Posted: 4:00 p.m. Monday, July 29, 2013
Back in early May, O.C.C. polled the front page writers, asking each of us to select a favorite "pet cat." As he pointed out in the resulting article, "pet cat" is a Parcells-ism, and indicates a down-the-roster guy, a stray kitten, if you will, that a coach, owner, or fan thinks will make the roster despite long odds. As Cool writes, "The pet cat is often - and preferably - chosen without the slightest factual or quantifiable basis. In fact, some would argue that you do not choose your pet cat, your pet cat chooses you." Indeed, so.
After taking in a week of training camp practices, I though it a suitable and auspicious moment to revisit our selections, and handicap the "cat race" as it nears the quarter pole. Before I do, however, allow me to remind you of our selections, as well as the rationales for them (remember, as you read these, that there is nothing rational whatsoever about the adoption of a pet cat):
Archie: Brandon Magee, LB, ASU
Out of the undrafted litter, he's got the best chance to make this football team and actually produce. If not for the Achilles injury and baseball concerns, I believe Magee would've been a third or fourth-round pick. A tremendous athlete from a large conference and elite production is hard to find in the undrafted market. Magee is great for depth at all three linebacker positions, but this kid has the talent and athletic ability to become a starting linebacker in the NFL.
OCC: Jakar Hamilton, S, South Carolina State
I called instant pet cat dibs on Hamilton as soon as his visit to Dallas was announced in early April, and I see no reason to change. At his Pro Day workout, the 5-foot-11, 186-pounder ran the 40 in 4.51 seconds and posted a 40 1/2 inch vertical leap. He only bench-pressed 225 pounds seven times, but had a 4.32 20-yard shuttle and a 6.93 three-cone drill. Hamilton is a hybrid defensive back with experience at both corner and safety. His best bet to make the team will come via special teams, and if he hangs around, he could be an effective player down the road.
KD Drummond: Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
Randle's ability to slide right into the running back rotation means that he will get plenty of opportunities. His pass blocking skill means it will include crucial 3rd down situations. Throw in Murray's injury history and we have a winner.
Coty Saxman: Kendial Lawrence, RB, Missouri
Kendial Lawrence has the speed, small size, and playmaking-behind-bad-OLines ability that make him an excellent choice as a change-of-pace back for the Cowboys. Sure, they drafted Joseph Randle, but Randle's lack of speed make him more of a guy to absorb punishment in Murray's absence than a guy who will become a threat to score from anywhere like Murray and Lawrence.
Joey Ickes, B. W. Webb, CB, Wlliam & Mary
We have all witnessed Orlando Scandrick looking all over getting turned around as Victor Cruz or another slot receiver catches the ball for an important first down late in a big game. Or we've seen the ball fly right over his shoulder as he doesn't get his head around in coverage. Combine these items with his relatively large salary, and fans everywhere have been screaming for a replacement. That guy is finally on the Cowboys roster. B.W Webb from William and Mary is a slot CB with what Bryan Broaddus calls "rare" quickness as exhibited by his 3.84 20 yd shuttle time, who also has great ball skills (8 INTs his Freshman year, before teams stopped throwing at him). He's a willing tackler who will come up, pop you, and wrap up to finish the hit. My feeling is that he's stealing snaps from Scandrick by mid season and makes #32 expendable next off-season.
rabblerousr: Brandon Magee, LB, ASU
In writing up profiles on all the Cowboys draft targets, several of them jumped out at me, usually because of their attitude or approach to the game. Magee was one of these; not only is he a terrific athlete, but he's a passionate, charismatic player, who was the Sun Devils' undisputed leader, both on the field and in the clubhouse....With the transition to Kiffin's 4-3, the team needed to rebuild its linebacking unit...and targeted undersized guys who play with quickness and intensity and who excel in coverage. That's Magee. There's a reason they offered him a 70,000 signing bonus...
So, we have a total of five cats, one of whom, Magee, will be living in two homes after Archie and I went to court and, after a protracted and furious judicial battle royale, manage to arrange joint custody. Let's assess their performances thus far, looking at them in alphabetical order.
Jakar Hamilton: The Cowboys appeared to be very interested in Hamilton; after all, he and Magee were the only 2013 UDFAs to whom they gave draftable grades. In the rookie minicamp as well as the subsequent offseason practices, he distinguished himself, initially for being the first player to vomit on the field, and then for his play. In OTAs, he flashed good range and a heady style of play, running with Gavin Escobar up the seam before punching the ball out of the tight end's hands. Sadly, this promise has faded in Oxnard. Hamilton is currently running fourth team, alongside Jeff Heath. To put this in context, the third team safeties are Danny McCray and Eric Frampton.
Kendial Lawrence: Missouri's mighty mite scatback flashed superior quickness during the rookie minicamp. But once the big boys joined the fray, reports on Lawrence all but vanished. And in camp, he has been more or less a non-entity: not as quick as guys like Lance Dunbar, and too small to pass protect or drive the pile on interior runs. While the top four running backs all look fairly tightly bunched in terms of talent and style, there is a big drop-off from them to Lawrence.
Brandon Magee: Magee's trajectory has been a bit different than those of Hamilton and Lawrence. After starting a bit slowly this offseason, and continuing his somewhat unremarkable play in the first couple of training camp practices, Magee has begun to emerge as a force now that the pads have come on. Monte Kiffin's scheme asks its linebackers to drop into shallow zones and then close quickly on the ball once it's completed. Magee has shown the ability to do this beautifully, and has shown some real pop in the running game. Yesterday, he shot through a gap and hit a running back (Kendial Larewnce?) for a short loss.
Joseph Randle: Randle's narrative runs somewhat parallel to Magee's, albeit for different reasons: his offseason was a quiet one, a fact wholly attributable to the fact that he was nursing a thumb injury that prevented him from getting into any of the live action. With his dinged digit now unwrapped, Randle has been slowly rounding into form over camp's first week. In the last couple of days, he has shown good quickness and a real willingness and tenacity as a pass blocker. He may currently be the team's fourth back, but I'd expect this to change as his body further acclimates.
B.W. Webb: The fourth-rounder's story combines a little from column A (Hamilton and Lawrence) and a bit from column B (Magee and Randle). After flashing some impressive quickness - indeed, enough so that several observers proclaimed him the 2013 draft class' top offseason performer, Webb spent the first few day of camp taking it on the chin, getting burned quite often by a collection of middle-of-the-roster receivers. In the last couple of days, however, Webb's game has caught up. He concluded Wednesday's practice with a clutch interception off of Kyle Orton in a two-minute scenario and, in yesterday's Blue-White Blue-White scrimmage, took another Orton pass to the house for the play of the day.
After a week of practices, the arrow is pointing up for Magee, Randle and Webb and down for Hamilton and Lawrence. This, as anyone who has watched a training camp knows, is subject to change. For now, however, Archie, KD, Joey and yours truly get to enjoy a quick gloaty dance before we return to the serious business of giving you the best Cowboys camp coverage in the Internet. Coty and O.C.C., would you mind holding our coats as we get down...?