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The NFL is here! The NFL is here!

August 5, 2013

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One night after Larry Allen, the greatest interior offensive lineman in NFL History in my opinion, was elected into the Hall of Fame the Cowboys took the field for their first of 5 preseason games. With so few veteran players actually taking the field I thought I’d break down the rookie draft class and veterans who caught my eye.

Travis Frederick #70: He was a solid blocker. That is what I expected considering I had a 4th round grade on him but that ISN’T what the Cowboys should expect considering they took him in the 1st round. On 2nd and goal on their 2nd possession he showed a lack of athleticism to get the outside shoulder of the DT allowing him penetration on a run to the right side allowing his man to make a short gain tackle. Other than that he looked solid, albeit a bit slow, on his blocks and wasn’t really noticeable throughout. I was excited to hear Cris Collinsworth talk about how intelligent Frederick is and how he not only makes the line calls but already is making the coverage calls for the offense. He’s a strong, physical, and nasty OL with limited athleticism. That is what I scouted him at before the draft and that is what I still see in him but maybe his elite intelligence will give him a better chance to overcome his below average athleticism. I still don’t like the pick but he was decent tonight.

Gavin Escobar #89: Very weak blocker. Has a great frame and elite hands but needs to gain weight and in a hurry otherwise defensive ends will plow through him on run plays. The 2 tight end set is all about making the defense worry about the run at all times yet if he can’t run block it will allow them to stay in their base defense and negate the advantage it usually offers an offense. I had him as the #4 TE in the 2013 Draft Class and the Cowboys had him as the #2 TE. I still don’t agree with their assessment though I thought the story about him offering to pay for his father’s medical care was touching.

Terrance Williams: Did not play due to a concussion.

JJ Wilcox #27: He ended with 6 tackles (2nd on team) but didn’t impress me as he allowed a +30 yd catch when WR Chad Bumphis went across his face on a route and later allowed a +15 yd catch and run to RB Jonas Gray on a short out that he didn’t cover correctly. Both guys that beat him are undrafted free agents just looking to find a spot on the 53 man roster so their ability to take advantage of him furthers my worry about the safety position for the Cowboys this season.

BW Webb #20: I never noticed him on defense but on his 1 punt returner early in the 3rd quarter he showed great quickness and vision when he dove for 5 yds with nothing there.

Joseph Randle #35: He showed nothing on his first few runs and only seemed to get in a groove later in the game when the scrubs were in. His overall numbers (13 carries for 70 yards) both led the team but I was expecting more and hope to see him play better when the starters on the opposing defense are in the game. He still is my pick to be the #2 RB on the team by the time the regular season opener is here. Update #1: I did like how they turned him into their workhorse back in the 2nd half. He carried the ball +10x in a span of only probably 25 plays which showed me they have faith that he can hold up to a pounding. Also I was impressed by his cutback run where he made a defender miss in the backfield. He isn’t really a shake and bake back but has good speed and great vision so it was nice to see those attributes translate to the NFL, albeit the pre-preseason.

DeVonte Holloman #57: He made the play of the game with an elite catch on a deflection in traffic that he took 75 yds for a touchdown. When he was taken in April I stated, “He’s a hard hitting, versatile LB that played some safety at times for the Gamecocks and was all over the field. A good pick especially for their new 4-3 scheme which asks their linebackers to cover a lot of ground which is his specialty.” He’s a coverage LB and showed why scouts considered it his strength. While the Cowboys first two picks didn’t impress me their last 5 picks were very solid and it’s shown this offseason as the coaches and media have raved about a lot of their later round picks. Expect the volume of that praise to only get higher after this impressive play by the 6th rounder.

Veterans that caught my eye

Davir Arkin #62: He was inconsistent throughout the game. One snap he’d make a great 2nd level block on a linebacker, showing off his athleticism, and the next snap he’d get pushed 3 yds into the backfield by a defensive tackle. I was high on him when they drafted him in the 2011 NFL Draft but have moved on. He doesn’t look like an NFL player to me and it’s time to pull the plug on the Arkin experiment if he doesn’t dramatically improve his play this preseason.

