There is no exact blueprint for a NFL roster. Every year, teams are put together with different circumstances and philosophies that change the numbers at each position. The Dallas Cowboys are no exception, and 2017 is likely to have different math from last season.
Here is a quick look at some of the positions where you can expect change on offense. We'll see where roster spots are opened up, but also where they may be consumed.
You can read about the changes on defense here, or using the link at the end of the article.
Last year, Dallas carried three guys as they worked through Tony Romo's injury situation. Even once Romo became healthy, Mark Sanchez remained on the 53-man roster for the rest of the season.
There is little doubt right now that the Cowboys will have just two QBs in 2017. Dak Prescott is the clear starter and Kellen Moore, re-signed in March, is expected to be his backup. There is no young developmental player who projects to earn that third spot, which would only be used if Dallas didn't want to risk losing someone on the practice squad.
Granted, things could change between now and Week One. Injuries can change the landscape quickly. Also, some young guy could wow us more than Alex Tanney or Dustin Vaughan ever did to force his way onto the roster. However, if that happens, he might be good enough that Dallas decides they don't need Kellen Moore after all.
Still, the most likely scenario is that Dallas will keep just two quarterbacks. That opens a roster spot for another position in 2017 which we didn't have last year.
Dallas opened 2016 with four halfbacks and two fullbacks on the 53-man roster. That is highly unlikely this year, which should open up at least one or two spots for other positions.
One big change is the role that Lance Dunbar occupied. At this point, receivers like Lucky Whitehead or Ryan Switzer are likely to get the looks on offense that Dunbar did, which came primarily as pass catcher. You will see how this may push Dallas to keep a sixth receiver in 2017, using up one of these RB roster spots.
At fullback, Keith Smith seems to be entrenched now as the starter. Rod Smith is still around and made the team early in 2016 to compete at FB and play special teams, but he should only make the squad now as a halfback.
With Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden looking solid as the top two guys, a third halfback should be all the team needs. They only carried Darius Jackson last year as a drafted player who they didn't want to risk on the practice squad, never actually playing him in a real game. That is unlikely to happen again.
It is highly possible that Dallas will keep six receivers in 2017. The top four guys all have roles to play and bring their own element to the offense. Rookie Ryan Swizter is a virtual lock to make the team, already being seen as the front-runner to be the return specialist and to have a niche role on offense.
Noah Brown, drafted in the seventh round, could be carried as a gameday inactive to protect him from practice squad poachers. He could be good enough to push Brice Butler off the roster, but it's too soon to project that. The same can be said for Andy Jones, a promising undrafted player from last season.
It's also too soon to dismiss Whitehead from making this year's team. Many assume that his roster spot will go to Switzer, but both could make the squad depending on the roles they're best suited to fill.
However it shakes out, receiver is looking like a position where Dallas can easily go longer than last season. Here comes another one.
Dallas only kept three TEs last year. Would they have kept four if James Hanna hadn't been injured? It's hard to say; Gavin Escobar might have been released if Hanna and Geoff Swaim were both active.
Regardless, the Cowboys could easily be keeping four guys this season. Jason Witten's back to play his 27th season, or something like that, and you have the experienced backups in Hanna and Swaim. The fourth man is Rico Gathers, the highly intriguing draft pick from 2016 who spent last year converting from basketball to football on the practice squad.
If Gathers was able to develop enough, and there is plenty of chatter that he has, then Hanna and Swaim might be fighting for one spot. However, 2017 could easily be Jason Witten's last season. Dallas may be using this season as a year-long audition for all of these guys to show who might be able to start in 2018.
Camp and preseason will hopefully give us some clarity here. For now, I'm betting on Dallas going long and keeping the options open as the season progresses.
Dallas opened 2016 with just eight offensive linemen on the roster. They had more stability then, though, with veterans Doug Free and Ronald Leary in the mix. The exit of those two players has potentially created the need for some additional bodies.
The move of La'el Collins from guard to tackle appears to be final. That leaves a starting spot at left guard open with several contenders: Byron Bell, Emmett Cleary, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green, and Joe Looney.
It's too early to say there's a favorite. How all of these guys continue to compete should be the story of training camp for the offense.
However it unfolds, though, you could have some players with troublesome injury history in key positions. Collins had a foot injury which cost him most of last year. Cooper, a former first-round pick, has had his NFL career nearly derailed by health problems. Green has battled injuries the last two years.
These question marks could easily prompt Dallas to keep some extra depth, at least nine players over eight, at the start of the year. Even if health isn't the concern, they may still not be settled at left guard or with some of the reserve spots and want to keep evaluating guys into the regular season.
