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Malik Hooker Describes Himself as an Athletic Ballhawk, Game Changer

The Dallas Cowboys have been looking for playmakers at the safety position since the days of Darren Woodson and Roy Williams. Donovan Wilson proved he fit that mold last season at strong safety, but who would play opposite him was still a mystery coming into 2021. Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker both came in for visits in March, but the former was the one who secured a contract.

The thought of Hooker joining the Cowboys lost its luster for months until he came in for a second session last week. It was a productive meeting, to the point where the only thing stopping Hooker from signing was a physical and getting through COVID-19 protocol. After a workout on Tuesday, Hooker signed with the Cowboys and it instantly created quite the buzz in North Texas.

Despite multiple injuries that cost him major time on the field during his stint with the Indianapolis Colts, Hooker feels he brings a plethora of skills to the Cowboys.

“Athletic ballhawk,” Hooker said. “That’s what I’ve been since I came out (of college). … I feel like I’m a game-changer, and vocally I’m a leader.”

Hooker only played in seven games as a rookie in 2017 due to tearing his ACL and MCL. However, he still managed to get three interceptions and put the NFL on notice that he had arrived. The next two seasons saw Hooker catapult his way to the top of his position as he amassed 95 tackles, four interceptions, and two fumble recoveries in 27 games (logged 1,700 snaps over that span).

Just when Hooker’s career seemed to be hitting its stride, he suffered a torn Achilles in 2020 and only played in two games. The only issue when it comes to Hooker during his career has been health, not talent, and he mentioned his body is currently in a good place.

“Physically right now I feel great,” Hooker said. No setbacks as far as where I’m at in the process of recovery. Now it’s just taking my time and working back into playing football again because I’ve been off going on a year now.”

Dan Quinn’s Cover 3 scheme requires the free safety to line up in center field and take care of the middle deep zone. Hooker excelled at that aspect with the Colts displaying great instincts, being fluid with his hips, and showcasing good closing speed to disrupt passes.

NFL Stats on Twitter: “With Malik Hooker signed, here’s a reminder of what he can do… pic.twitter.com/EmJPSAZHeC / Twitter”

With Malik Hooker signed, here’s a reminder of what he can do… pic.twitter.com/EmJPSAZHeC

Underrated Entertainment on Twitter: “Here’s some highlights I put together from @MalikHooker24’s ’20 season. I think he’s a top-10 safety in the league. Full video of some other underrated free agents here: https://t.co/yl7KYkl8B7. pic.twitter.com/Px9a9XGtcs / Twitter”

Here’s some highlights I put together from @MalikHooker24’s ’20 season. I think he’s a top-10 safety in the league. Full video of some other underrated free agents here: https://t.co/yl7KYkl8B7. pic.twitter.com/Px9a9XGtcs

This made Hooker a prized free agent and he received interest from several teams during the offseason. It was all about what system fit Hooker’s talents the best, and the Cowboys stood out the most to the former first-round pick.

“The guys here, I feel like a great system,” Hooker said. “A lot of fans, great players, players willing to be coaches for me, teaching me how the system works, plays and stuff like that. Just the system, it’s similar to what system I was in before.”

The Cowboys are being cautious with Hooker as he was seen working off to the side with the team’s Director of Rehabilitation Britt Brown on Wednesday. Once he gets the green light, he’ll battle the aforementioned Kazee and others for who will earn starting duties at free safety.

When Hooker has been on the field he’s been an effective player. The problem is that his availability has been a major issue, and he’s only played in 36 out of a possible 64 games. Hooker’s struggle to stay healthy used to get to him. These days, however, he’s taking a much more positive approach.

“It was frustrating for me at first but now it comes with the game,” Hooker said. “Every football player that plays the game, plays it in this system specifically, they get something back whether it’s a torn labrum whatever the case may be. For me, it’s not really frustrating now. It’s just about trusting it and trusting the process for me.”

Hooker won’t be handed the keys to the free safety spot without a fight. Kazee had an excellent practice the same day Hooker was brought on board which shows he understands the magnitude of the signing.

One thing is for certain though, the competition at free safety has reached a fevered pitch.

 

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Written by Matthew Lenix

I write dope stuff about the Dallas Cowboys and what not.

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