Change is difficult. Whether it’s a new job or changing a habit, transitions often lead to difficulties. Whether it’s big or small, change requires an adjustment. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the world the last few months, everyone has been forced to adjust to a new way of doing things. Though it certainly doesn’t compare to the day-to-day of the fans, even the NFL has had to adapt to the growing concerns of COVID-19.
The NFL hasn’t been able to conduct it’s regular football activities since March, and things are continually changing.
Last week, it was announced that the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers, was to be canceled. Then yesterday, the NFL announced it was going to cut the first and fourth preseason games on the schedule. Those changes and an altered offseason, training camp, and preseason will have a significant impact on teams as they enter the fray of roster construction for the 2020 season.
While we’ve been making assumptions about how the Dallas Cowboys starting lineup, 53-man roster and practice squad will shape up. The time has come to look at this team through the context of what is happening around us.
Since the NFL Draft, a lot of the discussion surrounding the Dallas Cowboys roster composition has centered on several positional battles. There are areas where rookies or younger players (Connor McGovern) could make an impact and steal a starting job in a training camp competition.
However, because the Cowboys and other NFL teams haven’t been able to hold practices during the offseason, the veterans will have the upper hand on their rookie counterparts in those positional battles.
As excited as we are about CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Tyler Biadasz, Connor McGovern (sat out last year), and Bradlee Anae, the fact is they’ll enter training camp a step behind the veterans in those competitions.
Though Trevon Diggs will eventually be a starter for the Dallas Cowboys on the outside, the Cowboys could go with Daryl Worley to start opposite Chidobe Awuzie. Trevon Diggs is an exceptional talent, but Worley comes in with four years of experience and has played well at times throughout his career. The same can be said for Joe Looney vs. Tyler Biadasz or Connor Williams vs. Connor McGovern.
These young players have a lot of promise, and there’s a reason to be excited about their potential. Still, the offseason, training camp, and the preseason are all about gathering information about these players. With less information in 2020 than in the typical NFL offseason, NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys included, will go with safer veteran options to start the season.
Stability matters. And this coaching staff has a lot more information on the veteran players on the team than the rookies. As we approach the 2020 season with a ton of unknowns, coaching staffs will try to minimize those unknowns as well as risk, by going with players who’ve been around the league, even if they aren’t the long-term answer at that particular position.
Though we’ve been talking as if this season is just like any other, the reality is, this isn’t a typical NFL season. When typically, we might see one or two rookies work their way into a starting role week one, I’d venture to guess that in 2020, the only rookie that will be starting is CeeDee Lamb. And that’s because three-wide receiver looks are the new normal in the modern NFL. Your third wide receiver is a starter.
The Dallas Cowboys had a great draft and an excellent crop of young players that will help form the foundation of this team for years to come. Unfortunately, the shortened preseason and ultimately canceled offseason are going to delay their rises to the top of the depth chart.