While sitting at 5-6 and spiraling downwards fast, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and staff make subtle roster moves in hopes to spark change.
So far this season, the Dallas Cowboys have had more problems than answers; many more problems. It started with the suspensions of defensive linemen David Irving and Damontre Moore to begin the season (Moore for two games and Irving for four). The suspension of Irving was much more disappointing due to the flashes of potential he showed at the end of the 2016 season and the hopes they had for him entering this season.
And, of course, we had the ongoing suspension drama unfolding between running back Ezekiel Elliott and the NFL which has been going on for the better part of a year and half. The six-game suspension was finally handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell on August 11th of this year. However, even with Elliott, the Cowboys were struggling on both sides of the ball and looked like a shade of the team from last year.
Now with Elliott still gone for the next three games, the Cowboys are desperate for any spark after humiliating themselves during the last three games. With Garrett and staff undoubtedly feeling a little pressure after owner Jerry Jones privately addressed the team following the blowout loss to the L.A. Chargers on Thanksgiving, some subtle roster changes are taking place.
These changes included waiving running back Darren McFadden, demoting struggling second year cornerback Anthony Brown, signing defensive lineman Datone Jones, and promoting running back Trey Williams from the practice squad to add running back depth. As you can see, none of these moves are likely to be season changing but some are changes that should have happened weeks ago.
Let’s start with McFadden, who just announced his retirement on Tuesday. While Elliott was still part of the backfield for the first eight games, McFadden was a healthy scratch from the active 46-man game day roster. With Elliott being gone the previous three games, McFadden has amassed one carry for -2 yards. McFadden did not bring anything of value to the team lacking both the explosiveness and versatility of fellow running back Rod Smith, who is also a solid special teams contributor.
Another move that should have happened weeks ago is the demotion of cornerback Anthony Brown who has struggled mightily this season. The struggles of Brown should be concerning due to how well he played last year. Coming into this year, the young corner was expected to play a significant role in the Cowboys secondary and possibly be inserted in as a starter.
Injuries have certainly played a part in how long it has taken to demote Brown with fellow cornerbacks Orlando Scandrick and Chidobe Awuzie both battling injuries. But with Awuzie back and healthy, it is time for Brown to be taken down a couple slots on the depth chart.
The addition of defensive lineman Datone Jones is a typical Garrett/Marinelli move; taking a flyer on a journeyman and former high draft pick (i.e. Damontre Moore) hoping they can get some production. This move will be watched over the next couple weeks as he is expecting to see playing time right out the gate. And honestly, any decent production from Jones could certainly help a defense that appears to be grasping at straws and getting worse each week.
These moves being made by head coach Jason Garrett and staff are moves that needed to happen. But how much impact will these moves make? While the timing of these moves certainly feel connected to the closed door speech given to the team by owner Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys have much more pressing issues than releasing an aging unproductive running back and demoting a young, struggling cornerback.