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3 Reasons Not to Hate Kellen Moore Becoming Offensive Coordinator
Days after firing Scott Linehan, the Dallas Cowboys continue their search for their next offensive coordinator. It all points toward the team making an in-house promotion, with QB coach Kellen Moore taking his mentor's place. According to Adam Schefter from ESPN, the former Boise State passer is the leading candidate for the offensive coordinator vacancy in Dallas.
Former NFL QB Jon Kitna, now offensive coordinator for the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football, is expected to become the Cowboys' QB coach, per a league source. Dallas' current QB coach, Kellen Moore, is a leading candidate to become Cowboys' OC, per sources.
The main reason to believe this, is the fact that Jon Kitna is expected to be hired as the team's QB Coach. This could mean plenty of things for Kellen Moore, but it's more than fair to believe he'll get the promotion.
Naturally, a huge amount of fans will be infuriated if Kellen Moore does get the coaching gig. His time as a player in the league wasn't any good. He's been part of Scott Linehan's coaching tree and that should mean Moore isn't capable of being an offensive coordinator, right?
Well, not so fast. Here are three reasons why you shouldn't hate Kellen Moore's candidacy for offensive coordinator.
1. Bad Player Doesn't Mean Bad Coach
First of all, let's forget about the idea than a player's performance is any indication of what he can be as a coach. It has absolutely no correlation. A bad player can turn into a pretty good coach and a good player can be terrible at coaching.
When we're talking about Kellen Moore, we're talking about a pretty smart kid. Ever since he was coming out of Boise State, scouts and analysts talked about his excellent football IQ. Moore clearly didn't last in the league because of his talent. What helped him stick around was his intelligence and knowledge. Teams that had him as a backup signal caller basically had a second QB coach on the locker room.
I actually found it funny how the perception around Moore has changed. When he was a backup on the roster, we talked about how he was very smart and could become a great coach someday but he didn't have it as a player. Now that he is a coach, we're talking about how he can't coach because he didn't play well. How is that logical?
2. Working With Linehan Doesn't Mean He’s Linehan 2.0
Now, another big concern is the fact that he worked many years with recently fired Scott Linehan. This doesn't mean Kellen Moore has the exact same offensive philosophy than his mentor. Sure, he worked with Linehan's offense because it was his job. We don't actually know what he'd bring to the table when he's in charge of the offense. Not to mention, Linehan wasn't always awful. There's a reason why for some years his offense was pretty productive. Moore can take the positive lessons from Scott and throw in a little of his own to make the Cowboys' offense efficient.
Dallas could move the chains last season. It was in specific areas like the red zone, long down situations that the team struggled. Kellen Moore could very well have what it takes to change that. At the end of the day, we won't know until we actually see what Moore's philosophy looks like.
3. Jason Garrett Will Take Over the Offense
For some years, Linehan was in complete control of the offense. This time around, it feels like it will be Jason Garrett's unit. This might be the most important aspect of this whole thing. This is Garrett's plan. This could very well be a great staff working together. Moore can be eased into his job with Jason Garrett calling the plays on the sideline at the start of the season.
With TE Coach Doug Nussmeier's help, this group could get this offense going. If Garrett will remain at the wheel, let him have control over his offense. If he fails, at least you gave him the chance to structure his staff and get involved.
And @mortreport reports that HC Jason Garrett is in line to wind up calling the Cowboys' plays this season. https://t.co/EWri4mZAgH
I know this will not be a popular decision by the Cowboys, but I frankly believe it might work. Although the head coach is the same, this would be a very different staff in 2019. The hire is not yet official, but it all points toward this happening.
Personally, I would've preferred the team to hire an outsider to refresh the ideas in the building. However, I don't hate the idea of Kellen Moore stepping up to the position. And you shouldn't either. At least not until we actually see what he has in store for us.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with every news regarding the Dallas Cowboys.
What do you think of Kellen Moore being the leading candidate for OC?
Cowboys Roster Looking Pretty Good for 2019
It was hard to watch the 2018 Dallas Cowboys end their season in the Divisional Round versus the Los Angeles Rams. The widely recognized Cowboys’ defense couldn’t find a way to stop the Rams’ running backs. Even still, it was a successful season in many ways. Dak Prescott played well and clearly improved after the team got him a great #1 wide receiver in Amari Cooper. The defense had a breakout season, getting to be one of the best units in the league. Young talent on the team shined bright.
Yet, as every year, the season ends with questions. What was the reason the Cowboys couldn't hold their own against the Rams? What are the team's weak spots? What position should the Cowboys aim to upgrade in the offseason? What was the most relevant problem?
To answer that last question, I can't avoid thinking of the word "play-calling," which was a huge issue in Dallas both in 2018 and in 2017. But the Dallas Cowboys finally pulled the trigger and made a bigger change in the coaching staff. Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has been released as the team looks to change its offense heading into 2019. Also, a change at defensive coordinator could also be next for Dallas considering Kris Richard’s success since his arrival.