Cole Beasley #11: Drew a pass interference call on 3rd and goal on a short out/pick play, dropped an easy slant pass, and couldn’t get an underthrown ball for a TD on a diving attempt. Overall he made a few good plays but wasn’t as involved as I hoped considering Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Terrance Williams all skipped this game. I expect him to be in the running for the #3 WR spot but he’ll need to have more dominating performances than this if he is going to overtake Williams and Dwayne Harris for that role.

Phillip Tanner #34: He’s an undrafted back that has flashed at times for me but he doesn’t play “big” and that in the end could get him cut this offseason. DeMarco Murray is the starter and Joseph Randle has too much promise to be cut which makes the battle for the final roster spot between him and Lance Dunbar. Dunbar got the starting nod in this game and has a clear advantage in speed and elusiveness so Tanner has to show off his power. He didn’t on 2nd and goal when he was hit at the goal line and knocked backwards 3 yds. Yes he crossed the goal but it was about as unimpressive of a TD as you will see. If he can’t show more power at the end of his runs then he will surely be passed over for the faster Dunbar. Update: Well I wrote that in the 1st Q and in the 2nd Q it couldn’t be more wrong. Since that post he has had numerous impressive carries including one where he lost his helmet and kept going and another where he broke a tackle then spun off another tackle and raced headlong into a defender for additional yards. I’m unsure if it was nerves or if someone on the coaching staff stated the same thing to him that I wrote but he looks like a different player and a guy that has a legit chance as the #2 or #3 back for this team.

Kyle Wilber #57: Pressure vs. Jonathan Martin to force punt in mid 1st Q, big hit on QB after blowing by Dallas Thomas near end of 1st Q. He is the #1 beneficiary from the Anthony Spencer injury and now is the time for him to stake his claim for the #3 DE spot and the first guy off the bench when Spencer and DeMarcus Ware need a breather. He impressed tonight but word is that the LT spot for the Dolphins has been atrocious all offseason so it’s still unclear whether this is more about Wilber being good or the left tackles for the Dolphins being bad.

Pernell McPhee #78: Allowed a pressure mid 1st Q, allowed a vicious sack on the last play of the 1st Q when Derrick Shelby bullrushed him into the QB. He did nothing to convince me that Doug Free has real competition at the RT spot this season.

Nick Stephens #3: He looked the part with a nice touch pass into the end zone to draw a pass interference call that setup a TD, an outstanding 20 yd dart in between two defenders on 3rd and 8 early in the 2nd Q, and avoided an untouched rusher to buy more time for an attempt at a TD-he underthrew the ball but it still was an impressive play to even get off the throw. He has decent size for a QB, good zip on his passes, impressive athleticism, and appears to be able to thread the needle. That last trait is one I look for when scouting quarterbacks as too many don’t have the confidence to “trust their eyes” and don’t pull the trigger when they see a slight opening. I really liked what I saw from Stephens and think he’s worth keeping as the #3 QB.

George Selvie #98: The former South Florida standout has been on my radar for years. He once was an undersized pass rusher with an elite burst yet in his new incarnation he’s a fringe player that has filled out his frame at the expense of some athleticism. Nonetheless he did have a very impressive TFL on a run play to his right side and with the injuries to Tyrone Crawford, Jay Ratliff, and Anthony Spencer it wouldn’t surprise me if he made the roster as a reserve. He’s a guy I will be watching going forward this preseason. Update: A few minutes after he made that play he followed it up with a 14 yd sack on 2nd and goal showing off enough athleticism to corral the QB on a naked bootleg. He still doesn’t look as fast as he did when he was 20 lbs lighter and 4 years younger but he’s an intriguing pickup by the Cowboys. Update #2: On the 2nd play of the 2nd half he pancaked the LT on a bull rush for a quick sack that further validated my opinion. He’s going from intriguing pickup to likely roster spot in the blink of an eye. Update #3: He almost had a 3rd TFL and 2nd sack but the QB was able to drag Selvie just past the line of scrimmage. It still set up a 4th and 5 and an eventual turnover.

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