When the Dallas Cowboys start training camp in July, there will be various feelings of job security throughout the 90-man roster. Throughout the NFL, players know when they're already locked in to a role on the team or when they're fighting for survival.
Today, we're going to look at how secure the Cowboys' players should feel in 2019. This not only applies to if they make the final roster, but also their position as a starter, roleplayer, or developmental prospect.
We'll start with the offense.
Tier 1 - The Untouchables
There are no foreseeable issues that could change where these 10 players fit into the 2019 offense. Barring injury or some surprise trade, such as Dallas moving La'el Collins, we know exactly where these guys will fall if they're here and healthy.
Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper are no-brainers, as are your five starting offensive linemen. I also included Fleming as he was clearly brought back to be the swing tackle this season. That could all change in 2020, but for this year at least his role is certain.
You may be surprised to see any fullback in this top tier, but the Cowboys gave Olawale a three-year contract to return this offseason. They made $2.8 million of it guaranteed; you just don't do that if you have any doubts about keeping him on the 53. There's no question that Jamize will be part of the team in 2019.
Some might argue that Connor Williams' starting spot isn't guaranteed, but I just don't see it. They lived the rookie growing pains last year and are hoping for much more going forward. A mid-season switch could occur if he struggles, but Williams will be the Week One starter at left guard.
Tier 2 - Slightly Touchable
WR Michael Gallup, WR Randall Cobb, G/C Joe Looney
I almost put Gallup in the first tier but "sophomore slumps" are a real thing. Until we see him building on last year as hoped, there is room for something to go awry.
That also brings Cobb's role into question. Any slippage in Gallup's game could lead to increased opportunities for the veteran. Really, even if both guys are bringing it in 2019, how exactly the targets and usage get split between them isn't entirely certain. If Cobb is back to his peak form in Green Bay, he will be hard to take off the field.
I also put Joe Looney in this second tier because I think he could be trade bait. If a team is hurting at center before Week One, is there a more attractive trade target in the NFL?
Dallas could afford to trade Looney if they feel good enough about Connor McGovern as a backup center. Adam Redmond could also be in the mix, serving as the backup last year when Looney was starting.
It's very unlikely that Dallas would give up one of the best backup offensive lineman in football. But if a team is desperate enough to dangle a third-round pick in front of them, the Cowboys might have an offer they can't refuse.
Tier 3 - On the Team, But Where?
RB Tony Pollard, TE Jason Witten, TE Blake Jarwin, TE Dalton Schultz, OL Connor McGovern
This tier is dominated by the mysterious tight end position. How much playing time will Jason Witten really get? How have Jarwin and Schultz developed and how will it all shake out?
Witten should be the ceremonial starter, but what really matters are total snaps and targets. Even if Jason is the first man out on game days, Jarwin could still wind up being the most-used TE of the group. It all remains to be seen.
We are also expecting a lot from rookie RB Tony Pollard this year, but we don't know yet how much responsibility he'll be given. Will he be the true backup RB or more of a gadget player? Will he take the KR and PR jobs aways from Jourdan Lewis and Tavon Austin? Lots to still be determined here.
Another rookie with question marks is third-round pick Connor McGovern. Will he be given a significant job right away or be carried, perhaps with several game day inactives, for development towards 2020? It's doubtful that he could push Joe Looney out of a job, but will he show enough that Dallas is willing to part with Xavier Su'a-Filo?
Tier 4 - Bubble Players
QB Cooper Rush, QB Mike White, RB Mike Weber, RB Darius Jackson, WR Tavon Austin, WR Allen Hurns, WR Noah Brown, WR Cedrick Wilson, TE Rico Gathers, G Xavier Su'a-Filo, OT Mitch Hyatt
In the top three tiers we've named 18 players who are locks to make the 53-man roster. You generally have 24-25 player on each side of the ball, so that means only 6-7 roster spots left on offense. That means some of the guys named here won't make the team.
Will Cooper Rush and Mike White both have jobs? If Rush remains the backup QB, Dallas will probably hang on to White for another year. But if White beats Rush, the Cowboys could easily let Cooper go to save a roster spot for another position.
Assuming Dallas doesn't add any veteran RBs between now and camp, it seems Darius Jackson and Mike Weber are competing for the same job. There's also a chance that neither makes it; the Cowboys could use Jamize Olawale as the emergency third back. They may be happy to stash with Jackson or Weber on the practice squad.
