The Dallas Cowboys are making changes to the roster after their first loss and ahead of their Week 4 clash with the New England Patriots. They announced on X, formerly Twitter, the September 28 release of second-year linebacker Devin Harper, setting up the likely promotion of practice squad center Brock Hoffman to add necessary support for their interior offensive line.
ESPN’s Todd Archer provided insight on the move, stating that Harper is coming off a special teams mistake in the Cowboys’ 28-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
“Had a key penalty that negated a long punt return vs. Arizona, but team needs a roster spot for Brock Hoffman, who is out of practice squad elevations,” Archer wrote on X.
Hoffman is a second-year player who has appeared in all three of the Cowboys’ games this year. Against the Cardinals, he started the game and played on all 81 of the team’s offensive snaps. His 76.1 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus ranks fifth in the league. Overall, he is ranked 18th by PFF with a grade of 59.7.
Harper appears to be a casualty more of the NFL’s practice squad rules than his mistake, but it’s hard to think his error didn’t at least contribute partly to the decision.
Harper Starts NFL Career in Dallas
The Cowboys selected Harper in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft, hoping that his five years of college experience with Oklahoma State would translate to his being a league-ready player. Harper impressed in his final season with OSU, totaling six sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
However, his extra year of development did not immediately translate to success in the NFL. Harper was active for the first three games of his rookie season, but played only on special teams. After the first few weeks, Harper was a healthy scratch for four straight weeks.
Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, he then was placed on the injured reserve with Achilles tendinitis at the end of October 2022. He did not see the field for the rest of Dallas‘ 2022 season. Harper did see three defensive snaps against the New York Giants to start the 2023 regular season and was active for all three of the Cowboys’ games so far.
Analyst: Cowboys ‘Miss’ Patriots RB Ezekiel Elliott
While Dallas prepares for the Patriots with releases and promotions, ESPN’s Robert Griffin III, a former NFL quarterback, said the Cowboys were missing running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is now with the Patriots.
Griffin recently explained his stance on the September 26 episode of ESPN’s “Get Up.”
“The problem I have is, it felt like for two, three years, everyone at this network and around the world was talking about Zeke being washed. But the bottom line is the Dallas Cowboys miss Zeke right now,” Griffin said, according to NESN.com. “Last year, he was 17-for-21 on third- and fourth-down conversions — short-yardage situations. In the red zone, when you have a hammer like Ezekiel Elliott, it can take a lot of pressure off of the quarterback.”
Those kind of “what if” scenarios are hard to prove or disprove, but the Cowboys will get a prime opportunity to contribute their two cents on the Elliott situation when they play the Patriots on October 1.