From top to bottom, the Dallas Cowboys have one of the deepest rosters they have had in recent memory. There should be plenty of competition at just about every position, but there are only a few starting positions that are still up for grabs.
Offensively, the Cowboys are pretty much returning the same unit that vaulted them into the playoffs last season, but as things stand right now there are a few starting positions that could be up for grabs. The defensive side of the ball is an entire different story for the Cowboys. It's a unit that might be completely overhauled and there are plenty of starting spots that have yet to be locked down.
Let's take a more in-depth look at exactly which positions are up for grabs currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster.
With Doug Free's retirement, the Dallas Cowboys have to find a new starting right tackle. The Cowboys didn't draft any offensive tackles in the 2017 NFL Draft, so that would suggest the new right tackle is currently on the roster.
Chaz Green is likely the most talented and preferred candidate to become the starting RT in 2017, but his long list of injuries is a major concern. Green has yet to finish a season healthy since entering the NFL and that has to be under consideration before naming him the starter.
Green will have to beat out some competition before being named the starter at RT. Emmett Cleary, Byron Bell, and perhaps La'el Collins will all be battling it out throughout the rest of the off-season to earn the right to sit at the top of the depth chart at right tackle.
Just like with Doug Free, the departure of Ronald Leary could mean the left guard position is up for grabs. Odds are though La'el Collins is already the hands-down favorite to once again take over the starting responsibilities, but he could also be in the mix at right tackle.
The Dallas Cowboys brought back Jonathan Cooper, a former first-round draft pick, which gives them some flexibility with how they want to go about shaping the offensive line for 2017. I don't think anything is set in stone just yet, which means this could be a position battle worth keeping track of throughout training camp.
The Cowboys are going to want to get their best five players on the field and Collins' position flexibility means he could be in play at both right tackle and left guard. I think he is the key to solidifying the offensive line in 2017 wherever he ends up playing.
The only sure thing at the safety position for the Dallas Cowboys is that Byron Jones will be starting in 2017, but his counterpart has yet to be named. The departures of Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox creates an open spot at strong safety and all eyes will be on this position throughout the rest of the off-season.
Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, free-agent signee Robert Blanton, and rookie Xavier Woods will all be competing to earn the spot opposite Byron Jones. I think you'd also have to consider rookie Chidobe Awuzie because of his versatility to play any position in the secondary.
Regardless of who earns the starting spot opposite Byron Jones, it looks as if the safety position will be more athletic and talented in 2017. This is definitely going to be one of the more exciting position battles to watch.
The Dallas Cowboys used three of their nine draft picks on cornerbacks and even Orlando Scandrick's name surfaced as a possible trade candidate. I don't think there is one player among the Cowboys CBs that is guaranteed a starting position, which could mean that we see entirely new faces in 2017.
Scandrick is probably the closest sure thing the Cowboys have to earn a starting job, but the trade rumors cause a little but of doubt in his job security. Nolan Carroll might be the next in line to earn a starting spot because of his veteran experience, but I don't think that's guaranteed either.
I fully believe that whoever separates themselves during the off-season practices will find themselves starting when the season kicks off. I don't think it matters what their salary may be or their level experience. It will be an open competition worth following.
As things stand right now, the only starting spot not up for grabs is Sean Lee's weak side linebacker position. Yes, there is hope that Jaylon Smith will be the starting middle linebacker for the Cowboys, but we are anxiously awaiting to see what he looks like once he can finally get the pads back on.
So, the middle linebacker position and the strong side linebacker position could be up for grabs still. The Cowboys could go with some kind of rotation until things sort themselves out and that could possibly go on into the season. It's probably not the ideal scenario, but that's how things could play out.
All eyes will be on Jaylon Smith, and for good reason, but this will be yet another position battle to keep a close watch on throughout the remainder of the off-season. Especially considering how important the linebackers are in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's 4-3 defensive scheme.
I could have split up the defensive tackle and defensive end positions individually, but the Dallas Cowboys have a lot of players with the versatility to play either position. I personally don't think that anyone is guaranteed a starting spot.
DeMarcus Lawrence has been the starting DE on both the left and right side over the past several seasons, but hasn't been able to take his game to the next level because of injuries and off the field issues. He is going to have to fight for his job just like everyone else.
At defensive tackle Maliek Collins has earned the right to start and he can play either of the two interior DTs positions. The remaining spot is still up in the air, but with the way Marinelli likes to rotate his defensive line might make this open starting spot unimportant.
It is really going to be interesting to see how the entire defensive line rotation shakes out and who can secure themselves one of those open starting spots.
