The 2015 season for the Dallas Cowboys was a complete disaster and the majority of the blame can be placed squarely on the backup quarterback situation. Once Tony Romo went down not once, but twice with a broken clavicle, we pretty much knew that the season was on the line.
Who was actually comfortable knowing that Brandon Weeden was a backup behind Romo heading into the 2015 season? I know I wasn't. I thought it was an absolute mistake by the organization.
As it turns out, I was right. They did however try to remedy their failure and traded for Matt Cassel, but again that didn't work out either.
Finally, they turned to Kellen Moore, but only after the season was all but finished and they really had nothing left to play for.
Again, I'm getting that feeling like I had last year when I found out Weeden was the backup QB. Are the Cowboys really going to rely on Kellen Moore to back up Tony Romo?
Well, according to Rob Phillips, a Senior Writer for the Dallas Cowboys, that is exactly the plan so far.
Jerry Jones on @1053thefan about his confidence in Kellen Moore backing up Romo at QB: "He's got the instincts. He's got the anticipation.
I can't say that I really agree or disagree at this point, but it does leave me a little worried considering the fact that Romo has had a hard time remaining healthy.
There is still a lot of time to analyze this position throughout the remainder of the off-season and I for one will be keeping a close eye on the progress of the QBs on the roster to see who is best suited to step in if needed.
Here is how I think the Cowboys see things right now…
Kellen Moore, QB (6'0", 200)
In 2015, Moore played in three games and started two of those contests. He completed 61 of 104 passes for a completions percentage of 58.7. He threw for 779 passing yards, four touchdowns, and six interceptions.
His best game was against the Washington Redskins, the final game of the season, where he completed 33 of 48 passes for 435 yards. He also threw for three touchdowns and two interceptions.
A lot of the belief that Moore is capable of being the backup QB is based on the Washington game and that is understandable after suffering through porous play from the position the majority of the year.
I however am worried that it's a mistake. I'm not a big fan, even though he knows the offense having been with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan since entering a league.
He is a pocket passer with very limited mobility and limited arm strength to make all the throws. His size or lack of size, is worrisome. If he takes a big hit will he to be lost due to injury?
Despite my concerns though, it looks as if the Cowboys are willing to gamble that he is the best option at this time, but I don't think for a second that they won't be looking for a better option at some point.
Jameill Showers, QB (6'1", 230)
Showers is someone that I'm really intrigued by. I think he showed a lot of poise last year during the preseason when he got the opportunity to play and I would like to see what he's able to do after a year of development in the Cowboys system.
In all honesty, I really wanted to see him get the chance to play at the end of the season last year when the Cowboys didn't have much to play for any more.
As of right now, I think the Cowboys have him third on the depth chart, but I think I actually like him just as much as Kellen Moore, if not a little more.
Showers showed during the preseason last year that he not only as the arm strength to make all the throws, but he has the poise to stand in the pocket and make a throw despite pressure being applied by the defense. He also shows the mobility to move the pocket and buy time to make a pass downfield and can also be a threat as a scrambling QB.
There are a lot of things that I like about Showers game and I hope that he gets the opportunity to display how much he has improved in a years time.
Dak Prescott, QB (6'2", 226)
Dak Prescott is probably the low man on the totem pole right now despite being drafted in the fourth round. That's not to say that it will remain that way once he is able to learn the playbook and get up to speed with the way things are done in the NFL.
Prescott has all of the physical traits that you look for in a QB. He has the prototypical size that NFL teams look for in their QBs. He has the arm strength to make all the throws in the NFL and has the ability to extend plays, while also being a threat to scramble when things break down.
However, he needs to get through his reads more quickly and like many other rookie QBs entering the NFL he needs to work on his mechanics. Cleaning up his mechanics might help with his accuracy for those intermediate and deep passes, which might be a concern if not addressed. He also needs to work on his anticipation. He tends to throw to a target instead of throwing a receiver open.
All in all, there are a lot of things to like about Prescott's game and his future with the Cowboys, but I don't think he's the answer to back up Romo yet.
Tony Romo's health is a big concern and if he does indeed have to miss extended time again the backup QB situation leaves much to be desired.
The fact that Kellen Moore is the most experienced QB on the roster is concerning and his size indicates that he could be one hit away from a major injury himself.
Showers as a year in the system and should be up to speed with the playbook. To me, I think he has more upside than Moore and provides a skill set more similar to Romo's.
Prescott is a rookie and has to first learn the playbook, while also figuring out the speed of the NFL. It could be a huge cultural shock, resulting in him needing more time to be a valuable option as a backup QB.
