The amazing thing about following a training camp from start to finish is that you think you have an idea of a direction a team is going, then when it gets down to the final cuts there are still surprises that you never thought were coming.
The trade of wide receiver Patrick Crayton was a surprise to me. I really believed that Crayton would be on this roster to help in the transition and growth of Dez Bryant and as an insurance policy if Roy Williams continued to struggle as he had in years past.
Crayton had an outstanding camp. He was consistent in practice every day and when given the opportunity in games, he was able to deliver plays.
His replacement in that role will be Kevin Ogletree. Ogletree is often praised by Jerry Jones, so it’s understandable why Crayton was traded. Jones is big on “progress stoppers,” and Crayton was viewed as that. Jones wants Ogletree to have every chance to succeed, much like Crayton did.
I do see talent in Ogletree, but the question I have is whether I see that nasty, between-the-hashes, receiver that makes plays in traffic on tough downs. My answer is no. It takes fire in your gut to want to go inside and fight for football. To run across the middle or in the red zone to buy space so your quarterback can find you.
Tony Romo had a friend in Patrick Crayton. It was never pretty, but it worked. Kevin Ogletree will have big shoes to fill and Jones is betting on it, much like he did with Flozell Adams and Doug Free.
Sam Hurd on the roster makes perfect sense to me. Hurd is that guy that fills a role and a need. You have to have core special teamers if you are going to have any success on Sunday. Hurd is your man and Holley is not.
Money should not have been the factor here, and for the special team’s sake, I am glad to see it was not. On cut day, there are tough decisions to make, and to the Cowboys this was a tough call but the right call. Sam Hurd is a better player than Jesse Holley and he will continue to prove that.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were two moves that really surprised me. And with the way the roster tends to move on opening week and after the first game, it might change again. I was surprised that cornerback Cletis Gordon and nose tackle Junior Siavii (who is on his way to Seattle) were released.
Gordon appeared to have the fourth cornerback job nailed down in camp with his play in practice and in the preseason games. I will say this about Gordon: His last game against the Dolphins was not his best game.
The Cowboys have some position flexibility here. Safeties Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Alan Ball can both play the corner spot if needed. Owusu-Ansah had been working in the slot on certain packages already in camp, so that isn’t a hard transition. He will get the first opportunity to play off the bench as the fourth corner because you don’t want to take Ball out of the role as the starting free safety.
In the San Antonio portion of camp, Josh Brent to me really arrived on the scene. Despite the broken hand, he played with power, quickness and effort. He was a very active nose man inside.
Siavii is a strong player with a big body, which is something that defensive line really doesn’t have. Against the Texans, he had one of his better games and then I thought there was a chance that the Cowboys were going to keep three nose tackles. Because of Brent’s play, Siavii raised his game.
Where I missed the boat about the defensive line was with Sean Lissemore. Lissemore was injured a great deal during camp so he became an afterthought to me. In the Dolphins game, he played well. He was strong, mobile and good assignment-wise.
Sometimes teams try to protect their draft and hold onto guys who might not have shown much in camp, keeping them on the active roster to give them time to develop. In this case, the Cowboys feel that Lissemore has more upside and is better to have on the roster now than a player like Siavii, who might have limited upside and the club knows what they have in him.