will need to find a way to stand out, or he won't be wearing the star on his helmet in September.
Ronald Patrick, OG, South Carolina
Over his last two seasons at South Carolina, Ronald Patrick started each game he was available for. Although the guard suffered a high ankle sprain last season, he came back rather quickly and resumed his starting role for the Gamecocks.
Durability is not easy to come by on the offensive line, and the Cowboys could use as many durable guys as they can get. Guard is a position that needs depth and should see some changes at the two starting positions before 2014.
Patrick helps from a depth prospective at the offensive line's arguably weakest position.
Dontavis Sapp, LB, Tennessee
Dallas showed in the draft that it is looking for help at linebacker when it took Anthony Hitchens and Will Smith. The Cowboys decided to add another rookie linebacker to their roster in Dontavis Sapp.
The best element that Sapp brings to a defense is his ability to make tackles, no matter the situation. He recorded 108 tackles during his time in Tennessee, with 11.5 of them resulting in a loss. Chances are if he gets a hold of the ball-carrier, the play is seconds away from being over.
Linebacker is a position that has gotten a little crowded since the draft ended, but Sapp is a nice addition nonetheless.
Glasco Martin, RB, Baylor
Another running back that the Cowboys have brought in is Glasco Martin out of Baylor.
Martin and Malena were the only two rookie backs brought in, and both come from Texas schools. Where their similarities end is their size.
Martin is 6'0" and 230 pounds. He is 11 pounds heavier than starter DeMarco Murray and has quite the nose for the end zone.
The former Bear posted 12 rushing touchdowns in 2012 despite being Lache Seastrunk's backup. Martin is not exactly the size of Brandon Jacobs or Ron Dayne, but he is a big back nonetheless. If he can prove to be an asset in goal-line and short-yardage situations, he could make this roster.
Jocquel Skinner, CB, Bethel University
Since he's from a small school in Tennessee, it's difficult to find a ton of game film on Jocquel Skinner.
Based on his Bethel University career highlight reel, it seems that he understands how to get between his assignment and a pass.
The drawback is that he can be indecisive at times, and that could lead to giving up big plays in the NFL. He might have too big an issue in adjusting to the professional level.
Andre Cureton, OG, Cincinnati
Andre Cureton has the size to tower over defenders at 6'6", and he's hard to get around at 310 pounds. He is a massive body that fires out off the snap each and every play.
While his specialty is helping in the running game, it's a bit concerning that he has some issues in pass protection. The Cowboys need to have Romo as upright as possible for the rest of his career, as his window is starting to close.
The fact that Cureton needs coaching in this aspect of the game isn't a deal-breaker, but it's not a plus either.
Joe Windsor, DE, NIU
Joe Windsor was one of Northern Illinois' top defensive players last season, tallying 37 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Defensive end is a position of need for the Cowboys, which is why they took Ben Gardner and Demarcus Lawrence in the draft.
All that being said, Windsor needs to add weight to succeed in the NFL. He last weighed in at just 236 pounds. He will need to bulk up, but even if he does, a lot of rookies and veterans alike are standing in his way of a roster spot.
Dustin Vaughan, QB, West Texas A&M
Check out these stats on Dustin Vaughan from Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News:
Dallas Cowboys signed UDFA West Texas A&M QB Dustin Vaughan (6-4½, 235). Over last 2 seasons, he threw for more than 10,100 yards and 98 TDs— Brandon George (@DMN_George) May 11, 2014
Vaughan was a multi-year starter with the Buffaloes and is as experienced as a player could be coming out of college. Like Skinner though, he is going to have a harder time adjusting to the pros considering he is from a smaller school.
Kyle Orton, Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie also stand in his way of making the quarterback depth chart. A practice squad spot is more likely for Vaughan this season.
Chris Whaley, DT, Texas
Chris Whaley spent five years at Texas, and the Cowboys have to be more than familiar with him as a prospect.
He is a solid tackler who has that great motor that coaches look for from players at his position. The Cowboys lost former starters Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher at the position over the last year.
There is a need for depth at defensive tackle, and Whaley is as good a rookie free agent as any to bring in.
Cody Mandell, P, Alabama
Chris Jones did a fine job in his first full season as the Cowboys punter. He averaged 45 yards per punt last year and was re-signed this offseason.
Cody Mandell will compete with Jones in camp and preseason, but it seems unlikely that the former will win out. It seems unnecessary to create turnover at a position when there's already a ton of new faces in the locker room.
Bringing in Mandell is a smart move to give Jones competition for now, but it'll be tough for the rookie to make this roster.
Keith Smith, LB, San Jose State
Keith Smith might not come from one of the big linebacker schools like Penn State or USC, but that doesn't mean he lacks talent.
