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Dallas Cowboy Positional Breakdown Part 1

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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:

  1. DeMarcus Ware
  2. Bradie James
  3. Anthony Spencer
  4. Keith Brooking
  5. Bobby Carpenter
  6. Steve Octavien
  7. Justin Rogers
  8. Matt Stewart
  9. Victor Butler
  10. Jason Williams
  11. Brandon Williams
  12. 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?

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3 Comments
  • Jonathan

    Good post. Just one thing: I believe Victor Butler is slotted as an OLB along with Brandon William’s. Though, I’d imagine, as far as the LB’s go, things will remain pretty fluid until the final 53 is decided.

    • bags030404

      What I have heard on Victor is that they “were thinking of having him bulk up and move outside” outside is where he played in college but he is the ultimate “Tweener”. He is too small to be an NFL outside guy, and a little too slow laterally to be an inside guy, so it just seems to me that they may decide to use him in an either or manner.

  • John Buchanan

    Butler played DE at Oregon and was a leader or co-leader in sacks in his division, so I think the tweener scenario is between the line and playing stand up in the 3 4.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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Dallas Cowboys

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job

Sean Martin

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Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job 1

By keeping all three top coaches (Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli) in place for 2018, there isn’t a Dallas Cowboys coaching hire that feels like they “must” get it right to contend next season. This is how it should be.

Producing nine wins, despite missing key players throughout the season, the Cowboys are changing things up at the position coach level to hopefully introduce new ideas and give the talent on this team a better chance at sustained success.

One coaching vacancy that needs to be filled by the right guy above any else is on the offensive line, where things haven’t been the same since the great Bill Callahan departed.

Frank Pollack took his place, and now finds himself with the Cincinnati Bengals after not being retained by Dallas this offseason.

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job

Tom Cable (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

The first name that was thrown around in consideration for the Cowboys job was Tom Cable, which sent a panic throughout Cowboys Nation before Cable decided to sign with John Gruden and the Raiders.

Cable had been coaching the Seahawks’ OL, a position that franchise has not valued in some time, and struggled to develop any talent in protection of their franchise QB Russell Wilson.

Now, two new names have emerged as candidates to coach the likes of two-time 1st Team All-Pro LT Tyron Smith, 1st Team All-Pro C Travis Frederick, and two-time 1st Team All-Pro RG Zack Martin.

Mike Solari and Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander has already met with the Dallas Cowboys, looking for work after 23 seasons with the Bengals. During this time, Alexander served as Marvin Lewis’ assistant head coach, in addition to his duties as their OL coach.

Judging on reactions out of Cincinnati to Alexander’s departure, the Bengals offensive line regressed under him in 2017, warranting change from a franchise that is as reluctant as any to move on from coaches.

Goodberry on Twitter

Paul Alexander better be gone

Most recently, Mike Solari has served as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants — far from a renowned unit around the NFL lately. He does have previous experience with the Cowboys, having served as an assistant OL and special teams coach here from 1987-88.

From 2006-07, Solari did reach the rank of offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, which shows the level of respect that the 30-year NFL coaching veteran has earned.

He will be the Dallas Cowboys’ next interview for their open OL coach position.

Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack 1

Dallas Cowboys RT La’el Collins, RG Zack Martin

Depth at tackle, a long-term answer at left guard, and an extension for Zack Martin are among the questions facing the Cowboys offensive line moving forward. Whoever is in charge of keeping this unit up to standard in 2018 though, may hold the keys to getting the entirety of the Cowboys’ program back on track.

Whether it’s Alexander, Solari, or another outside candidate yet to emerge, Inside The Star will keep you updated on the Cowboys’ ongoing coaching search.

Tell us what you think about “Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Defensive Back Questions Still Need Answers

John Williams

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Byron Jones
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys defense took a step forward in 2017, and in the process they answered several questions. They found a “war daddy” in DeMarcus Lawrence, something that’s been missing since DeMarcus Ware left for the Denver Broncos. Lawrence finished tied for second with Calais Campbell in sacks with 14.5, and made the NFL All-Pro Second Team.

We got to see Jaylon Smith answer questions about his health all season long. Smith appears to be trending in the right direction, both in his health and his performance on the field.

The plan to rebuild the secondary seems to be on the right track as they’ve found a couple of aggressive corners in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. They have the look of a dynamic duo that will be impact players on this team for a long, long time.

Kavon Frazier has been a revelation. The thumper at the safety position is something that’s been missing for the Dallas Cowboys since Roy Williams.

However, questions still remain about a defense that carried this team at times, and looked like the Rob Ryan and Monte Kiffin defenses of yesteryear at other times.

To me the biggest questions in the secondary revolve around Byron Jones and Xavier Woods.

Cowboys en Español: Proyectando el Roster de 53 Jugadores 2

Dallas Cowboys S Byron Jones (James D. Smith via AP)

Where do Byron Jones and Xavier Woods Fit?

Byron Jones has been a popular whipping boy for Cowboys Nation. Some of that has been accurate, but he’s not as bad as social media would have you believe.

He’s been sticky in coverage, especially against tight ends, throughout his career, but in 2017 it seemed like he was shying away from tackling a bit too much. He still has that tremendous athleticism and coverage ability that warranted a first-round pick, but the question remains: What is his best position?

After playing where needed his rookie season, the Cowboys coaching staff moved him to safety for the last couple of years with mixed results.

As stated, he’s been pretty good in coverage and made some incredible plays on the ball, even if he’s lacking the interception numbers. The problem comes, in my opinion, when he’s asked to make tackles in space, which is an important aspect of being a safety.

Many have begun to wonder if Dallas would be best served moving Jones back to corner.

As a cornerback, Jones would be able to use his athleticism and coverage skills against the bigger wide receivers in the league, but not be asked to make as many tackles in the middle of the field against running backs and tight ends.

They can still bring him in against some of the better tight ends in the league. We already know the Cowboys will face Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins, and Evan Engram of the New York Giants for a total of six games in 2018.

Dallas will also face the likes of Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Alshon Jeffrey and Marvin Jones, who are bigger more athletic wide receivers who could require a man of Byron’s skill.

It will be interesting to see what they do with Byron this offseason.

Where Will Dallas Cowboys Search For "Fresh Ideas" Begin? 3

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB/S Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The same question applies to Xavier Woods, but not because he struggled. He was actually quite good as the slot corner throughout much of his rookie season.

Woods primarily played safety in his time at Louisiana Tech, and showed an ability to be the deep middle safety. Because of injuries to the cornerback group, Woods lined up as the slot corner for a lot of his snaps.

He played well there for Dallas, leaving many to wonder if he hasn’t earned the role of third cornerback. That may be a good fit, but it’s not typical to see a guy who was primarily a safety in college become a corner in the NFL.

I’d rather see him as a full-time safety.

With Woods at safety, Dallas can stay in their base defense when teams go to three wide receiver formations, especially on early downs or in situations where a run is just as likely. He can drop down from the safety spot to play in the slot, if — and it’s a big if — you trust your single-high safety.

Woods’ ability to cover in the slot allows you to stay competitive against the run, which was a struggle for Dallas.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

We’ve seen how the yo-yo game between positions can affect a player’s technique and mentality. Chaz Green wasn’t the same player in 2017 when asked to prepare as both a guard and a tackle, as opposed to 2016 when he strictly played tackle.

In my opinion, it would be to the Dallas Cowboys interest to move Byron Jones back to cornerback full-time, and move Woods to safety.

When you decide to go to your nickel package, Chidobe Awuzie and Jones play the outside with Jourdan Lewis moving to the middle. Or you bring Jones in to cover the tight end, leave Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, and drop Woods into the slot and play cover 1.

What do you think?

Where do Byron Jones and Xavier Woods fit best on this team?

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