With all of the open starting spots up for grabs, this off-season will definitely be worth paying extra close attention to. There is lot of youth being inserted into the roster and the 2017 season could see a lot of young players playing key roles for the Dallas Cowboys. However things play out, this off-season may be the start of something great.
How do you see these open roster spots being filled?
Was Sunday A “Wake Up Call,” Or Were Cowboys Exposed?
Entering last Sunday's game in Indianapolis, the Dallas Cowboys were riding high. Having won five straight games, including key victories over the top seeded Saints and division rival Eagles, everything seemed to be breaking right for the Cowboys heading into the home stretch.
Their defense was playing like one of the best in football, and after firing Paul Alexander and trading for Amari Cooper their offense was clicking just as they'd hoped. They needed (and still need) just one win to officially close out the division and clinch a home playoff game in January.
Instead, the Cowboys got absolutely demolished by the Indianapolis Colts. Of course, there's no shame in losing a road game to an 8-6 team in the NFL, but the way in which they lost certainly deserves some shame. Not even the 23-0 score can encapsulate the complete butt-kicking Dallas received at the hands of the Colts, and it was the type of loss that can sometimes make you question the blueprint.
The Cowboys, however, are not looking at it that way. Multiple leaders in the locker room have spoke this week about how they "needed" to lose like that. Running back Ezekiel Elliott called the loss embarrassing, but also said it is better for Dallas in the "grand scheme of the season."
Clearly, the leaders and coaches are calling the putrid performance a wake up call, something that will galvanize them and reset their win streak heading into the postseason. But is this really the case, or was the shutout defeat more of a sign of things to come?
Obviously it's too early to say for sure, but I do think it can be a little bit of both.
No, the Cowboys are not the class of the NFC, despite beating what can be called the best team in the same conference a couple weeks ago. There probably will prove to be some drop-off from the top 3 seeds in the conference and the Cowboys, if for no other reason than Dallas will have to go on the road to play those teams in the playoffs. It's really hard to win on the road in the NFL, especially with the increased wackiness of 2018.
The Cowboys offense is far from perfect or prolific, though if clicking they now have the skill talent to drop 30+ points any given Sunday. Their defense is talented, has a high ceiling, but is still very young and inexperienced. Though they've played elite level games before, they've also had some stinkers against the Colts and Titans during the same season.
All of this can be true. The Cowboys can be a team deserving of the playoffs, a team we should not be panicking over, but still a very flawed football team. They can be a team that if "hot" could make a run through the postseason, but also will have to answer some tough questions about coaches and players during the next two offseasons.
After all, who isn't greatly flawed in today's NFL? Hell, we just saw the beloved Rams lose two straight games.
Is it Too Late For Dallas to Fire OC Scott Linehan?
Grab your pitchforks and your torches, it's time to run the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan out of town. His playcalling has been absolutely atrocious season and it's time for him to hit the road, even if there are only two regular-season games left on the schedule.
It's completely unorthodox for an NFL team to fire an offensive coordinator this late in the season, but just last week we saw the Minnesota Vikings do just that when they parted ways with John DeFilippo. It was definitely a bold move to make considering the Vikings are still in playoff contention, but it was something they believed was in the best interest of their team.
I believe if the Dallas Cowboys want to do what's best for their team right now and not later, then they should go ahead and cut ties with Scott Linehan. His predictability and un-creativeness as a play caller is holding back a talented offense, which is hurting the overall team as a result. He's been given every opportunity to turn things around, but enough is enough.
I'd personally be on board with Jason Garrett taking over the playcalling duties. He has the experience and held the position with the Cowboys from 2007 until Linehan was hired. I'd even consider giving Kellen Moore a shot as the OC. He knows the system and has worked closely with Quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless, the Cowboys need to find some way to increase their offensive productivity.
Right now the Cowboys offense is the 26th scoring offense in the NFL and are averaging just 19.7 points per game. To make matters worse they are the 31st ranked Red Zone offense in the league. I don't know about you, but I think that is completely unacceptable with the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Firing Linehan has been a long time coming. The Cowboys flirted with the idea earlier this season during the bye week and should've pulled the trigger then, but for some reason or another decided to let him stick around. They are definitely still paying for that mistake now.
The Cowboys mistake not to replace Linehan could mean yet another early exit in the playoffs, something we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Scoring just 19 points a game isn't going to get them very far, which is truly unfortunate considering the talent they've acquired this season.
Unfortunately, as much as we would love to see Scott Linehan tarred and feathered and run out of town, I just don't see the Cowboys doing that before their season is officially over. But, in no way should he be allowed to retain his position beyond this season. He clearly isn't the answer any longer.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should fire Scott Linehan?
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
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