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Cowboys 2016 Position Battle Overview

The Cowboys are currently engaged in voluntary Organized Team Activities and will have mandatory mini-camps in the coming weeks. Even though the real battles don’t start until the official Training Camp in Oxnard, CA, plenty of things can happen during these practices that help or hurt players’ positioning for roster spots and playing time. Here is an overview of some of the clear competitions that exist on the Cowboys roster right now. This year just about every position has some intrigue: Quarterback How much will Dallas consider rookie Dak Prescott for the number-two spot?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Position Battle Overview

The Cowboys are currently engaged in voluntary Organized Team Activities and will have mandatory mini-camps in the coming weeks. Even though the real battles don't start until the official Training Camp in Oxnard, CA, plenty of things can happen during these practices that help or hurt players' positioning for roster spots and playing time.

Here is an overview of some of the clear competitions that exist on the Cowboys roster right now. This year just about every position has some intrigue:

Cowboys Draft - Cowboys Should be Happy to "Settle" for Dak Prescott 1Quarterback

How much will Dallas consider rookie Dak Prescott for the number-two spot? Right now it seems likely that Kellen Moore will retain his backup job while Prescott develops as a third QB. However, if Prescott can be a quick learner then it the Cowboys can certainly be motivated to let him assume the role and save a roster spot.

Running Back

Darren McFadden is facing pressure from all sides. Obviously, Ezekiel Elliott has arrived to take the bulk of the carries. McFadden will be competing with veteran Alfred Morris for the backup role and has to worry about young prospects in Rod Smith and Darius Jackson behind him. Lance Dunbar won't be back until sometime during the season but will have to hope there's still an opening for him upon return.

Fullback

Dallas didn't bring back Tyler Clutts or add any true fullbacks in free agency or the draft. They instead appear to be trying to convert guys from other positions, such as running back Rod Smith or linebacker Keith Smith.  In fact, Keith Smith is already listed as a fullback on the Cowboys official roster page. Every tight end not named Jason Witten could also be in consideration.

News & Notes - Filling The Dez Void: Brice Butler Acquired, A Look At The PlayerReceiver

Terrance Williams and Brice Butler could be fighting for a starting job. Third-year player Devin Street will have to worry about undrafted rookies and other prospects who may show more upside. Lucky Whitehead will continue to push for an expanded offensive role, perhaps carving into some of the routes that Lance Dunbar and even Cole Beasley usually play.

Tight End

James Hanna will be the number-two receiver by default with Gavin Escobar injured and will fight to keep that job when he returns. Depth chart competition will commence between Swaim, Traylor, and Rico Gathers as at least one and maybe two of them should earn roster spots.

Offensive Tackle

I've heard recent talk that Chaz Green, once though to be getting moved to guard, could be back in the mix at tackle. Word is that Dallas will give him every opportunity to prove himself to at least take the swing tackle job for Charles Brown and maybe even challenge Doug Free as a starter. That seems a major leap of faith, but Green was drafted in the third round for a reason.

ron-learyGuard/Center

You've already seen that Ron Leary has requested a trade. Even if he stays, he and veteran free agent addition Joe Looney will co-exist as the backup on the interior line. If Leary does get moved, Dallas has a couple of young guards in Jared Smith and Boston Stiverson to compete. Looney is the backup center right now but undrafted rooke Jake Brendel is also in the mix.

Defensive End

This is a fun one! With DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory suspended you've got a bunch of guys all competing to actually be Week One starters. Free agent Benson Mayowa, rookie Charles Tapper, and veterans David Irving, Jack Crawford, and Ryan Russell are all in contention. Lawrence is sure to start when he gets back, but Gregory isn't a sure thing. One of these guys may end up starting all 16 games.

Defensive Tackle

The top three seem set with Tyrone Crawford, Cedric Thornton, and third-round pick Maliek Collins. Terrell McClain is a favorite to stick around if he can actually stay healthy. He'll be fighting off prospects Casey Walker and Rodney Coe, along with Jack Crawford and Irving as they have the ability to play inside.

Linebacker

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Re-Sign Linebacker Kyle WilberThe starting strongside job is open and any of Kyle Wilber, Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, or Andrew Gachkar could take it. Even second-year player Mark Nzeocha, who was an injury redshirt most of last year, could be in the mix. Also up for grabs are primary backup roles all across the position. This will be a wide open and intriguing group to watch all summer.

Cornerback

Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will likely compete for a starting job, though both will get plenty of playing time regardless. Young players Deji Olatoye and Terrance Mitchell will look to build on last year's flashes and could be fighting for the same roster spot. Sixth-round picks aren't guaranteed to make the roster but Dallas had a fourth-round grade on rookie Anthony Brown, so expect him to compete.

