The Dallas Cowboys 2009 version of training Camp is now only two weeks away, and there is no better time than now to try and get a head start on some of the positional battles that we need to keep an eye on.
It has been awhile since my last post, I have been in a little bit of a slump, so I would like to apologize ahead of time for a poorly done post!
The Cowboys currently have 82 players on the roster, but do not expect it to stay that way long!
The first position I would like to take a look at is the one containing the most applicants. No big surprise it’s the Linebacker position!
Now I can speculate all day long on how many backers the Cowboys will keep and odds are good I still would not get it right, and since I have next to zero insider information, we'll take it for what its worth!
Here are this years nominees to fill the Linebacker corps:
- DeMarcus Ware
- Bradie James
- Anthony Spencer
- Keith Brooking
- Bobby Carpenter
- Steve Octavien
- Justin Rogers
- Matt Stewart
- Victor Butler
- Jason Williams
- Brandon Williams
- Stephen Hodge
The Top four of this group are essentially locked in as your starters, from here though is where the water gets awfully murky!
Let’s take a look at the guys vying for position at the inside linebacker spots and keep in mind, last year the team kept only four!
Through the OTA’s we must assume (after all the praise handed down) that Stephen Hodge is going to get a serious look at taking over the nickel position vacated by Kevin Burnett.
Bobby (Barbie) Carpenter also gave the coaches something to think about during the work outs. We are all well aware that Barbie practices like a first round pick, but he has yet to play like one.
Jason Williams was the Cowboys first selection in this years draft, and by all accounts is going to need some time to develop, but has some serious athletic ability! And we cannot forget about Victor Butler as he will be in this group of inside guys trying to secure a spot on the roster.
Last but not least Steve Octavien, who spent most of last year bouncing from practice squad to practice squad, does have some ability as a special teams player.
We have five players battling for two spots, who do you think is in? And who is on the outside looking in?
In my opinion Stephen Hodge and Jason Williams are my leading candidates heading into camp, followed closely by Victor Butler and Bobby Carpenter.
The Cowboys do not want to face the fact that the Carpenter selection was one of the worst first round draft selections on record! That is what has kept him on this team, but the coaching staff can no longer afford to carry his dead weight. So he has more to prove than any of the rookies, and I personally do not believe he will hold up to the pressure.
There is one aspect of this that we need to look at. If the Coaching staff decides to cut ties with Carpenter they will be left with only rookies and we know that one of those rookies is a “project” player. So would they at that point decide to carry an extra guy? Quite possible and they may be thinking that way already!
ILB Leading Candidates ILB Outside Looking In
1. Stephen Hodge 1. Victor Butler
2. Jason Williams 2. BobbyCarpenter
3. Steve Octavien
Now let’s take a look at the Outside spots! First let’s meet the contestants!
For those of you who live under rocks the starters are DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. These are the starters and there is only one player who could possibly change this.
Brandon Williams has been the talk of the town around Valley Ranch, not only among the coaches but his teammates as well. The time is now however for Anthony Spencer and he will get the first crack at being the starter opposite Ware, but he better get a grip on it quick because the longer he lets Williams hang around the more opportunity Williams will have at proving he should be the man!
Matt Stewart and Justin Rogers will be battling each other for one available spot, with Ware and Spencer as the starters and Brandon Williams having a tight grip on the 3rd spot, it will be down to these two guys to state their claim to the 4th and final OLB spot.
There is one other very distinct possibility that could occur here! It is very possible that the Cowboys could decide to keep neither Stewart nor Rogers and keep an extra inside guy!
The more I have contemplated the scenarios I would not be one bit surprised to see the Cowboys hold on to Victor Butler and use him as a “swing” player, giving them the ability to keep an extra secondary person.
Victor Butler was an undersized OLB at the University of Oregon State, and while they would rather use him inside in an emergency situation he could fill in outside.
Who knows how this will ultimately work out but I believe the Cowboys will stick with eight!
Here is my final eight leaving camp!
1. DeMarcus Ware
2. Bradie James
3. Keith Brooking
4. Anthony Spencer
5. Brandon Williams
6. Stephen Hodge
7. Jason Williams
8. Victor Butler
Who are the eight that you would want to start the season with?
What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?
Out of every chess piece moved by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, the decision to name 30-year old Kellen Moore might be the most interesting one. Not only that, but it could be the one that makes the biggest impact on the team. After all, the Cowboys are ready to go talent wise.
With Kellen Moore taking up a new role, it's intriguing to imagine what a successful season would mean for his future with the Dallas Cowboys. Truth be told, Moore is in a pretty fortunate position to debut as an offensive coordinator. He'll be driving a unit full of talented players with almost no weak links. Last year, it wasn't the lack of quality players lined up that had the offense struggling throughout the season, but the guy in charge.
At first, the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver clearly blew up on the Cowboys face. The passing game in Dallas needed a spark and they didn't find it until they traded a first rounder for Amari Cooper. Cooper's impact on the team was clear right away as he put on impressive performances on a weekly basis.
But even when Cooper was at his best, the offense still presented relevant struggles. Despite getting more first downs, the Cowboys still had trouble scoring touchdowns when in the red zone and kept leaving points on the field.
Although he's been a controversial conversation among members of Cowboys Nation, there are a few reasons to be excited about what Kellen Moore can bring to the table as a young offensive coordinator. Ever since he declared for the NFL Draft out of Boise State, where he ran a very complex offense on his way to become the QB with most wins in NCAA history, he was seen by many as an extremely smart prospect. Many expected him to have a mediocre career as a player, but saw him as a potential coach down the line.
Now it's his chance to prove the world just how smart he is and his potential as a coach. He will not only be proving it to the Cowboys organization, but all of the NFL and college football teams. Don't forget what NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah mentioned a few months ago.
I've mentioned this before- Kellen Moore is a rising star and he'll be in the mix for HC gigs (CFB or NFL) in the near future. https://t.co/hLjOb4HAUc
With a great group of talent at his disposal, it's fair to imagine Moore having a pretty successful "rookie" season at a major coaching position. If he indeed manages to turn heads with the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2019, what does that mean for his future?
In a league that's turning to the young offensive-minded coaches thanks to guys like Sean McVay, is it possible one team decides to pull the trigger and make him an offer for a head coaching gig? It certainly would seem premature, but it's still a possibility in the NFL, where teams have become increasingly impatient with their coaches.
I definitely wouldn't be surprised if next offseason, we're concerned about another team (college or NFL) trying to snatch Moore off the Cowboys. I insist in pointing out this would be a premature decision if it does happen, since Moore has very little experience, but looking at the trend in the NFL it certainly could happen.
This might be the most important year in Kellen Moore's young career. For now, let's hope he does a good job leading Dak Prescott in his fourth year as a professional player and an offense that has a solid OL and a pretty good set of skill players.
Connor Williams Working as Left Tackle in Cowboys Practice
Second-year guard Connor Williams has been working as the Cowboys' left tackle during practice this week. While this isn't the plan for him in 2019, it does provide a glimpse into potential uses for Williams down the road and how Dallas might handle future offensive line moves.
Using Connor at LT this week has been a matter of necessity. The top players on that depth chart, Tyron Smith and Cameron Fleming, were not participating for other reasons.
With Tyron Smith getting a vet day and Cam Fleming not practicing because of a bruised shin, Connor Williams worked at left tackle Wednesday. He said it was his first left tackle snaps since he was at Texas. He said it felt like riding a bike after a little bit.
Indeed, Williams spent three years at left tackle in college. It was the last position he'd played before being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Dallas, who immediately moved him to guard.
Connor started 10 of 13 games at guard last season. He played mostly on the left side, starting Weeks 1-9, before getting injured. Xavier Su'a-Filo played well enough in his absence that Williams didn't get the starting job back when he was healthy. However, when Zack Martin had to miss a few games at the end of the year, Connor started a right guard for those two weeks.
When Martin returned for the playoffs, Williams was back as the starting left guard in both postseason games.
Tyron Smith and Cam Fleming will be your starter and backup at left tackle next year. But for 2020 and beyond, Connor Williams' ability to play tackle creates some interesting possibilities.
La'el Collins will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Fleming will still have one year left on his deal and Dallas just spent a third-round pick on the versatile Connor McGovern. Throw in that Williams can play some tackle, and it seems as if they're covering bases for Collins eventual departure.
We could very well see a starting lineup in 2020 with McGovern at LG and Williams at RT. Another possibility is that Fleming starts at RT and Williams stays at guard, but can be moved to tackle if needed.
If nothing else, it's nice to know that Dallas has options. We may never see Connor Williams play a regular season snap at left tackle, but versatility is a great asset. It can greatly increase a player's value, and give his team some leverage and flexibility in roster management.
For the Cowboys, it does make you wonder what the future holds for the offensive line.
Undrafted WR Jon’Vea Johnson Turning Heads at Cowboys OTAs
Former Toledo Wide Receiver didn't receive an invite to the 2019 NFL Combine or hear his name called in any of the seven rounds at this year's NFL Draft, but that doesn't mean he doesn't possess the talent to make someone's roster in the league. After signing with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, he's hoping he's found that team and his forever home.
The journey for Jon'Vea Johnson to earn one of those coveted final 53-man roster spots with the Dallas Cowboys is going to be a long one. This year's roster is deep from top to bottom, which means making it as an undrafted free agent is going to be extremely difficult. But, luckily for him he is already starting to turn a few heads at the Cowboys OTAs.
Here's what Cowboys Wide Receiver Coach Sanjay Lal recently had to say about Jon'Vea:
"Not a surprise, because we loved his film, but Jon'Vea the last two days, his speed and athleticism and how smooth he is has shown up here – almost a little bit earlier than we thought it would. Because we think he's going to process. Most young guys are thinking a lot, but he's done a good job of learning his plays and coming out and showing what he can do."
Considering coaches typically try their hardest not to single out any one player in these OTA practices, that's pretty high praise from Sanjay Lal.
It's important to remember the Dallas Cowboys had Jon'Vea Johnson in as one of their 30 pre-draft visitors, so you know they had a draftable grade on him already. Getting him as an undrafted free agent probably felt like a win for them, and more so now that he's off to a good start.
Johnson actually has a few things going for him that may set him apart from other WRs currently on the Cowboys roster. He has the versatility to play on the outside or in the slot, but it's his speed that really makes him stand out from the rest.
At his Pro Day, Jon'Vea ran an unofficial 4.38 40-yard dash. That would've ranked among the best to run the 40 at this year's Scouting Combine. But that's not all… he tested pretty well in other areas as well: 35" vertical and a 10'8" broad jump. Not bad for a 5'10", 190 pound undrafted wide receiver.
As good as all of this sounds, Johnson still has a long ways to go in order to lock down a roster spot. The Cowboys have some pretty talented WRs on the roster and he's going to have to clearly outperform quite a few of them to earn his way onto the final 53-man roster. But, it's encouraging he's already off to a good start.
We've seen players stand out in these kind of unpadded practices before, so I'd probably hold off on anointing him just yet. For his sake though, it's always a good thing to catch the eye of your coaches in a positive way.
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