Things get really interesting at receiver once you get past the top three. Do veterans Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin's experience edge lift them above guys like Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson? Or will Dallas choose the upside of youth and their cheaper contracts? The bottom half of the WR depth chart appears entirely open right now.
The Rico Gathers Experiment seems close to ending, but he's still here and has a chance to change perceptions. The one-game suspension won't matter if the Cowboys like what he has to offer the rest of the season. But keeping a fourth TE could be tough with the numbers at other spots, and Gathers is unlikely to leap above Jarwin or Schultz.
Numbers are also an issue for the offensive linemen. We know the top eight; five starters, Fleming, Looney, and McGovern. If the Cowboys keep nine guys, they may go with Mitch Hyatt as an additional tackle rather than bring Xavier Su'a-Filo back. They already have the interior line covered.
Tier 5 - Longshots
We'll all have our "pet cats" and favorite underdogs over the next two months, but they will all be hard-pressed to make the roster given the current depth.
Maybe a guy like RB Jordan Chunn shocks us by beating out Weber and Jackson, or perhaps a dark horse WR like Jalen Guyton or Jon'Vea Johnson forces his way into the conversation. Crazier things have happened.
But this 2019 Cowboys roster is about as stacked and predictable as it's been in a long time. Strong drafting has give us a lot of young talent with years left on their rookie deals, and those guys are hard to budge.
The key for these players is to be too good to risk losing on the practice squad. Convince Dallas to make room for them, perhaps by keeping just two quarterbacks or going short somewhere else.
Because only 46 guys are active on game days, roster spots 47-53 can be dedicated to securing players and development. These young prospects want to force their way into those spots, and likely cost a veteran like Cooper Rush or Allen Hurns a job in the process.
~ ~ ~
Where players fall in these tiers could change once we start getting some reports form training camp. How expendable you are can shift depending on performance, or if the circumstances change at your position.
We'll hit the defense tomorrow.
Loss to Minnesota Could be the Final Nail in Jason Garrett’s Coffin
The 2019 NFL season kind of seemed like a do or die situation for the Dallas Cowboys current Head Coach Jason Garrett. He is currently in the last year of his contract and his future with the Cowboys organization could be hanging in the balance, especially after the devastating loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
If Jason Garrett isn't extended beyond this season, this loss to Minnesota could possibly be where his career with the Dallas Cowboys started to circle the drain. There are still several games left on the Cowboys schedule this season, but this one loss could be the one that ends up knocking them out of the playoffs. If that's true, it's hard to believe JG will be retained.
Jerry Jones, and son Stephen, have both fully supported Jason Garrett since he became the Cowboys full-time head coach back in 2011 after serving as the interim HC for Wade Phillips in 2010. That's nearly a decade of the Jones' sticking by JG through all of the thick and thin over years. That unwavering support however could be coming to an end though.
The proof is in the pudding as they say. As a head coach Jason Garrett is slightly above average according to his all-time win/loss record. His regular-season record as the HC with the Cowboys is 82-62 (.569) and he's 2-3 (.400) in the postseason. Add all of that up and he's 84-65 (.564) in his career… slightly above average.
If I know anything about the Jones', I know getting the Dallas Cowboys back to the promised land as one of the best teams in the NFL is at the top of their list. That's why we've seen them over the years take chances on players other teams wouldn't in order to put together the most competitive roster they possibly could. Now that attention might need to be shifted from the players to the head coach.
Much like the Jones', I've supported and stood by Jason Garrett over the years. That support is dwindling though after each and every loss this season, at least on my part. Personally, I'm ready to find some new blood and move on. What the Jones' end up doing though is completely up in the air.
I want to believe the Dallas Cowboys are ready to move on from JG, but I'm not completely convinced. The fact that his current contract is about to expire after the season suggests they're at least considering parting ways, but that's all it does. I think how the rest of season turns out after the devastating loss to the Vikings will end up determining his fate.
If JG somehow sneaks the Cowboys into the playoffs it could save his job. That unfortunately is no easy thing to do with the teams they have left to play this season. Because of that, the Week 10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings could end up being the final nail in Jason Garrett's coffin.
What do you think? Is it time to part ways with Jason Garrett?
Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s Status Still Unknown for Cowboys Game
The Dallas Cowboys are headed to Detroit this Sunday for a Week 11 meeting with the Lions. As Dallas tries to get back to winning games, they may get a boost from the absence of Lions' Quarterback Matthew Stafford. After missing last week's game with a back injury, Stafford's status for this week remains unclear.
