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Second Year Cowboy Cut After One Poor Special Teams Play

The Dallas Cowboys cut second year LB Devin Harper on Thursday. Here is what his release means for the team, and how they'll replace him.
Cowboys Devin Harper

In a slightly confusing roster move, the Dallas Cowboys cut second-year LB Devin Harper only three weeks into the 2023 NFL season. Harper will now find himself as a free agent, and Dallas will be without a core Special Teams player and LB depth. Here is what Harper’s release means for the team, and how they can address the issue.

Second Year LB Devin Harper Cut after Back Breaking Penalty against Arizona; What it Means for The Cowboys

Special Teams Importance

Very few NFL coordinators take Special Teams play as seriously as John “Bones” Fassel. It’s clear through the first three weeks that there won’t be a blind eye turned to Special Teams. The front office has remained patient with certain special teamers, such as Kavontae Turpin and C.J. Goodwin. Both could be considered special teams aces, and neither of which has a TD.

The same could not be said for Devin Harper. Dallas quickly lost patience with him through the first two weeks of the 2023 NFL season. Harper’s ultimatum came when he was called for a holding penalty on what would have been a 61-yard punt return by Kavontae Turpin. The massive flip in the field caused QB Dak Prescott to struggle, and eventually throw the game-ending interception.

It’s clear that through Devin Harper’s release, the Cowboys have no room for imperfections or bad special teams play. Harper may return in free agency if he is not picked up by another team.

LB Depth (or lack thereof)

Every year in the NFL, someone bites off more than they can chew. Aaron Rodgers only played four snaps in 2023 before his injury sent New York back to Quarterback purgatory. Last year, it was Denver with Russell Wilson. If Dallas isn’t careful, it could end up with them bearing the unfortunate crown. Through week two, the defense was hailed as a top doomsday unit, a no-fly zone.

The Dallas Cowboys LB Corps is now as follows:

Leighton Vander-Esch

Damone Clark

Micah Parsons

Marquise Bell (switched positions)

DeMarvion Overshown (IR)

Even the blind could see that having only four linebackers isn’t ideal for an NFL defense. With injuries at an all-time high, the Cowboys can’t afford to be stretched thin on defense. Not to panic, though. The Cowboys likely released Harper due to two reasons; his poor special teams play and making room. Dallas could be making room for a free agent signing, the position is anyone’s guess. While the Cowboys might be shaky at LB without Devin Harper, it’s not time to put on the panic shoes just yet.

Time to Step it Up

One man’s release should serve as another man’s motivation. Upon replay of the Rondale Moore rushing touchdown in Sunday’s loss, a message became clear quickly. Leighton Vander-Esch is not performing well against the run. Neither is DT Neville Gallimore. Neither is first-round¬†draft pick DT Mazi Smith.

On 11 defensive snaps and one special teams snap, Mazi Smith’s impact was seldom noticed. It’s understandable wanting to take his snap count slow. What’s unreasonable is not playing Smith in short run stop situations. Dan Quinn’s newest chess piece must play more than 11 snaps a game in order to make his well-anticipated impact.

Marquise Bell is also a step-up candidate. Bell looked impressive against the New York Giants in week one, recording a sack. Since that game, Bell has some ground to make up. His name wasn’t called at all in the Cardinals game, totaling one solo tackle and one assisted tackle. While he’s playing well for someone who switched positions, he must play better to keep his LB spot. Marquise Bell has the biggest chance to essentially take LB Devin Harper’s spot and roles on the Dallas Cowboys in 2023.

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Main Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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