3 gambles the Dallas Cowboys hope pay off in 2021

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Garrett Gilbert (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Garrett Gilbert (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Damontae Kazee, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys safety Damontae Kazee (35) (Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports) /

As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for their final preseason game of the year this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, they are also preparing to make some big roster decisions. That’s due to the league-mandated cutdown day at the end of this month that will require all NFL teams to reduce their rosters to 53 players.

This reduction of the roster will only highlight some of the questionable moves the Cowboys made this offseason. Here are three of the biggest gambles we believe America’s Team has taken this year.

The shotgun approach at safety

For years, members of the media and fans have been begging the Cowboys to invest more in their safety position. And the team’s response has been drafting sixth-rounders to do the job. But that changed this year with the hiring of Dan Quinn as the team’s new defensive coordinator.

With Quinn at the helm, the Cowboys signed two safeties from his previous job as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Both Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee joined the Cowboys this offseason as free agents. Although Neal was immediately shifted to linebacker and figures to play a prominent role on passing downs this season along with rookie linebacker Micah Parsons.

But the Cowboys didn’t stop with Kazee. Dallas also signed Jayron Kearse in free agency to add to a safety depth chart that already included former sixth-rounder Donovan Wilson, who started 10 games in 2020, Darian Thompson, and Steven Parker.

In the draft, the Cowboys acquired South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu in the sixth round (of course) and moved the 6-foot-4, 205-pound rookie to safety. Dallas also signed undrafted free agent Tyler Coyle, a safety out of Purdue.

For the icing on the cake, the Cowboys came to terms with former first-round safety Malik Hooker late last month. And the 15th overall selection in the 2017 draft made his preseason debut for Dallas against the Houston Texans over the weekend.

The Cowboys are gambling that this shotgun approach to the safety position will yield better results than in years past. And with both Hooker and Kazee coming off season-ending Achilles’ injuries, these moves truly feel like a gamble that could either boom or bust this season.