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?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
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