When the Cowboys signed Arizona State linebacker Brandon Magee as an undrafted free agent this year, it was fair to assume that the team had sixth-round linebacker DeVonte Holloman rated higher. Nope. The ‘Boys actually had Magee ranked higher than Holloman, but they waited on the Arizona State product because they thought they had a better chance to sign him as a free agent. It was actually a really shrewd move by Dallas that allowed them to acquire both players.
Holloman has been outstanding this preseason, showing incredible athleticism in securing two interceptions, one of which he took to the house. The Cowboys desperately need that sort of big-play ability on defense and Holloman can provide it. But while Holloman is getting all of the attention, I’d argue that on a play-by-play basis, Magee is actually performing just as well.
Through three preseason games, Holloman has racked up eight tackles on 71 snaps—an 11.3 percent tackle rate. Six of Holloman’s tackles have been solo and two have been assists. Meanwhile, Magee leads all Cowboys players in both solo tackles (15) and assists (5). Actually, Magee has the most tackles of anyone in the NFL at this point, three more solo tackle than anyone in the league, and he ranks second in assists.
In accruing 20 tackles on 102 snaps, Magee’s 19.6 percent tackle rate is nearly double that of Holloman. Even more impressive, Magee hasn’t missed a single tackle, securing all 20 that he’s attempted. Meanwhile, Holloman has missed two of the 10 tackles that he’s attempted.
In coverage, Holloman obviously has the pair of huge interceptions. He’s also given up only four completions on nine attempts, allowing 24 yards (2.67 yards per attempt). When targeting Holloman, opposing quarterbacks have generated a passer rating of just 12.0. Magee has been good in his limited work as well. He’s been targeted only three times, giving up one completion for nine yards.
I wasn’t that impressed with Magee coming out of Arizona State, but he’s playing really good football right now. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to maintain a 19.6 percent tackle rate for much longer, but if he can hover around the 15.0 percent park, the Cowboys might have found not one, but two really talented linebackers this year.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.