He can be relied on to make tackles both in traffic and the open field. He was an All-WAC selection each of his four years at San Jose State. The Cowboys have a lot of guys to evaluate at linebacker, but it was smart of them to bring in Smith, given his college production.
Brian Clarke, OG, Bloomsburg
Brian Clarke is another small-school guy that the Cowboys are taking a no-risk shot on. He was a two-year starter for the Division II Huskies.
While at Bloomsburg, he became a huge part of the running game's success. During his senior season, the Huskies racked up 3,762 yards rushing on the season, best for sixth overall in D-II football.
Clarke bursts out of his stance and runs straight toward his blocking assignment. He has ideal strength for the position and a solid, albeit a tad underweight, frame at 6'3", 290 pounds. Dallas has no reason to turn away possible options at guard, and he could turn some heads with his ability.
Davon Coleman, DT, Arizona State
Davon Coleman started at a junior college in Kansas but ended up contributing in a backup role with Arizona State in his final two seasons.
He finished his career as a Sun Devil with seven sacks, a forced fumble and 92 tackles in 24 games. Even though he served as a backup, he displayed some promise that the Cowboys obviously picked up on.
Ultimately, he plays a position in defensive tackle where Dallas needs some new blood. It makes sense for the team to bring in any players with potential, including Coleman.
Casey Kreiter, LS, Iowa
Casey Kreiter was clearly signed to give veteran long snapper L.P. Ladouceur some camp competition.
Kreiter was a team captain for the Hawkeyes last season and served as the starting long snapper from 2011 to 2013. It makes sense to give Ladouceur someone to push him during training camp, but Dallas isn't going to replace him.
Kreiter can use this opportunity to show NFL teams what he can do at his position, but it's highly unlikely he'll be around when the regular season rolls around.
Jordan Najvar, TE, Baylor
Jordan Najvar is another home-state talent who will get the chance to prove himself with Dallas this summer.
The Cowboys have James Hanna, Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar on the roster at tight end. There is no chance any tight ends take Witten or Escobar's spot on the depth chart, but Hanna's isn't set in stone.
Hanna was a sixth-round selection in the 2012 NFL draft, but that doesn't mean he runs zero risk of losing his job to an undrafted free agent in 2014.
Najvar received All-Big 12 team honors each of his three seasons at Baylor. The 6'6", 265-pound tight end has great size and served as a reliable blocker for the Bears offense. He's not really an option in the passing game though, which will hurt his chances of staying in Dallas.
The Cowboys might look to run the ball more this upcoming season, but they are still a pass-first team in a pass-happy league.
Dashaun Phillips, CB, Tarleton State
At Tarleton State's pro day, cornerback Dashaun Phillips really stood out. He posted a 4.48 40-yard dash time and a 39" vertical, per Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News.
Phillips is a fast cornerback whom the Cowboys have had their eyes on throughout the draft process. He recorded 12 interceptions during his Tarleton State career and recorded 19 unassisted tackles in 2012.
It's understandable why the Cowboys have eyed the young corner. Like Skinner, Phillips' chances of making the final roster aren't incredibly high. Still, he seems to have some people on Valley Ranch excited about him.
Jarrod Pughsley, OG, Akron
Jarrod Pughsley was a two-year starter on the Akron offensive line after an ankle injury limited his sophomore season.
At 6'5", 312 pounds, there is a lot to like about the frame of Pughsley. He proved with the Zips that he is best suited as a run-blocker. There are a lot of names trying to fill the guard depth chart, though.
He will compete for the starting and backup roles at guard, and Dallas should exhaust all possible options at the position.
Marvin Robinson, S, Ferris State
Marvin Robinson may have transferred to Ferris State for his senior season, but he knows a thing or two about playing for a top football program. Before joining the Bulldogs, he spent his first three years at Michigan.
He wasn't a huge contributor in Ann Arbor, which led to his decision to transfer. Robinson's experience playing at that level in college should help him in the pros, though. Due to his lack of time as a starter, however, it's unlikely he will make the final roster.
Evan Wilson, TE, Illinois
Evan Wilson and Najvar are actually similar tight end prospects, which shows that Dallas must be interested in bringing in a blocking tight end.
Wilson stopped seeing a lot of starts with the Illini after his 2010 season but was still seen in many running situations as a blocker.
The newest Cowboy told Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times that "it's definitely Dallas or bust," for him, explaining that he wants to be "a consistent blocker, someone willing to do the dirty work...a consistent blocker and a really good red zone target."
If the Cowboys are looking for a blocking tight end, both Najvar and Wilson have a slight chance to make this roster.
Jason Witten and James Hanna are solid blockers as well, but the team could decide to part with the latter if either rookie really impresses. It's more likely that the Cowboys will have the same tight ends on their roster as they did in 2013, though.
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