The Dallas Cowboys swore up and down that they had found a diamond in the rough in Western Illinois UDFA Dennis Houston. QB Dak Prescott was enamored with the wideout, stating he was always where he needed to be when the QB was ready to target him. He was such a revelation that he ended up being one of a handful of UDFA’s to make the club out of camp. Even more to his credit, Houston was active on the 48-man game-day roster, ahead of third-round selection Jalen Tolbert.
Unfortunately, once the games mattered, the results weren’t there. Houston saw five targets in Week 1, catching two of them for 16 yards. That was on 39 offensive snaps. In Week 2, he saw just 21 snaps and only one target, failing to register a reception. Before Week 3, his NFL dreams had to hit the pause button for a while. Dallas waived the rookie on Tuesday.
The #Cowboys have released Dennis Houston.
— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) September 20, 2022
What's next for Houston
Being waived means that any NFL club has the right to select his rookie contract and place him on their 53-man roster. If Houston clears waivers, the Cowboys will likely sign him to a practice-squad contract to continue working with the club and trying to develop.
A team would have to make a serious commitment to the young player to add him to their roster, but stranger things have happened. Fifth-round rookie DT John Ridgeway was signed by Washington after he was waived this past weekend, but at least there Dallas snatched him up before 70+ other selections were made. Several teams put claims in on the former Razorback.
But nobody used a pick on Houston and he’d have had to really catch a team’s eye in the preseason in order to persuade them to walk away from someone who initially made that club to make room for Houston.
What Prescott saw in Houston
Here is one of several offseason quotes from the Cowboys QB on Houston:
“When you break the huddle he’s lining up in the right spot, no matter what position he’s in. This goes way back to the spring, running the routes at the right depth every time he’s firing off the ball. He’s giving good looks. He’s where I expect him to be on each and every play and he’s coming back and asking about things, communicating about things. ” 8-4-22
I was all ready to tweet that the Dallas offense was really struggling with their end-of-game offense. And then this happens.
Dak set up a first down with 6 seconds to play, and instead of clocking it he went for it all. Dennis Houston with the Hail Mary TD. pic.twitter.com/5aty76TKV5
— David Helman (@davidhelman_) August 18, 2022
What this could mean for Jalen Tolbert
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
It appears on the surface that Tolbert would be the biggest benficiary. He’s been inactive for the first two games of the season. Over the last couple of weeks, the brass has gotten their message locked down on why, pointing to two main reasons. One, they put a lot on Tolbert’s plate to begin his career. Excited about what they saw in rookie minicamp, they decided to have Tolbert try and learn all three wideout positions.
That probably wasn’t the wisest idea for a guy transitioning from a lower tier of competition, as Tolbert played at South Alabama.
Another reason was that he suffered a hamstring injury that set him back a bit over the summer.
Combined, the injury plus the heavy workload in the learning department has been credited to robbing Tolbert of the special teams work necessary to contribute as a depth receiver.
Houston’s release could mean Tolbert improved enough to warrant the snaps in a game.
What this could also mean
There is also the possibility that the brass is removing an option for the coaching staff. A third-round pick was invested in Tolbert and if Houston is blocking him getting game action and experience, but not contributing to the offense in any meaningful way, then maybe there is a bit of foot-being-put-down going on here.
What this could mean with absolutely no thought to Tolbert at all
(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
The other option, and probably more likely is that Dallas A) needs the room on the 53-man roster to activate a practice squad player. Let’s say that guy could be Jason Peters, as Matt Farniok continues to struggle at left guard.
Bringing Peters on to the big club to start at left tackle could shift Tyler Smith back inside to guard and potentially give Dallas their best five (available) lineup.
Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
It could also mean that the club is ready to have WR Michael Gallup active on game-day. Gallup has been out since a January ACL tear and has been ramping up his activity in recent weeks. If he’s ready to go, those snaps will assuredly go to him as Dallas looks to find a third receiver to work with CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown.