It is going to be really difficult for any undrafted rookies to make the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster in 2017, but that is exactly what Lewis Neal is trying to do. The Cowboys signed Neal after the completion of the 2017 NFL Draft and already he is being compared to one of their best defensive lineman, Maliek Collins.
“[Neal’s] got some of that Maliek suddenness,” Rod Marinelli told Dallas Morning News. “That’s kind of what we liked about him. He’ll fill out and get bigger as he goes. I don’t worry about that.”
The “suddenness” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is referring to helped Maliek Collins finished second on the team with 5 quarterback sacks in his rookie season. For Lewis Neal to be mentioned in the same breath as Collins is intriguing to say the least.
Maliek Collins without a doubt the best defensive lineman the Dallas Cowboys have. The former Nebraska DT is entering his second year in the NFL and should be even better this season. His quickness to attack the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball and his strength give opposing offensive lineman fits. He has been the one player that has given All-Pro Zack Martin trouble at times in practice.
Now, Lewis Neal isn’t anywhere near that same type of player as Collins yet, but for Marinelli to even mention his name offers hope to the former LSU standout that he is doing something right. He has been playing primarily defensive tackle so far in practices after playing defensive end during his tenure at LSU.
At 6’2″, 280, Neal is little undersized to survive as an every down defensive tackle in the NFL, but Marinelli has molded these types of players into key contributors before. He did it before with Henry Melton, who was a collegiate running back out of Texas. Melton was roughly the same size (6’3″, 290) and had an All-Pro season with Marinelli in Chicago.
Hopefully, Lewis Neal’s suddenness/quickness being compared to Maliek Collins pays off for the undrafted rookie and gives him a chance to become a member of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s not going to be easy, but the fact that he has already caught the attention of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli speaks for itself.
We all know that the Cowboys defense could use all of the help they can get, especially early in the season due to all of the suspensions. Maybe, just maybe, Lewis Neal can become another Dallas Cowboys undrafted gem.