But let's leave coaching aside for a moment. Let's talk about this team's roster. The Cowboys actually have a talented group of players on the team. Of course, there are needs that must be taken care of, but there aren't really that many positions in which the team requires desperate help. Now granted, the front office will be very busy dealing with in-house extensions trying to extend many players' stays in Dallas.
This will be no easy task, but Stephen Jones and company have done a very decent job handling the cap space over the last few years. With much space to work with, there's reason to believe they will get things done. When it comes to adding talent to the team, let's talk about the elephant in the room. The Cowboys lack a first round pick. After all, getting Amari Cooper on the Cowboys had a cost.
But hey, thanks to that trade, Dak Prescott's offense has a great set of wide receivers. Michael Gallup continued to grow as the season went on. The offensive line is not there yet, but I'm confident in Connor Williams being a way better player than he was as a rookie. As for the defense, the Cowboys' front seven is one of the most promising in the entire league. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are one of the best LB duos in football. This is a legit football roster.
The team needs a defensive tackle, an upgrade at safety and probably a more prepared tight end. They probably could use help at many other positions, but I don't mean to rank the biggest concerns on the roster heading into 2019. However, if the front office fails to considerably improve any of these positions, it'll be far from the worst thing to happen.
Whether you like him or not, Jeff Heath has been decent enough to be a starter on the team. He won't be great, but he can get the job done. Defensive tackle wasn't a very big issue with Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins stepping up all throughout the season. The tight ends consistently improved week after week, featuring Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin.
Obviously, we want improvements. We want a better player at each position. But once the NFL free agency and the Draft comes around, it'll be important to remember that the Cowboys have a good roster and could get wins with the guys they have now. Desperate moves shouldn't really be on their plans. This is a team with enough talent to win in 2019.
Assuming Kris Richard earns the defensive coordinator title next season, having two new heads among the staff should be refreshing enough to exploit that talent's potential. Talent should be added, and even big time free agents such as Earl Thomas deserve consideration. But this is not a roster that's desperate. In fact, it's a roster in very good shape. The Cowboys might not have a first round pick, but frankly, they are in a very good position to lack a first rounder.
Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
The pipe dream has been going on since former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback-turned CBS Analyst Tony Romo hung up his cleats for the black blazer. Fans from all corners of Cowboys Nation have clamored for a return to the field or at worst the sideline as the Cowboys offensive coordinator.
Let me stop you right there. It's not happening.
First of all. He's never been a coach at any level of football, so to assume that he could leave the broadcast booth and step into coaching an NFL offense and doing so at a high level is a huge leap of faith in number 9. Sure, Jon Gruden left the Monday Night Football booth for his lucrative deal with the Oakland Raiders, but he had won a Super Bowl and had been an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL for years before joining the broadcasting ranks.
Tony Romo has an excellent understanding of football. He displays it on a regular basis during the CBS broadcasts. But doing from the broadcast view, seeing what the defense is trying to do, and calling the plays to counter what the defense is trying to do are very different things.
Secondly, the coaching job would be a major time commitment that at the moment he doesn't have. Even if he's working a 40 hour work week in preparation for his three-hour time slot, the demands on NFL coaches are easily twice that with many coaches putting in 100 hour work weeks in preparation for Sundays. Tony Romo has a family that even he's talked about as part of the reason that he went into broadcasting instead of looking to hop on with another NFL team.
Finally, the job would mean a significant pay cut from what Romo is already making. It's estimated that the former Cowboys quarterback is making anywhere from $5-10 million dollars a year with CBS. Jason Garrett is making $6 million per year as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, so even if the Jones family was willing to pay first-time NFL coach Tony Romo a ton of money to come out of the broadcast booth, there's zero chance they pay him what he's making as a broadcaster. To do so, would be to undercut the head coach. Jason Garrett is Jerry Jones' guy. The owner and general manager wants Garrett to be the guy that leads the Cowboys to Super Bowl success, so there's zero chance he'd pay a coordinator close to Garrett's money, which would lead to constant speculation about the head coach and his future with the organization.
I love Tony Romo. His jersey is one of only two Cowboys jerseys that I own -- along with Darren Woodson -- and I think he could make a good coach one day, but I'd be hard pressed to see him come out of the coaching booth to take a coordinator job and have immediate success. The guys that are offensive coordinators in the NFL have been grinding for years to earn their jobs. Most started as position coaches -- see Sean McVay as Redskins TE coach. The Dallas Cowboys will spend the next few days, and perhaps weeks, identifying their replacement for Scott Linehan, but let's put to bed the dream of Romo as offensive coordinator.
It's just not going to happen.
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