Safety

Byron Jones appears set as the starting free safety, though nothing's been made official. Can J.J. Wilcox give Barry Church a fight for the other spot? If not, how will Wilcox stack up as a backup option and special teamer against Jeff Heath? Rookie Kavon Frazier, also graded in the fourth-round according to Stephen Jones, can't be ignored either.

~ ~ ~

You can be sure that we'll be diving much deeper into the position battles as we get closer to Training Camp. For now, these are just some of the dynamics that the coaches are players are considering as they watch these guys in practice. The roster is ever churning, though, and one injury can change plenty.

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Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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5 Comments
  • George Johnson

    They are not getting rid of Kellen Moore until they determine whether he can't play in the NFL or not. Right now S Linehan and other Dallas coaches/front office think he can play in the NFL and be effective or they would have brought in a veteran QB to compete with K Moore. D Prescott is not going to be ready until 2017 unless he is a franchise or elite type QB who can play well from the start, sort of like R Wilson did. Showers won't be able to beat out K Moore and therefore K Moore is the 2nd team backup until he proves he can't do the job. If T Romo goes down I believe K Moore will be able to step in and win some games and have good QB stats especially with a good running game and solid offensive line.

    • http://PigskinHub.com/ Jess Haynie

      We know, George.

  • George Johnson

    Jess Haynie: Instead of making comments that seem to reflect wishful thinking/non-objective thinking on your part and in my opinion put downs of K Moore and his skills/abilities, why don't you write an article or make comments about why D Prescott and Showers will not likely be able to beat out K Moore for the 2nd team QB position in 2016? How about why the coaches seem to think K Moore can do the job even though he has physical limitations? How about the strengths and weaknesses of K Moore and how he might overcome his weaknesses to be able to be a solid 2nd team backup or even a starter someday if he keeps improving? Or if you don't think K Moore can play in the NFL, why not provide a detailed analysis of why he probably can't play?

    • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

      No offense intended, but you don't see those articles (anywhere, not just here) BECAUSE the general consensus among the football world is that Moore has limited upside. Prescott and Showers are each younger, fresher, and totally unproven. Preseason games are not proving grounds for a QB in the NFL, except week 3 in the first half, which Romo plays. I get that you love Kellen Moore, we all get it, as Jess alluded to with his comment, but he's had 4 years to be something you want him to be and he just hasn't done it. Whatever the reasons, he has done it. Great players get it done no matter the obstacles before them. And I say this at risk of "poking the bear" but K Moore is not a starting QB on the Cowboys. He is not better than Romo, he is not a lock for backup QB in 2016. So-called "experts" have said why time and time again. I, at least, agree with expert opinions of Moore.

  • George Johnson

    Bryson Treece: I agree that K Moore will never be as good as T Romo. Also, Prescott and possibly Showers could beat K Moore out for 2nd team QB position in the future, just not 2016. Also, the so called experts you mentioned did not draft K Moore even though he has proven he should have been drafted in the later rounds. These same experts didn't think K Moore could even play in the NFL, which he has basically proven them wrong again. He has always played way better than anyone thinks he can play. He may surprise again, especially if he keeps improving. The Dallas coaches I believe can see K Moore is close to being very good. A few better plays in 2015 and he could have won one game and possibly two. His deficiencies in 2015 ( too many interceptions, too few touchdown throws and not enough accuracy) were areas he has always excelled at in the past so he is likely to improve/correct these deficiencies. It could be his pocket passing skills/abilities are so outstanding that he can overcome his physical limitations to play in the NFL. It is looking more encouraging each year. All K Moore needs is a really good game in preseason at 2nd team or during the season and the fans an sports writers might start changing their toon. The Boise State fans loved K Moore and still do, not because of his personality but because of his play on the field.

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Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury

Sean Martin

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Should Cowboys Start Negotiating a Contract Extension With Rod Smith?

Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith did not just defy all odds and return to normalcy in 2017, starting as the Cowboys' middle linebacker for a full 16 games. He became one of the team's and NFL's brightest success stories, earning the right to celebrate everyday activities returning to his life - as football did this season.

Jaylon Smith on Twitter

It's been two years since I've been able to bowl! Man it feels good to have my hobby back. #ClearEyeView #Swipe #StillGotIt! 210 average🤷🏾‍♂️🙏🏾 https://t.co/euVsXDKS2a

This is exactly what Jaylon Smith did on Twitter Friday afternoon, posting a Snapchat video of himself bowling. The caption on Twitter adds that Smith was enjoying his time at the lanes for the first time in two years.

It was January 1st, 2016 when Jaylon Smith's injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame changed his outlook forever. In that moment, Smith went from a projected top ten pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to a LB that would need a team to take a chance on him - and be patient.

