Now that the Draft is over and The Dallas Cowboys have added talent and youth to their depth chart for the upcoming season; it’s never too early for talk regarding position battles. One thing is for certain, there are a lot of young players on this roster, and I don’t remember a time where I was more excited about watching Training Camp and the Preseason get underway.
This team has really done a nice job of drafting the past few years with Jason Garrett at the helm. It really should come as no surprise seeing that Jim Garrett is his father and Jason grew up around one of the NFL’s most revered Scouts. Jason Garrett trusts his scouts and that would explain the initial sour look Garrett had when “The Trade” was made in this year’s draft; but then again once Frederick was announced the Garrett grin was shining bright again. Another bright spot for Cowboys fans is that it certainly seems as though The Dallas Cowboys are highly successful with their undrafted free agent acquisitions.
Barring injury set-backs this has all the making of an exciting offseason for the fans of the boys with the blue stars on their helmets. Monte Kiffin was recently quoted in having confidence in the defensive line, but really made a priority of acquiring linebackers. This is what brings me to the first position battle that has many fans salivating with intrigue.
Strong-Side Linebacker (SAM):
The strong side of the offense is where there are more personnel and often a Tight End. The SAM is usually the more physically stronger linebacker and is responsible for calling blitzes. Along with those duties the SAM also is often relied upon to tackle the runner but also possess a Strong Safety’s skill set in covering Tight Ends. This offseason the Cowboys resigned Ernie Sims, signed former Lions Linebacker Justin Durant, drafted DeVonte Holloman, and handsomely rewarded Brandon Magee out of Arizona State with $70,000 guaranteed. The Cowboys also have Alex Albright and Caleb McSurdy listed as linebackers. The Cowboys seem to have Alex Albright as a backup for Sean Lee, because Albright does have instincts and intelligence to play the MIKE. Here is how the Linebacker Core is preset in my mind.
|Weak-Outside Linebacker(WILL)||Middle Linebacker(MIKE)||Strong Outside Linebacker (SAM)|
|Bruce Carter*||Sean Lee*||Justin Durant*|
|Brandon Magee-x||Alex Albright-x||DeVonte Holloman-x|
|Caleb McSurdy||Ernie Sims||Ernie Sims|
*Starter x-denotes primary backup
Free Safety & Strong Safety:
Much like the emphasis on Linebackers, the Dallas Cowboys have shown a commitment to adding depth to the Safety position. With the uncertainty of Barry Church coming off an Achilles injury and Matt Johnson having not played at all for a 4th round pick, Can you blame them? A lot has been made of Matt Johnson’s abilities from not only coaches but scouts as well. The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately?” league. The 4-3 Tampa 2 Scheme requires a Free Safety to follow the ball constantly with his eyes. Cover-2 defenses often split the field, where the Strong Safety stays closer to the Middle to cover Tight Ends and Slot guys, whereas the Free Safety covers the back side and plays as the last line of defense. The Dallas Cowboys will enter this offseason with 7 players listed as a Safety. This will be an interesting battle to say the least, because 1 maybe 2 will not be here when the Cowboys face off against the Giants on September 8th. Here is how everything shakes out in my humble opinion.
|Free Safety||Strong Safety|
|J.J. Wilcox*||Barry Church*|
|Matt Johnson-x||Will Allen-x|
|Jakar Hamilton||Danny McCray^|
*Starter x-denotes primary backup ^Special Teams
Although there weren’t any new additions to this position thus far, I think many forget that there are some young guys returning either from injury or were on The Practice Squad last year and are ready for competition. The Offensive Guards are crucial in this offense because Tony Romo is going to need that “extra second” Jerry keeps talking about. The Guard’s objective is to keep interior defensive linemen from penetrating the middle and keeping the pocket clean. Last year was difficult to create any type of consistency at the position with all the injuries this team suffered before and during the season. The Cowboys are betting that if they can keep a starting 5 healthy, that this team can finally keep people out of Tony Romo’s lap. At this point I believe that one of last year’s Free Agents will probably lose his starting job this year, and if I were a betting man it would most likely be Nate Livings. Here is Depth Chart in my opinion once September 8th rolls around.
|Left Tackle||Left Guard||Center||Right Guard||Right Tackle|
|Tyron Smith*||Ronald Leary*||Travis Frederick*||Mackenzy Bernadeau*||Doug Free*|
|Darrion Weems-x||Kevin Kowalski-x||Phil Costa-x||Kevin Kowalski-x||Jeremy Parnell-x|
*Starter x-denotes primary backup
It’s safe to say that DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle will be penciled in as 1 and 2, but that’s not where the intrigue ends for this Cowboys backfield. Philip Tanner, Lance Dunbar and UDFA Kendial Lawrence will be fighting it out for a roster spot. The last few years have seen The Cowboys keep 4 backs so one of these maybe the odd man out. If you haven’t watched the tape on Kendial Lawrence, go to find it now. This guy makes what Bryan Broaddus calls “violent cuts”, that is very intriguing to any Cowboys fan. Both Murray and Randle are One-Cut runners and that bodes well for this offensive scheme, but if the Cowboys want a change of pace back then Lawrence may beat out both Tanner and Dunbar. If Dunbar can be consistent on Special Teams that may give him an edge, however if Lawrence shows well on teams too, then Dunbar will most likely land on the Practice Squad. Let’s shake the Depth Chart out once again.
|DeMarco Murray||Joseph Randle||Kendial Lawrence/ Lance Dunbar #|
# Practice Squad
This position may be the strongest Depth on this team. Last season when Miles and Dez went down in the last game at Washington it became a little scary, but after the acquisition of Terrance William, fans can feel pretty good. Dwayne Harris made strides last year and even Cole Beasley had some shining moments. The only major question mark comes from that of last year’s 5th Round pick Danny Coale. This team currently has the rights to 12 Wide Receivers. Just for those who don’t know their names:
Dez Bryant Tim Benford
Miles Austin Jared Green
Terrance Williams Carlton Mitchell
Dwayne Harris Anthony Armstrong
Danny Coale Anthony Amos
Cole Beasley Eric Rogers
I’m inclined to believe the Cowboys will go long at this position but they will not be keeping all 11 of these guys. I think 8 is the right number and that includes the Practice Squad guys.
|WR 1||WR 2||Slot||Practice Squad|
|Dez Bryant||Terrance Williams||Miles Austin||Tim Benford|
|Dwayne Harris||Danny Coale||Cole Beasley||Anthony Armstrong|
With more OTA’s and Mini-Camps coming up in the next few weeks, a lot of fans will be glued to the respective websites for information. If you haven’t created a twitter account, now is the perfect time to follow all of The Dallas Cowboys beat writers for news updates during the practices. I’m sure that there will be even more intriguing battles throughout the OTA’s and leading up into The Preseason opener against Miami. With so many young players on the depth chart, some of these veterans better be ready for the challenge. As the old saying goes Let the Battle Begin!