First, my final 53 based off of my observations thus far.
QB - Tony Romo, Jon Kitna, Stephen McGee (though, it would be nice if we could tuck McGee away on the practice squad, to save room for additional personnel on defense)
HB - Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice
WR - Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, Sam Hurd, Kevin Ogletree (I'd prefer Ogletree or Austin handle Kick Returns over Felix Jones)
TE - Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, John Phillips
FB - Deon Anderson
LT - Flozell Adams, Doug Free
LG - Kyle Kosier, Montrae Holland
C - Andre Gurode, Duke Preston (finally someone who can replace Proctor's ability to be interchangeable at guard and center; Duke Preston was a starter at both position's for Buffalo last season, and actually did very well, despite their pedestrian finish)
RG - Leonard Davis, Duke Preston
RT - Marc Columbo, Pat McQuistan
I feel pretty comfortable with the above offense. I'd say the offensive line could afford injuries at the center and guard position, but we our an injured OT away from our offensive line being a turnstile. Outside of that, we have decent depth. Considering that since Stephen McGee's debut against the Raiders, we haven't seen much of him, I would not be suprised if the Cowboy's organization isn't trying to make the league forget about him, so they can sneak him past waivers, but we will know more if that's their strategy this coming Friday night against the Vikings. If we see more of Jon Kitna and Rudy Carpenter, that's exactly what the Cowboy's are trying to do.
RE - Igor Olshansky, Stephen Bowen (if we could get McGee to accept a practice squad spot, I might consider keeping Marcus Dixon here)
DT - Jay Ratliff, Junior Siavii
LE - Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher
ROLB - Demarcus Ware, Steve Octavien, Victor Butler
MLB - Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Bobby Carpenter, Stephen Hodge
LOLB - Anthony Spencer, Jason Williams (I actually had hoped Jason William's would be converted to this position from the beginning; with the season-ending injury to Brandon William's, he may be the most ideal replacement)
CB - Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick, Mike Jenkins, Alan Ball, Mike Mickens (we will be watching the waiver wire very closely for this position; Mike Mickens is another who could use some time on the practice squad)
FS - Ken Hamlin, DeAngelo Smith (again, we will be watching the waiver wire for both Safety positions, as DeAngelo Smith and Michael Hamlin are not ready for pro football and could use some time on the practice squad)
SS - Gerald Sensabaugh, Pat Wakins, Michael Hamlin
I am more concerned about our defense, than our offense, particularly in the Seconary. First and foremost, corner is my most significant concern. Terence Newman has been an injury waiting to happen the last few seasons, and behind Scandrick and Jenkins, the options are dismal. Next on my list of concerns is Safety. Ken Hamlin has been solid, but behind him is a whole lot of inexperience. Sensabaugh, has been solid in coverage, but not as good as advertised against the run, taking poor angles and not wrapping up on potential tackles (not to mention the two major penalties levied against him in the last two games). Behind him, once again, the options are pretty weak. Linebacker is actually the least of my concerns. Bobbie Carpenter has done quite a bit to regain some of my confidence thus far. Granted, when he is headlining the second and third string defense his production is pretty weak, but I think if he is surrounded by good players, he in turn will play well, as would be the case should an injury demand he step up.
K - Nick Folk, David Buehler
P - Matt McBriar
LS - L.P. Ladouceur
I would have liked to have seen Buehler have more opportunities to kick field goals. I love the clutch performances Nick Folk has given us, but if David can be solid in this area, it would be nice to have an extra position to offer a corner, safety, linebacker, or even receiver if we would like to see a little more of Isaiah Stanback. The same goes for L.P. Ladouceur: Once again, he has been solid, but if Matt Stewart can perform the position, the additional linebacker/special teams contributor would be nice. On the other hand, unless the coaching staff is absolutely certain in regards to Buehler and Stewart taking over for Folk and Ladouceur, it certainly is not worth a gamble.
Robert Brewster - Torn pectorial muscle
Brandon Williams - Torn ACL
Matt Stewart, Marcus Dixon, Jonas Seawright, Derreck Robinson, Keon Lattimore, Julius Crosslin, Asaph Schwapp, Rudy Carpenter, Manuel Johnson, Isaiah Stanback, Jesse Holley, Travis Bright, Ryan Gibbons, Cory Proctor, Greg Isdaner, Andre Douglas, Mike Jefferson, and Julian Hawkins.
The bolded players represent guys I would like to see make the practice squad. I would have bolded Stanback, but I don't think he is eligible.
