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?
NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?
The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.
Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.
Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.
The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.
Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.
For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.
Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.
Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.
The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.
Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?
Despite their insistence that upgrading the safety position was a top offseason priority, the Dallas Cowboys haven't really done much to improve the backend of their secondary. They did sign former Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals Safety George Iloka as a free agent and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth-round in this year's NFL Draft, but neither player looks like a clear-cut upgrade at this point. Fortunately, there's still time to find Xavier Woods' counterpart for 2019.
Xavier Woods is the only clear-cut starter at safety currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to who starts opposite him this season. With that in mind, the Cowboys should be keeping all of their options open, including acquiring players who get released or even making a trade for someone they like. The latter is what I want to talk about today.
A potential safety who could be put on the trade block that I'm kind of intrigued with is Josh Jones, who has reportedly requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers.
Packers safety Josh Jones is skipping the voluntary OTAs and working out in Florida because he's hoping to be traded, a source told ESPN. The source said the 2017 second-round pick believes it would be best for both parties if they parted ways. Story coming on ESPN shortly.
Josh Jones clearly sees where he stands with the Green Bay Packers after they signed Adrian Amos in free agency and drafted Darnell Savage Jr. 21st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, thus his absence from OTA's and trade request. He understands the business and knows he's not going to see the field much behind those two, meaning his best chance for playing time would be in a different uniform.
It's not all that shocking Jones has requested a trade. Even before the Packers added Amos and Savage he wasn't receiving a lot of playing time. He's just never seemed to fit into what Green Bay was trying to do on the backend of their defense. It may be in the best interest of both parties to mutually part ways. This is where the Dallas Cowboys come in.
I believe Josh Jones is exactly the type of safety Kris Richard would like to pair Xavier Woods with on the backend of the Cowboys defense. He fits the criteria Richard likes in his defensive backs as far as size, length, and speed are concerned. And, he also has the kind of skill set/mindset to become that Kam Chancellor "enforcer" type of strong safety.
Josh Jones is at his best when he can play around the line of scrimmage, much like Chancellor was during his time with the Seahawks. But, Jones also has the ability to be a factor in coverage as well. The only real question here is whether or not he's an upgrade over the likes of Jeff Heath, George Iloka, and maybe even rookie Donovan Wilson?
In all honesty, I don't have the answer to that question. Josh Jones really hasn't received a fair opportunity to prove himself in his first two years in the NFL. I believe the skill set is there to start in the league, but there's not much there to back up that belief.
Personally, I'd be willing to part way with a late round pick if I were the Cowboys to acquire Josh Jones. I like the idea of bringing him in to work with Kris Richard and allowing him to compete for the starting job next to Xavier Woods. This is exactly the kind of low risk/high reward move Dallas likes to gamble on, and it could potentially pay off in a big way.
Where do you stand? Should the Cowboys consider trading for Josh Jones?
How Can The Cowboys Force More Turnovers In 2019?
2018 seemed like the beginning of a new era. A defensive era. For the first time in years the Cowboys were able to consistently lean on their defense during games, staying alive even as their offense sputtered and limped through stretches early in the season.
The defense was downright prolific some weeks. They carried the Cowboys to an inspiring home victory over the New Orleans Saints to put them in prime position to make the playoffs. They dominated the Wild Card game in key moments, making key stops and holding the Seahawks to just 22 points in the win. They featured one of the league's best individual pass rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence, an All Pro cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the league's most exciting young linebacker duos.
For all of this success, this defense still lacked one thing. Takeaways.
The Cowboys forced only 9 interceptions in 2018, ranking 26th across the league. In fact, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was actually tied with Xavier Woods for the team lead in interceptions with just 2. When it comes to total takeaways the Cowboys' defense was a little better off, though, finishing 16th in the NFL.
Part of the "problem" seems to be their philosophy. The Cowboys have finished 26th, 24th, 27th, and 31st in interceptions dating back to 2015. They've also finished 9th, 25th, 18th, and 19th in team defense DVOA over that same stretch. Clearly there was an improvement in total defense in 2018, but neither their team defense nor ability to take the ball away has been strong since 2015.
The bigger problem, really, is a lack of luck. While this sounds like a cop-out, takeaways often do come down to just that. Of course putting yourself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a batted pass or overthrown ball matters, but those bounces finding the right hands is usually a matter of luck.
Turnovers are incredibly volatile year to year, and as much as you'd like your players to "make their own luck," randomness does play a part here.
You can certainly argue the Cowboys have done their best this offseason to increase their chances at takeaways, however. By trading for defensive end Robert Quinn, re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence, and adding talented players to the middle of their defensive line as well, Dallas has put an emphasis on getting after the quarterback and corralling the opposing running game. Putting pressure on quarterbacks can force them into quick decision making or bad throws, which could in turn breed interceptions.
This is far from guaranteed, though. Plus the Cowboys play against some of the league's top quarterbacks this year, which hurts their chances of taking the ball away further.
In the end the Cowboys will need both the skill of their pass rushers and defensive backs to put them in good positions, and luck to smile down on them, if they'd like to turn around their takeaway numbers in 2019. And after all, this demoralizing trend has to reverse itself at some point, doesn't it?
Player News1 week ago
Leighton Vander Esch Graded Best Rookie Linebacker Since 2014
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
Kicker Matt Bryant Should Be the Final Piece of Cowboys 2019 Offseason
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
3 Reasons Why LB Leighton Vander Esch Will be Even Better in 2019
Star Blog1 week ago
QB Dak Prescott Already Impressing New Offensive Coaches
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Way-too-early 2019 Dallas Cowboys 53-man Roster Projection
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
What Could June 1st Mean for 2019 Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Despite Perception, Dallas Cowboys had an Excellent Offseason
Dallas Cowboys3 days ago
Why Cowboys Should Make Signing RB Jay Ajayi a Top Priority