There's seemingly a new culture that's been established within the Dallas Cowboys locker room, and it's led the team to a 6-1 start to the season -- their best since they finished 13-3 in 2016 thanks to an 11-game win streak -- giving them distance atop the NFC East and putting them in striking distance of the top of the NFC. They haven't yet played perfect football, though, and that's something head coach Mike McCarthy is still working to achieve, and the hiring of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to replace Mike Nolan is aiding in that effort by way of both motivating players and holding them accountable -- as Bradlee Anae discovered this week.
Anae, the team's fifth-round pick in 2020, had already seen his stock take a hit recently with some uneven play, but with the return of Dorance Armstrong from injury, an already short rope became shorter. So when Anae logged a defensive offsides penalty on fourth-and-5 in the second quarter Sunday, after the Vikings had been forced to punt, the Cowboys' wrath awaited him after the game.
On Monday, he was waived by the team.
"That's a bad penalty," special teams coordinator John Fassel told media after the game. "Fourth-and-5, and, you know, it's just a bad penalty."
Anae is subject to a potential waiver claim by any of the other 31 clubs, and will become an unrestricted free agent if he goes unclaimed -- able to sign with any team he chooses -- but the Cowboys aren't completely out on him. McCarthy noted Tuesday his hope of re-signing Anae to the practice squad, which is still a demotion Anae will have to weigh up against other options that might come his way over the next few days.
A promising talent out of Utah, Anae struggled to get defensive reps under Nolan and now-fired defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, the latter having played favorites by force feeding reps to Aldon Smith to a degree that agitated both Randy Gregory and owner Jerry Jones. Anae would have another shot in 2021 though, this time with a more objective Quinn, but he played only 10 defensive snaps in the season opener, a number that peaked at 23 reps the following week before falling back to 17 and then none at all. He has primarily been used on special teams, and that means he can't afford any errors on that side of the ball.
If Anae gets another shot to prove himself to the Cowboys, and chooses to accept it, it'll be all about trying to finally become for them what he was when he dominated at Utah. He currently has no career NFL sacks and only two combined tackles in 11 games played.
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