The 2017 training camp for the Dallas Cowboys is shaping up to be the most competitive that I can remember of in at least the last decade, possibly longer. There will be plenty of battles to keep a close watchful eye on, but one Cowboys roster battle that I think has a lot of fans excited is between wide receivers Brice Butler and Noah Brown.
When it comes to getting down to their 53 man roster, the Dallas Cowboys usually just carry five WRs on the team. With the top three pretty much set in stone in Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams, that leaves only two available spots.
I completely understand that it's a little premature right now to speculate who claims the final two spots, but I think we can all pretty much agree that Ryan Switzer is probably at least fourth on the depth chart right now. The Cowboys likely wouldn't have drafted him in the fourth round without having an understanding of how he would fit in otherwise.
So, that leaves Brice Butler fighting for his job and I think his main competition will be with rookie Noah Brown. Although, Andy Jones and the rest of the WRs might have something to say about that. But, for now I'm going to go with my gut and stick with the idea it will come down between Brown and Butler.
Keep reading below to see why this particular Dallas Cowboys roster battle could possibly be the most interesting to watch.
Will Brice Butler win?
When you draw up the dream prototypical wide receiver teams like on the outside, Brice Butler would fit that criteria perfectly. He is 6'3", 220 and has legitimate 4.3 speed. What more do you really need?
Unfortunately, the answer to that is the reason why Butler could be competing for the final WR spot when the Dallas Cowboys start getting down to their 53 man roster. Consistency.
Consistency has been Butler's biggest enemy since entering the NFL. He shows the flashes of becoming a reliable outside receiver, but as of yet hasn't been able to do it on a continual basis. That could be his undoing with the Cowboys, but he does have things going in his favor.
Butler has a head start on the competition and is entering the third-year in the Cowboys offensive scheme. He has the knowledge in the system and had moments last year where he was a game changer when Dez Bryant was out of the lineup.
Butler also has a year under his belt working with quarterback Dak Prescott. This might just be the biggest advantage of all. They already have an established working bond, which should only get better once off-season practices start.
So, this Dallas Cowboys roster battle could be over with before it even got started, but not if Noah Brown has anything to say about it.
Will Noah Brown win?
Former Ohio State Buckeye wide receiver Noah Brown was one of my favorite WRs in the entire 2017 NFL Draft. I actually had a fourth-round great on him, so you can imagine I was absolutely ecstatic when the Dallas Cowboys were able to draft him in the seventh round.
Brown was underutilized for some reason at Ohio State, but he has the skill set to make it in the NFL and seriously push Brice Butler for one of those final remaining WR roster spots.
At 6'2", 222, Brown has the prototypical size the Dallas Cowboys like in their outside WRs. He doesn't have Butler's deep speed, but he more than makes up for it with the variety of ways he can contribute to the team.
As a wide receiver, Brown is still pretty raw, but has a skill set similar in many ways to Dez Bryant. He has a large catching radius and understands how to use his body to shield defenders to go up and catch the ball at the highest point. He also plays the game with the physicality and attitude much like Bryant.
Where Noah Brown has the advantage over Brice Butler is on special teams and more importantly blocking in the running game. Butler doesn't really play special teams, but that's an area where Brown will contribute right away. Teams like to have that in their wide receivers, especially those at the bottom of the depth chart.
Brown's ability to block in the running game is what will get him on the field early on offense. Defensive backs around the league will learn to keep their head on a swivel when they know Brown is on their side of the field. He takes pride in completely demolishing defenders and I think that is something the Cowboys coaching staff will absolutely fall in love with.
Oh, let's not forget that it was Ezekiel Elliott campaigning the Cowboys to draft Noah Brown in the first place. It's always good to have one of the star players in your corner.
While there will be plenty of different Dallas Cowboys roster battles to keep track of, I think there will be a lot of eyes on Brice Butler and Noah Brown. Fans have seem to grow a little bit tired of Butler's inconsistency and are ready for a change.
I for one like both WRs, but my gut is telling me that Noah Brown not only has more upside, but has more to offer because of his special-teams ability. So, even though Brown hasn't put on a Cowboy's uniform as yet, I give him the slight advantage.
Who are you rooting for? Brice Butler or Noah Brown?
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook
Let me start this article with a strong opening statement: The Cowboys will be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. There's been a lot of talk about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But when we break it down, the current setup will most likely play out better for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.
The Dak Stats
Certain quarterbacks shine when they have that go-to playmaker. We're talking about guys like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Dez Bryant. But other QBs do better at reading the defense and quickly adapting to what is given. Dak Prescott is the latter breed of QB.
Let’s do a quick numbers exercise to prove this.
When Prescott is targeting 8 or more receivers throughout the game, his passer rating jumps from 86.1 (targeting less than 8) to 104.5. He passes for almost 50 yards more per game and his touchdown to interception ratio drastically improves from 21-13 to 24-4.
Most importantly, when he targets at least 8 different receivers, the Cowboys are 14-2. When he targets less than 8, the team is just .500 at 8-8.
Without a doubt, Prescott is much better at adjusting to what the defense is giving him. He just isn’t one of those guys who can successfully "force" the ball (like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees). Not feeling the pressure of having to get the ball into the hands of the star playmaker will give this offense a new kind of depth in 2018.
Yes, losing Jason Witten hurts, much more so in my opinion than not having Dez.
Questions Still Loom
This is still the Cowboys' biggest concern on offense. There is some great depth. We have Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, and the young stud out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz. But between the three who have any NFL experience, there are only 9 catches between them. I must say that Dalton, with his 4.75 40-yard dash, has a legitimate shot at seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie campaign and could become an impact player with his size (6’5”, 244-lbs) and speed.
But despite the battle for TE being wide open, and debates about whether or not the team needs a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys are still expected to give the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East. Here are the odds on the defending NFC East champions and how (although early) it is expected to shake out:
- Philadelphia Eagles -167
- Dallas Cowboys +350
- New York Giants +650
- Washington Redskins +750
NFC East Week 1 Predictions
The Cowboys open the season in a difficult road game against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been listed as 2.5-point favorites (follow the Cowboys NFL Odds here all season long) which isn’t surprising considering they are a tough team playing at home. You might be thinking, "crap, we're opening up as underdogs?" Don’t worry too much; it actually bodes fairly well because the lines-makers generally give a 3-point advantage to the home team. This means that they actually handicap the Cowboys to be a half-point favorite on a neutral field and a 3.5-point favorite in Arlington.
The Redskins open their season in Arizona against the Cardinals. The line is set at a pick ‘em (meaning there is no point spread; it's anyone's game). But, looking at the 'Skins and Cardinals, I think Washington gets disappointed in Week 1 and starts their season with a loss.
The Giants get to test their new offensive line and see if they were right in continuing to place their faith in Eli Manning against the best defense in the league. The Jags are 3-point favorites at MetLife stadium. This means the Jags are actually 6-points better. I do think that the Giants will be vastly improved this season, but they are also going to open with a loss.
The Eagles don’t have it easy either, but they will probably pull out the win at home as 4-point favorites against the Dirty Birds on Thursday Night Football. Their defense is just too good. Atlanta's road offense scored just 21 points per game last year while Philly scores 28 on average at home. The Eagles' home defense has been downright nasty, only allowing 12 points per game in Philadelphia.
This will be a two-horse race for the division between the Eagles and Cowboys. And even if the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will wildcard into the playoffs.
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