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Cowboys 2016 Roster: Fun With Numbers

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Pre-Training Camp 53 Man Roster Projection

I'll be releasing my pre-training camp projection for the Cowboys 53-man roster next week. As I'm working on that, I thought you might enjoy a glimpse into my thought process behind the numbers that make up the all-important 53 players.

Not to brag but I've come as close to accurately predicting the cutdowns as any Cowboys analyst I'm aware of. I believe that this is due to my system; a focus on filling pre-ordained spots rather than the pure merits of players.

A key factor in knowing what roles to fill is knowing how the Dallas Cowboys like to think. That means knowing what the collective priority and ideology of Jerry and Stephen Jones, Jason Garrett, and Will McClary tends to produce. You only get this over time; the study of their decision making.

For example, let's just look at the offense.

Cowboys Draft - Cowboys Should be Happy to "Settle" for Dak Prescott 1At quarterback, they will only keep a third player if it's for developmental purposes. If rookie Dak Prescott makes a surprising surge to beat, or at least match, Kellen Moore and Jameil Showers then Dallas may just need him and Tony Romo for Week One. They would probably release Moore and perhaps try to get Showers back to the practice squad. That would be great news for guys at other positions; a roster spot opened up.

If Ezekiel Elliott is going to be the workhorse running back then they will only need to keep three. In 2014, Dallas entered the year with just DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle, and Lance Dunbar. There were barely any touches for Randle or Dunbar with Murray's extensive role in the offense. Elliott projects to have at least as big a role this year as Murray in 2014.

Special teams plays a huge factor in these decisions. Speaking of running backs, we used to have Phillip Tanner who was an average runner but a standout in kick return coverage. He was the kind of guy who could force the team to go long at running back. Could Darius Jackson be the same this year?

Look at how special teams impact wide receiver. We know that Dallas will have their top four; Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Brice Butler, and Cole Beasley. What if a guy like Chris Brown or Andy Jones pushes ahead of Lucky Whitehead? Needing to have Whitehead as the kick and punt return specialist would likely force Dallas to keep six receivers.

Where does that sixth spot come from? Maybe it comes from that third QB you didn't need thanks to Prescott. But as we said, that would be a surprise. So more than likely it comes from your tight end and fullback spot.

Cowboys Blog - Tight End is a Bigger Need Than We Realize 2Dallas has had a true fullback the last few years but it wasn't long ago that they had one of their tight ends serve as the backfield blocker. You can be sure that James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, and Rico Gathers will get looks in the role to see if they're more effective than Rod Smith. Keeping a fourth tight end and a fullback may not fit the roster math.

As you can see, everything is connected.

You almost start to feel like Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind" when you put it all out on table. You're drawing paths between positions and working everything toward a single goal, the number 53. It's the number that will dominate the thinking of these coaches and front office folks for the next seven weeks.

 


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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6 Comments
  • George Jonhnson

    There is no way in God's green earth that Prescott or Showers are going to beat out Kellen Moore. The only way I can see this happening is if one of them is the next franchise QB who is a very fast learner/developer. I haven't heard anyone make this claim about Prescott or Showers. You are way under- estimating K Moore and way over- estimating Prescott and Showers knowledge and development. My understanding is if K Moore can't meet the Dallas standard for a 2nd team QB (which is unlikely) then Dallas will start looking to bring in a veteran QB to be the 2nd team QB.

    • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

      Actually, Bryan Broaddus has consistently spoke more highly of Showers than Moore… Most of us consider him a Cowboys expert. hard to argue with him. Especially if you're like me and hate qualifying Moore's performance with things like, "he did really good for a guy of his size." It's never just good or bad with him, is it? Anyway. Just my two cents.

      • George Jonhnson

        Depends on what you mean by "more highly". Can Showers run and scramble better than K Moore? I hope so. Can Showers throw the ball harder than K Moore? No doubt. Does Showers physically look more like an NFL QB than K Moore? Absolutely. Will Showers be able to make some difficult throws in TC that Kellen Moore struggles with because of not having a real strong arm? Probably. Does Showers have more upside potential? Maybe. The same thing can be said for Prescott. On the other hand can K Moore be a better pocket passer including the cerebral/instinctive abilities than Showers and Prescott especially in game situations and especially in 2016? YES absolutely. In fact he will probably always be a way better pocket passer than Showers or Prescott. His college coach by the way said and I quote, " He is the best pocket passer I have ever seen." I assume he has seen Brady, Brees and Manning, but maybe not. K Moore was one of the all time best pocket passers in college history. It is absurd to think in 2016 Showers, a glorified rookie or sophmore who was undrafted and Prescott a rookie who was a fourth round pick, can beat out K Moore who has been in the NFL for four years, has improved each year, knows the Dallas offense/playbook well, has S Linehan's confidence/stamp of approval and has some starting experience in the Dallas offense. Dream on.

        • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

          "More highly" was a polite way of saying he puts Showers at #2 before Moore based on practices so far this year and past experiences. And I'm leaving it right there.

    • http://PigskinHub.com/ Jess Haynie

      George, you see that word that I put in in bold and underlined text? "Surprising." That means I DON'T think it will happen. Please read more closely before you rush to post your Kellen Moore love poetry.

      • George Jonhnson

        If you don't think it will happen, why write it. I could be wrong about your motives, but it seems to me to reflect a dislike of K Moore or at a minimum under estimating K Moore and some additional wishful thinking. It is obvious to me Dallas is stuck with three or four QBs on the 53 man roster, as they will need to protect Prescott. Showers will likely end up on the practice squad. It is highly unlikely there will be two QBs on the 53 man roster.

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Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Planning

February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.

DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.

Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.

After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.

There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?

David Moore on Twitter

Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.

For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.

Jess Haynie on Twitter

In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys

What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?

First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.

It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.

It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.

Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10

Kevin Brady

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Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.

Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.

Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."

After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.

According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.

While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.

Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.

The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.


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Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere

After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?

Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.

After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.

Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.

Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Bene Benwikere (#23)

The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.

Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.

Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.

The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.

Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.

As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.


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