For all the emphasis placed on playing perfect, you would think we would see improvement in the penalty area. 3 preseason games down and the Cowboys are the most penalized team in the NFL. But it's not just the penalties that are bothering me, as much as, when they are happening. On the offense, their favorite time to a draw a penalty is to negate a 1st down or a score. The defense loves to commit penalties when the opposing offenses will have to punt or go for it on fourth down without the penalty that otherwise offers them a 1st down on a silver platter. The Cowboy's organization has also been telling us that they have focused on creating more turnover's via the secondary and thus far the Cowboy's only have 1. In defense of the defense, the Titan's and 49ers utilize ball control offenses, running the ball, working the flats and zone is predominantly how they move the ball limiting the number of opportunities to create turnovers via interception.
Positions of interest on the waiver wire in order of need.
Corner - Newman has been an injury waiting to happen the last two seasons. Behind Scandrick and Jenkins (and Jenkins is still not what I consider solid) the pickings are slim. Alan Ball, Courtney Brown and Mike Mickens are on the bubble, and were not for the lack of option's, Ball would likely be the only one considered worthy of a roster spot.
Safety - I know many think linebacker should be 1st and foremost if not, at least, second. But as I said above, I am much more comfortable with our second stringers at linebacker than I am at Safety.
Offensive Tackle - The position of this concern is debatable. OT could even be considered a chief concern. But for all the penalties and mistakes, the QB's have actually had a pretty clean pocket throughout the first 3 games; though, they haven't exactly played defensive powerhouses either. We will know more about this offensive line once the regular season begins, playing our first two games against the Bucs and the Giants.
Linebacker - This probably wouldn't make my list, though, I know Wade will be keeping his eye's pealed for linebackers, because they are so crucial to the success of a 3-4. But ultimately, I've been moderately happy with the play from our 1st stringers down to our rookies.
Being the preseason, it's difficult to really gauge how much my confidence has changed prior to the season beginning. I knew the offense would be a match-up nightmare and could be much more balanced than they have been since Jason Garrett took over. I even said this team was built to dink and dunk; but I would have liked to see Romo take some more chances down field (minus that duck he threw intended forOgletree), to open the intermediate game up more, as the 49ers did have a tendency to sit on routes expecting the short game. I don't think using the go route to back a defense up, show's too much of your offenses hand.
On defense, the Cowboy's can be dominating. But I've noticed, the face of their intensity changes once a defender commits a series continuing penalty. It is as if they really want these younger players to feel the sting of their mistakes, by pretty much allowing the opposing offense to do what ever it want's from that point forward. I really don't believe that's the strategy; I'm just saying, that is what it seems like.
All in all, I feel pretty confident this team is capable of having a 10 and 6 win/loss ratio by season end. But the bigger question is if that's going to be enough in a very tough NFCE.
Why The Seahawks Will Be Looking Into A Mirror Against The Cowboys Sunday
For the better part of the last decade one defense has reigned supreme over the NFC. One defense has continually put their offense and team in position to win big games, including a dominant Super Bowl win over one of the more productive offenses in recent memory.
That defense, of course, belonged to the Seattle Seahawks.
With a secondary deemed as the "Legion of Boom" and a defensive line which rotated through Pro Bowl level talent routinely, the Seahawks bolstered one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen. A defense which perfectly complimented the physical, run first philosophy their offense lived by.
Players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, and Bobby Wagner will arguably be Hall of Famers one day, and they wreaked havoc on the conference for a strong 3-5 year stretch.
Now, however, things are changing.
Gone are many of the elite players which once bolstered the Seattle defense to top-tier status, and while some big names remain, the talent level simply isn't the same. The Seahawks missed the postseason a year ago, and now sit at 0-2 before their home opener today against the Cowboys.
Their window looks to be closed, while their opponent today is looking to build their defense (and team) in the mold of what once was in Seattle.
Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard has come to Dallas and brought with him a more aggressive defensive philosophy, one which he deployed successfully with the Seahawks. Under Richard the Cowboys are blitzing more often on third down than they have in the past under Rod Marinelli, they're utilizing more single high safety looks, and they are allowing their long and talented corners to do what they do best in coverage.
The Seahawks once leaned on a deep pass rush and long, physical secondary. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.
The Seahawks once leaned on a mobile quarterback to make plays with his feet while relying on a strong running game and one of the league's best backs. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.
Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie look like they were molded in a 2013-Seahawks lab as cornerbacks, and DeMarcus Lawrence is as productive as any pass rusher those defenses had. Of course, we aren't able to say the Cowboys have the consistent front four depth that those Seattle teams did or that they have the single high safety of Earl Thomas' caliber, but the preliminary pieces are clearly in place.
Today the Cowboys look to improve to 2-1 with a conference road win. But, they also look to bury the Seahawks in the past and take another step towards cementing themselves as one of the elite defenses in the NFC.
It won't happen over night, but anyone can see that the potential is there.
Could Cowboys DT Datone Jones Earn Starting Role with Maliek Collins Out?
