Here is part two of how the Dallas Cowboys brought competition to every position on the team this offseason. Yesterday we looked at where the competition was on offense and today we check out the defense.
When the Cowboys head to training camp in late July, they will be lining up in 4-3 for the first time in a long time. The Dallas front four, whether you believe Jerry Jones or not, does seem to be a strength and there will players competing for playing time all along the line. The starters appear to be set with DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher but there is no doubt that they will be pushed for snaps by the backups. Tyrone Crawford has slimmed down and has looked great this offseason, and so has Sean Lissemore, who was very quietly a solid player for the Cowboys in the past. Crawford and Lissemore will be pushing for more playing time since Ratliff and Hatcher are over 30 years old and their versatility, particularly with Crawford, could lead him to playing snaps at defensive end.
Dallas has also raved about how comfortable Kyle Wilber looks at defensive end and Ben Bass has made a big splash this offseason as well. The Cowboys will get plenty of looks at Wilber since they are unlikely to offer Anthony Spencer an extension before July 15 and Wilber could be the man to replace him next season. Bass has the size and athleticism to become a solid role player who deserves more repitions when the season rolls along.
That is eight solid players for a four man rotation and not all of them will get a significant amount of playing time. Garrett and the coaching staff has put together a solid group who will compete for playing time, which should make the defensive line a real strength for the Cowboys.
At linebacker the Cowboys appear set with their starters in Bruce Carter. Justin Durant and Sean Lee, but they also have a nice set of backups who will compete for snaps. Alex Albright and Ernie Sims proved they could play good football when the injury bug hit the linebackers last season and they will be fighting to be the first man up if something happened to any of the starters. They also have last year’s seventh round draft pick Caleb McSurdy fighting for a roster spot at linebacker, and possibly at fullback.
In the secondary, the Cowboys are set with their starting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne but there is competition for the rest of the group. Rookie B.W. Webb is expected to push Orlando Scandrick as the slot corner and apparently that’s exactly what’s been going on. Dallascowboys.com scout Bryan Broaddus reported that Scandrick may have gotten the message when the Cowboys drafted Webb and that Scandrick has looked great this offseason.
Even if Scandrick manages to hold his job as the slot corner, the supposed fifth cornerback on the roster Sterling Moore has also looked great in the offseason workouts, so nothing is being handed to Webb. The Cowboys corners are stepping up and competing for every spot on the depth chart and it’s making them better players.
However, the safety position will probably hold the most competition. Barry Church has locked down one starting spot but who will line up next to him against the New York Giants is anybody’s guess. At time it appeared as though Matt Johnson was healthy enough to make a strong run at the position, but it doesn’t appear that way now. This week the reports are that free agent pickup Will Allen will start next to Church when training camp begins.
The Cowboys reportedly have also been impressed with the way rookie J.J. Wilcox has learned the defensive system and they love the way he’s always around the ball. In a defense built on turnovers that is a huge skill to have and Wilcox is someone to watch in training camp for sure.
The fun doesn’t end there either, since rookie free agent Jakar Hamilton also has a shot to win a safety spot on the roster. Add in veteran special teams ace Danny McCray and Eric Frampton and the competition at safety should be fierce for the Cowboys this summer.
Jason Garrett has exactly what he wants heading into his third season as the Cowboys head coach, a group of hungry players who are all competing for roster spots. This is a play right out of Jimmy Johnson’s play book and the Cowboys will be a better team in 2013 because of it.