Tyler Patmon doesn’t know why he slipped through the cracks, receiving only two phone calls from NFL teams interested in him as a tryout candidate, but he is doing his best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
With roster cuts on the horizon, the rookie cornerback from Oklahoma State made a strong case to be among the 53 players the Cowboys start the season with on Sept. 7.
Nobody is overlooking him now, not after he played a role in all three turnovers the defense forced Saturday against the Miami Dolphins.
But, given his road so far, Patmon knows better than to assume he’s made it.
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“Man, I can’t,” he said. “I’ve got to keep going. Keep pounding. Keep getting better every single day. That’s my goal and my mission is to make my coaches believe that I can start in this league and play with the best players in this league.”
Patmon convinced several he had the ability to hang with the best and might find his way into the starting lineup with Orlando Scandrick’s season-opening four-game suspension and Morris Claiborne’s endless injury setbacks.
A telling sign for Patmon and something that will surely bode well for him is that he forced two turnovers against the Dolphins’ No. 1 offense and then looked like a savvy veteran in dissecting a play perfectly for a pick-six touchdown.
But Patmon’s play begs a question. In a talent-hungry, borderline talent-starved industry, why were only two teams — the Cowboys and the Dolphins — interested in him for a tryout?
It’s not like Patmon, a Round Rock native who decided to go with his home state team over the Dolphins, flew under the radar in college. At Oklahoma State last year, he tied for the team lead in pass breakups with nine and delivered game-changing plays on big stages, such as a 78-yard fumble return for a score in a 42-10 upset win over then-No. 3 Baylor.
Before his season at Oklahoma State, he started 32 games over three years at Kansas.
“Man, I can’t explain it,” Patmon said. “I just think God wanted my story to be greater than some other stories. What better than an undrafted tryout guy that worked his way up?”
A movie producer might want that storyline one day. For now, it adds up to Patmon playing with an admitted chip on his shoulder and an internal drive to prove the people who passed on him wrong.
And the Cowboys are in line to be the beneficiary.
“The production was off the charts,” safety Barry Church said. “It can’t get much better than that. I’m glad he stepped up and played the way he did because now if anyone goes down, we know we have a guy who can step in. He can play an important role on this defense.”
Patmon certainly should be a lock to make the team. His main competition is B.W. Webb, who is dealing with a hip injury and was exposed multiple times last season, and fellow rookie Terrance Mitchell, who continues to draw penalties.
Neither of them has flashed what Patmon did. He showed a knack for making plays, knocking the ball loose from Dolphins tight end Dion Sims in the second quarter and intercepting an underthrown pass by Ryan Tannehill on the first series of the second half.
Patmon saved his best for last, reading and timing a Matt Moore pass as well as possible for an easy 9-yard pick-six score.
As well as he played, though, there were also a couple mistakes. Patmon took full responsibility for getting beat on a 54-yard pass from Moore to Damian Williams late in the third quarter.
But those fixable errors paled in comparison to the three turnovers and team-high six tackles he made. Everyone, from owner Jerry Jones to the defensive veterans, was praising his game.
“He’s trying to make this team,” Jones said. “You hear his name come up as these coaches have met. He’s had a good camp overall, not just tonight.”
Said cornerback Brandon Carr: “He’s just fearless out there. Nothing scares him, nothing is too big for him on the field. He goes out there and competes every single play. He’s hungry and that’s what you want.”