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins is out for Sunday's game at the Seahawks with a sprained knee, further opening the door for Datone Jones to earn his spot among the "Hot Boyz". The moniker given to the Cowboys front seven this season, the team's depth up front has been a strength in totaling nine sacks through two games.
Last season, Datone Jones was a part of this rotation late in the year. Coming on strong at the 3T position while Maliek Collins played at the 1T, Jones is the type of versatile defender with veteran experience that Rod Marinelli can get the most out of.
Returning from a knee injury himself, Jones may take some time to be the disruptive interior player we saw at the end of 2017. Through two games, the Cowboys had played Collins at his original position of 3T, with Antwaun Woods doing more than enough to continue playing at 1T.
This potentially makes Collins and Jones two players fighting for one spot. Collins followed up his performance at the Panthers with a sack of Cam Newton by constantly playing in the Giants' backfield last week.
Guessing that means no Irving, I'd say Tyrone Crawford then Antwaun Woods. I have high hopes for Datone Jones once he returns though. https://t.co/9frjFK2J9J
A player determined to not let his team's misuse slow down his progress, after an incredible rookie season at 3T, Collins is returning from his second broken foot in three years.
Through his five years in the NFL, Jones has only played a full 16 games once.
The most games Datone has started in a season is four. Maliek Collins should like his chances of playing over Jones once both are healthy, and the Cowboys should be equally thrilled with the opportunity to keep both fresh in rotation.
Following Sunday's game in Seattle and next week against the Lions, the Cowboys can return David Irving from suspension to play all over their defensive line - his best position also being at three technique.
Without the wealth of talent they now have at all four positions up front, the Cowboys have had too many bodies to fill similar roles in the past. Thanks to the addition of Kris Richard along with strong edge play from Taco Charlton and rookie Dorance Armstrong, the Cowboys defensive line can do no wrong in 2018, and using Jones in week three and beyond should only add to this.
The Cowboys biggest key to success against the Seahawks will be containing Russell Wilson. Pressuring him in his face to collapse the pocket gives Dallas a chance to really slow the Seahawks offense, something they'll be relying on Jones to help them do as DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory also work with favorable match ups at defensive end.
Could a Cowboys Win VS Seahawks Spark an Earl Thomas Trade?
As we enter week 3 of the 2018 regular season, we might be entering the next important date in the Earl Thomas conversation. It's been such a wild narrative ever since the Seattle Seahawks' safety asked Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett to "come get him" and the end of this talk is not close. The trade deadline won't come until October 30th. Only then will we be able to put this conversation aside until the 2019 Free Agency arrives.
After all that's happened, including the Cowboys offering a second round draft pick for Thomas, it may come off as optimistic to expect Thomas will wear the Star in 2018. However, when the Dallas Cowboys visit Seattle today, a victory on the road could spark the trade we've been discussing since December.
The #Cowboys and #Seahawks haven't spoken about Earl Thomas since before he return. Some in the Cowboys organization hope to restart talks today. Seattle would have to be blown away to even consider it. https://t.co/dhbSNPeiiF
Ian Rapoport reported today that trade talks ended between both teams after Thomas returned to the team just before the season began. The Cowboys, according to the NFL Network reporter, "hope to restart talks today."
It only makes sense, right?
The Seattle Seahawks are not re-signing the All-Pro safety. It's not happening. Thomas is clearly unhappy with the situation and hasn't been afraid to show it in social media. Shortly after returning to the Seahawks, he went as far as posting that "the disrespect has been well noted and will not be forgotten."
If the Seahawks lose today against the Dallas Cowboys, they'd be 0-3 in a division where the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers are the favorites. It'd be really difficult to bounce back into the playoffs if they open their year with three straight losses. Even more with a very bad offensive line.
If their season comes to a point where all seems lost, why keep Earl Thomas? Why would they wait until free agency next year to let him go instead of getting compensation now? The Dallas Cowboys have already offered them a second round pick earlier this month, according to reports from ESPN's Adam Schefter. It'd be very hard to understand if they open their season with three losses and still refuse to trade him for a second rounder, considering they don't want to give Thomas an extension.
The Cowboys and the Seahawks' front offices will be in the same building today, making this even more intriguing. The Seahawks will have the Cowboys out of their way, meaning they wouldn't face their All-Pro safety if they trade him after today's game. This is without a doubt a very important chapter in the Earl Thomas' trade discussion.
So far, the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked legit, ranking as the NFL's third best in points allowed. However, the team is familiar with losing in key moments against elite quarterbacks. Thomas could take this unit to the next level, and put the defense in a very good position to lead the Cowboys to the playoffs and beyond.
For now, Thomas will wear a Seahawks uniform and play against the team in which he might eventually end up. As if the game that's going to be played on the field wasn't enough action, Cowboys Nation will be wondering what's being talked about by both front offices inside CenturyLink Field.
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