Stafford was a limited participant in practices all of Week 10 for Detroit and went into their game with the Chicago Bears as a game-time decision. He was ultimately ruled out due to fractures in his back; the first start Stafford's missed for the Lions since the 2010 season.
Jeff Driskel got the start as the Lions fell in Chicago. He is 1-5 as an NFL starter overall, going 1-4 in games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.
The Lions are now 3-5-1 on the year and at the bottom of the NFC North. They are also far behind in the Wild Card race, which leads to speculation that they could shut Stafford down for the season to preserve his long-term health. Based on Matthew's contract, the earliest Detroit can easily get out from his contract is after the 2020 season.
For his part, Matthew Stafford has said he has no plans on staying out this season as long he's medically cleared to play. He certainly would love to be active this Sunday against the Cowboys, the team of his youth, after playing his high school football in Dallas.
Even if Stafford plays, Dallas has done solidly overall against opposing quarterbacks in 2019. They are sixth in passing yards allowed per game and 14th in opponent passer rating.
Detroit is fourth in passing offense right now in the NFL but that was based on eight games with Stafford at QB. Jeff Driskel will not perform at that same level, and the Lions' rushing attack has been very weak since Kerryon Johnson went on injured reserve.
We'll see in the coming days if Matthew Stafford is at practice for Detroit and to what extent. But even if he does practice some, as he did last week, it could once again be a last-minute decision for the Lions if Stafford actually plays on Sunday.
With the Cowboys desperate for a win, they'll take all the help they can get.
The Time has Come to See More of Tight End Blake Jarwin
When Jason Witten made his triumphant return from the Monday Night Football booth to the Dallas Cowboys' locker room, the addition was met with a bit of reserved optimism. On the one hand, it was awesome to get one of the best players in the history of the franchise back on the field and in the locker room. On the other hand, it meant that he would eat into the snap counts of Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, or any rookie they potentially drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Though, upon arrival, the Cowboys and Witten stated the future Hall of Famer would only play roughly 25 snaps a game, it didn't take long to figure out that Witten was the starting and full-time player at tight end. In training camp, Witten got a majority of the first-team snaps. In the first nine games of the 2019 season, Witten's played nearly twice as many snaps as Blake Jarwin.
It's an unfortunate turn from the narrative we were being fed in the offseason as Blake Jarwin provides a receiving dynamic that no other tight end for the Dallas Cowboys can. He's quicker, more agile, and has much more athleticism than Jason Witten.
On a per snap basis, Blake Jarwin is offering more in yards per snap and in yards per route run. Jarwin has accrued 0.811 yards per snap to Jason Witten's 0.711. Basically, if you prorate Jarwin's yards per snap total of 0.811 to Jason Witten's snap count of 475, Jarwin would theoretically have nearly 50 more receiving yards than Witten while providing another downfield threat to the passing game.
If we look at yards per route run, Jarwin's outpacing Witten 1.97 to 1.37 per Pro Football Focus. If you were to give Jason Witten's number of routes run to Blake Jarwin and prorated based on Jarwin's production in 2019, he would have roughly 484 receiving yards or 150 more receiving yards than Jason Witten.
Obviously, Jarwin's still got some development that needs to happen as a run blocker to be able to get on the field more. The Cowboys coaching staff, however, has still elected to roll with Jason Witten over Blake Jarwin even in pass-heavy situations as we saw on Sunday Night Football. This is the first game of the year where the Cowboys needed to be in heavy passing mode, but they continue to keep one of their more athletic weapons on the sideline when they need to get chunk plays.
Jarwin's ability to attack up the seam can help open everything up for everyone else in the offense. Just having another vertical threat on the field can create space for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb underneath.
Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff isn't going to flip their snap counts anytime soon, but the time has come for Blake Jarwin to get more of the situational passing work. When the Cowboys get into obvious passing situations -- 3rd and longs or in two-minute situations -- Blake Jarwin needs to be the tight end on the field.
We've seen each of the last two weeks what Jarwin can do once he gets the ball in his hands. Against the New York Giants, he ripped off a game-changing 42-yard touchdown run and catch. On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Jarwin had a big 26-yard reception that helped get the Cowboys going offensively.
Jason Witten will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. It's time he and the coaching staff recognizes that the Dallas Cowboys could be an even more dynamic offensive team by getting the more athletic Blake Jarwin on the field more.
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