Former 1st-Round Pick Likely to Make Cowboys Debut in Week 2

Dallas Cowboys

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The Dallas Cowboys are ready to remove the mothballs from Malik Hooker.

Signed at the onset of training camp, the veteran safety is “more than likely” to be active for Dallas’ Week 2 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, team vice president Stephen Jones said Monday on 105.3 The Fan.

Hooker, who’s 11 months removed from tearing his Achilles’ tendon, was held out of last week’s season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Damontae Kazee and Donovan Wilson started at safety for the Cowboys amid the 31-29 defeat, with Jayron Kearse dressing as the primary backup.

“Cowboys safety Malik Hooker’s time is expected to come this season. But being neither a starter nor special-teams contributor is a death knell for most safeties’ case to dress,” the Dallas Morning News reported before the game. “Really would have to be featured in subpackages. Not there yet after signing during training camp.”

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Why Hooker Did Not Dress vs. Bucs

In the NFL, there’s an age-old cliche: “The best ability is availability.” In Hooker’s case, it’s true. He joined the Cowboys at a late offseason date and underwent several physicals prior to putting pen to paper. Although the former Indianapolis Colts first-round pick is fully recovered, Dallas evidently opted for a safer-than-sorry approach, giving Hooker additional time to absorb the playbook — and his bearings.

“Like the NFL season, this is a marathon, not a sprint, from the Cowboys’ perspective,” wrote Rob Phillips of the official team website. “Aug. 17 was Malik Hooker’s first full practice since tearing his Achilles’ tendon Sept. 21 of last year. That’s 11 months without being in pads, without being able to get in true football shape. The Cowboys didn’t get to evaluate him on the field much in preseason because they did the right thing by easing him back.”

Added in-house reporter David Helman: “You also have to keep in mind the thought process that goes into creating the game day roster. You’re only allowed to have 46-48 guys up for a game, so all of those guys need to have a purpose. If you’re not a starter, you need to be playing a lot of special teams snaps. Hooker isn’t a big special teamer, and he also didn’t do enough work in training camp to unseat Damontae Kazee as the starting free safety.”

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Refresher on Hooker

The No. 15 overall choice of the 2017 draft spent his first four seasons with the Colts, tallying 124 tackles (81 solo), 11 pass deflections, and seven interceptions across 36 games, including 35 starts.

“I’m excited over this Hooker acquisition. I’m excited over him,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones proclaimed at training camp. “That’s pretty impressive. Every time he’s been healthy, he starts.”

Hooker’s playmaking ability was never questioned; his ability to stay healthy will continue to be. The 25-year-old still has yet to register a full 16-game campaign and lasted only two games in 2020, prompting his departure from Indianapolis.


READ NEXT: Cowboys Reveal Truth on Phasing Out Jaylon Smith, Vander Esch

Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL


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