Overall, the backup QB situation is still a concern and could possibly need to be addressed at some point.
Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder Stand Out in Cowboys Practices
With Left Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, Defensive End Taco Charlton rehabbing a shoulder and foot injury, and Right Defensive End Randy Gregory currently suspended indefinitely, there have been plenty of snaps at defensive end for other players to make a name for themselves in the offseason training activities (OTAs) and this past week's minicamp. The two players that stood out above all others on the defense were defensive ends Dorance Armstrong and Kerry Hyder.
You might be asking yourself, "what does it matter? DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn are the starters. Why should we care about a couple of backups."
First, the backup defensive ends for the Dallas Cowboys will play. After DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, the leaders in defensive end snaps in 2018, Randy Gregory got 44% of the snaps on defense and Taco Charlton saw 39%. Dorance Armstrong, who played sparingly as a rookie, saw 26% of the snaps. The defensive ends that make the 53-man roster are going to get playing time.
Secondly, there's no guarantee that DeMarcus Lawrence will be ready for week one. Tyrone Crawford, who was the starter at right defensive end in 2018, could miss week one if the NFL deems his offseason altercation is worthy of a suspension. That leaves a whole lot of potential snaps at the left defensive end spot if either of those two guys misses week one.
Dorance Armstrong, the Dallas Cowboys fourth-round pick from 2018, caught the eye of several observers from the media and finished his offseason with a strong minicamp.
"These coaches have to be happy with what they’ve seen from Dorance Armstrong during these practices. Armstrong has been mainly filling in for DeMarcus Lawrence on the left side, but on Wednesday he switched over to the right. There were several snaps where he was a handful for Cam Fleming to handle. Armstrong started off well last season before hitting the rookie wall. He physically looks bigger and is also now equipped with the knowledge of how he has to prepare to play at a high level the entire season. Keep an eye on Armstrong to make that jump from the first to second year."
Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com
Armstrong had a really nice training camp as a rookie and as Broaddus notes, tailed off during the regular season. Reports are that he's added size this offseason -- as most players do between their first and second year -- and if all the reports are correct, could be a breakout player in the making.
Kerry Hyder is another intriguing player and one of the more underrated offseason acquisitions by the Dallas Cowboys front office.
Coming from the Detroit Lions, where they used Hyder as a nose tackle in Matt Patricia's 3-4 alignment, he was played severely out of position. In 2016, playing primarily as a defensive end, Hyder recorded eight sacks for the Lions. In 2017, he suffered a torn achilles which kept him out all of that year.
Now with the Dallas Cowboys, he gets to return to his more natural defensive end position. And he's making some noise in these offseason practices.
D-Linemen never get any shine during OTAs, so today is for them. With Tyron Smith & La'el Collins sitting out today, Dorance Armstrong & Kerry Hyder absolutely wrecked practice. Murdered it. I legitimately don't think Dak would've gotten a single throw out if sacks were allowed.
Of course not playing against the starting tackles in Tyron Smith and La'el Collins will allow players to shine a bit more, but let's not forget that Cam Fleming started in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots before signing with the Dallas Cowboys. Connor Williams, who has been getting snaps at tackle as well, is no slouch as a former All-American for the Texas Longhorns.
Here's what Bryan Broaddus had to say about Kerry Hyder in one of the previous OTAs his "Scout's Notebook" from May 22nd.
"I have to be careful with my love for veteran defensive linemen, but Kerry Hyder looks like a different man playing at end instead of head-up tackle. The coaching change in Detroit did him no favors last season. Having to play in a spot where he had to fight blocks all day to now working on the edge in space is a good thing for him. It appears that Hyder has his quickness back, but he also has some pass rush moves in his tool belt. I thought maybe they were going to use him as an under-tackle, but putting him back at end might be his best shot at making the roster."
Bryan Broaddus - Dallas Cowboys.com
The Cowboys found a really good player in Kerry Hyder. He's capable of playing some 3-technique defensive tackle if needed as well as on the edge. He has a good motor and is able to make plays in the running game.
With the emergence of Kerry Hyder and Dorance Armstrong this offseason, it puts Taco Charlton behind the eight ball as the team heads to Oxnard. If they continue to play well, it's a real possibility that Charlton could be a gameday inactive during the regular season, especially if Randy Gregory is reinstated.
However they end up being deployed, this group of defensive ends will cause fits for opposing offensive lines. They've been aiming for waves of pass rushers for Rod Marinelli's defense and for the first time since becoming defensive coordinator, he looks to have just that.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
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