This is a week of mourning for all 32 football families. Freshly formed bonds and brotherhoods will be broken as teams as forced to cut their final roster down to 53 men by Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Dallas Cowboys’ final preseason game against the Denver Broncos this Thursday will serve as a final proving ground for those whose names have yet to earn the transformation from pencil to pen. The eraser hovers precariously over 22 names right now, ready to wipe them clean from the ledger of Jerry Jones.
But before we say farewell to those final 22 men still stubbornly clinging to their visions of wearing a Star come September 7, let’s take a look at the men whose dreams have been dashed or suspended by Tuesday’s news.
These players will revert to the Cowboys’ injured reserve, if they clear waivers.
S Matt Johnson: The 2012 fourth round pick has yet to play a game in the NFL due to lingering hamstring injuries. Johnson recently had a bulging disk in his lower back examined to see if it was the cause of his perpetual hamstring injuries. It appears that the Cowboys are prepared to fully cut ties with the 25-year-old safety. It’s unfortunate such a physically gifted player has never had an opportunity to prove the Cowboys’ “reach” for him back in 2012 was worth it.
CB Johnny Thomas: The undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma State couldn’t be counted upon to make much of an impact, even in such a depleted unit.
CB Justin Green: A shoulder injury kept him out of the Miami game and looks like it will rob him of a chance with the Cowboys after coming over in a trade from the Patriots early this month. Another injury on the Dallas defense is nothing new, but Green really could have helped with the depth of an embarrassingly thin secondary.
LB DeVonte Holloman: In another bout of unfortunate news following the second preseason game against Baltimore, the second-year linebacker will be retiring due to a career-ending neck injury. Holloman has agreed to join the South Carolina Gamecocks, his alma mater, as a video assistant before becoming a graduate assistant coach in the spring. It’s always difficult to see a promising player walk away from the game before his time truly called for it, but here’s hoping Holloman finds his wya in another walk of life.
QB Caleb Hanie: Outright released. This development bodes well for undrafted rookie Dustin Vaughan, who played with poise and confidence in his first two preseason games (10-21, 114 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) before a dud against the Dolphins (1-of-6, 12 yards).
WR Chris Boyd: If there’s anywhere Dallas has depth, it’s at wide receiver. Boyd failed to record a single reception during the preseason, making him an expendable commodity. The move still leaves Jamar Newsome (my personal favorite), LaRon Byrd, Dezmon Briscoe and Tim Benford fighting for a sixth wide receiver slot that may or may not even exist. It may seem superfluous to carry six wideouts on a team that needs as much defensive help it can get, but it hasn’t been ruled out by Jason Garrett just yet.
DE Adewale Ojomo: Ojomo was with Dallas for less than a month, signing with the team on August 1, shortly after DeMarcus Lawrence fractured his right foot.A lack of depth on the Cowboys’ defensive line wasn’t enough to overcome shoddy play and a still-fresh arrest for soliciting a prostitute that led to his drop from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad in April.
G Wayne Tribue: Firmly behind Zach Martin and John Wetzel, the former Temple guard has had a hard time hanging on with any NFL team for too long. His days were unfortunately numbered in Dallas from the start.
LS Casey Kreiter: Similar to the Jones situation, the Cowboys simply don’t have a need to carry two long-snappers on the roster. L.P. Ladouceur has the job for the season.
DE Martez Wilson (Monday release): Wilson started nine games for the Cowboys last season, but his familiarity with the team was not enough to help his cause. The 2011 third round pick recorded two sacks this preseason before being let go. The move likely has to do with the return of Anthony Spencer [See further down for more on Spencer.].
FB J.C. Copeland (Monday release): In the modern NFL, one fullback is more than enough. Tyler Clutts was clearly the better fullback in training camp and preseason, but even his spot on the Dallas roster is far from guaranteed at this point. It could come down to Clutts as the single fullback or Ryan Williams as a fourth running back or neither. Either way, this depth cost Copeland his shot with the Cowboys.
Placed on Injury List
DT Amobi Okoye: Okoye was placed on the Non-Football Injury list. This is basically a PUP designation for those who suffered an injury away from football. Okoye will be inactive for the first six games of the season, but the mere fact that he’s even back on a football field is an incredible feat in and of itself. In March 2013, Okoye was diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis and was placed into a medically induced coma to halt recurring seizures. Okoye is the first known male to suffer from the potentially-fatal disease. He lost over 80 pounds during the medically-induced 145-day coma. Despite being drafted in 2007, Okoye is still just 27 years old due to being drafted at 19 out of Louisville, the youngest player to ever be drafted and play in the NFl.
With this move it appears Dallas is committed to providing a spot for the Nigerian-born defensive tackle to attempt one of the more remarkable comebacks in pro sports.
DE Ben Gardner: Another Dallas rookie that won’t be taking the field, Gardner was placed on injured reserve after undergoing shoulder surgery. During his three years as a starter at Stanford, the Cardinals went 34-7 with three BCS bowl appearances. The 23-year-old is a proven winner that can provide some valuable traits, both on and off to field, to Dallas in the future.
Some unusually hopeful news for Dallas: Anthony Spencer edition
Some news of note that emerged from Dallas this week that will have an effect on the 53-man roster cuts is that Anthony Spencer will not be starting this season on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. Instead, Spencer will begin this year on the active roster, though he will not play against the San Francisco 49ers in the regular season opener on September 7.
Spencer’s 2013 season lasted just one game, cut woefully short by microfracture surgery. At the time, Spencer was coming off his first Pro Bowl season. He led the Cowboys in tackles (55) and combined tackles (95) while finishing second to DeMarcus Ware in sacks (11).
The move means Cowboys’ Owner/GM/Lord of Jerry-Land believes Spencer will be back before Week 7 — which is when he would have come off the PUP list. If this isn’t merely optimism from Jones, that’s great news for a Dallas defense desperately in need of playmakers.