The Dallas Cowboys proved to be that team, using the 34th overall pick on the Notre Dame star and supporting his efforts to return to the field from day one. The entire Cowboys' organization was rewarded by Smith remarkably playing every game this season, inspired by his constant determination to do just that.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

So, a normal offseason for Jaylon Smith is anything but right now. Still battling the drop foot condition (one that is reportedly healing well and "fading") which limits his movement ability in the lower body, Smith is a normal Dallas Cowboys football player from this point forward.

He can say he's already defined all odds, can expect to take an even bigger stride forward in 2018, and Jaylon Smith can go bowling again. You can't help but be happy for #54.

Tell us what you think about "Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Get Bigger Role in 2018?

Jess Haynie

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Noah Brown

While only a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, receiver Noah Brown was on the Cowboys' roster for all of his rookie season. He returns in 2018 hoping for a bigger role in Dallas' offense, and with some good possibility to get one.

Brown was not a big part of the 2017 offense. He was at the bottom of the WR depth chart, inactive for three games and not seen much even when in uniform.

Noah was only targeted nine times last year. He caught four passes for 33 yards.

Assumably, this had less to do with Brown and more with the other mouths to feed in the Cowboys passing game. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, even fellow rookie Ryan Switzer; you get the idea.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown

2018 should remove at least one of those obstacles to Noah Brown's opportunities. Brice Butler is a free agent and there is no indication he is coming back.

Everyone else is still under contract, but that could change if the Cowboys start making any cuts to improve the salary cap. Bryant, Beasley, and even Witten, with varying degrees of probability, are all considerations as cap casualties in the next few months.

In the 2017 preseason, the 6'2", 220-pound Noah Brown reminded us of a young Dez Bryant. He has the same thick body and even showed some of the same punishing running style after the catch.

Of course, Noah hasn't shown nearly enough in college or as a rookie to say he could replace Dez. Nobody's suggesting that. But he has flashed the potential to be given more looks in the passing game.

Another way Brown could get on the field more next year is for run blocking. He has the size and power, and the Cowboys will certainly be leaning on the run with Ezekiel Elliott back and Dak Prescott needing to find his groove again.

Even if he moves up a notch from Brice Butler's exit, Noah Brown's primary way of staying active in 2018 will be through special teams. That was the key for him last year; Brown was active for 13 games because of his special teams work.

Hopefully, Noah can work his way into more targets next season. The Cowboys' receivers need to get younger and a seventh-round pick emerging would be tremendous value.

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Dallas Cowboys Continue Search for Coaching on Defense

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Search for Defensive Coaches Continues

With the hiring of Doug Nussmeier as their tight ends coach, the Dallas Cowboys' new look coaching staff is technically filled out for the 2018 season. Head Coach Jason Garrett, with coordinators Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli underneath him once again, will lead this team into battle with new coaches at LB, OL, QB, WR, TE, ST, and in the secondary.

Despite most of their changes coming on the offensive side of the ball - where the Cowboys certainly under performed in 2017 - the Cowboys did lose one of their most highest regarded defensive coaches in Matt Eberflus this offseason.

Given their personnel on Rod Marinelli's side of the ball, the Cowboys may have actually upgraded in replacing Eberflus with Kris Richard. The Cowboys' young secondary is sure to remain a hot topic all the way until training camp, now being led by the architect of the Seahawks' vaunted "Legion of Boom".

Clarence Hill Jr on Twitter

Cowboys are not done with coaching hires. Still trying to add defensive quality coach, per source

With Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli potentially entering his final season in the NFL though, the Cowboys' search for talented coaches on the defensive side of the ball is reportedly not yet over.

Already promoting a former quality control coach in Ben Bloom to fill Eberflus' role as linebackers coach, the Cowboys' commitment to finally building a top defense is exciting for Cowboys Nation. Another solid draft haul on this side of the ball could turn any spot on the defensive coaching staff here into a highly coveted one.

Not only having the talent in place to return to the playoffs in 2018, the Cowboys are looking to take full advantage of their current staff to secure a bright future for this young team in years to come.

Exactly who the Cowboys are targeting to hire remains unknown, but they did interview former DB Ray Horton prior to hiring Kris Richard. Horton carries six years of experience as a defensive coordinator, most recently holding the position in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys coaching staff changes:

It is also important to note that Marinelli, known as a defensive line specialist, still holds this positional coaching job - a unit the Cowboys should also look to add an experienced coach to. The next Cowboys DC may still be added to the staff this offseason, if not done so already with Richard the heir apparent at the moment for Marinelli.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Continue Search for Coaching on Defense" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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