Tim McMahon reports today that the Dallas Cowboys informed safety Patrick Watkins that he will be released tomorrow when the team must cut to 75 players. A four year veteran, Watkins has maintained a spot on the roster through strong special teams play. After the Cowboys drafted Akwasi Owusu-Ansah in the fourth round, they signed undrafted rookies Barry Church and Danny McCray. The trio has impressed coaches both on special teams - where Owusu-Ansah has shown some ability on returns and McCray has been impressive in coverage - and on the defensive unit.
The move does ensure a great deal of inexperience at the safety position. Veteran Gerald Sensabaugh will start at strong safety, but Alan Ball will be in his first year starting at free safety and primary backup Michael Hamlin has little game experience. The rookies will fight for possibly two remainining slots, with Owusu-Ansah virtually assured of a spot.
The Cowboys will put tight end John Phillips, who tore his ACL in the Aug. 8 preseason opener and will have surgery Tuesday, on injured reserve. Linebacker Stephen Hodge, who is recovering from microfracture knee surgery, will remain on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
The team will have one more week to set its final 53-man roster. Among those on the bubble, veteran Sam Hurd must show that his experience and versatility are worth the extra million dollars that he would cost the team in place of a first year player.