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?
Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks
It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys offense failed in 2017. As much as these struggles were about who wasn't on the field for the Cowboys, the talent still out there could rarely do enough to win games. With an elite offensive line, young quarterback, and Dez Bryant on the outside, this was unacceptable and prompted changes in Dallas.
The biggest move the Cowboys made prior to the 2018 NFL Draft was moving on from Dez Bryant. The 29-year old wide receiver remains unsigned, as the Cowboys were comfortable entering the draft with a glaring need at the position.
Still waiting until the third round to add Colorado State's Michael Gallup, the Cowboys later drafted Cedrick Wilson and Tight End Dalton Schultz. Filling their biggest needs with great value on these picks, the Cowboys also found their left guard of the future in Connor Williams at 50th overall.
Add in developmental Quarterback Mike White and Running Back Bo Scarbrough and the Cowboys have an intriguing rookie class on offense - full of players that will absolutely need to step in right away, and some that are here to provide depth.
As I did with the Cowboys defense earlier in the week, here is my best projection on the roles the Cowboys draft picks on Scott Linehan's side of the ball will play.
Left Guard Connor Williams
This was the Dallas Cowboys best pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Keeping Texas Longhorns prospect Connor Williams close to home, ending his draft-week slide at 50th overall to a roar at AT&T Stadium, is more than just a feel good story.
This is a player that fills the Cowboys need for a long-term starter at left guard perfectly. Considered one of the best tackles in the nation prior to injury, Williams will of course benefit from playing between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.
Bringing his own trademark toughness and athleticism to a new interior position will give the Cowboys arguably their best offensive line since 2014. Ezekiel Elliott has to be a fan of the Connor Williams pick already - as you should be too.
Although the Cowboys did add veteran depth at OT this offseason, Williams is of course another emergency option on the roster to kick outside and handle himself at any position but center. Connor Williams will be a noticeably fun player at LG, creating movement through to the second level on a consistent basis.
Wide Receiver Michael Gallup
Scouting Report: "Film Room: WR Michael Gallup Provides Excellent Value In 3rd Round"
Predictions for what first-year Wide Receiver Michael Gallup will have in store for his rookie season in Dallas have been all over the place. While most are understandably skeptical of the Cowboys "relying" on a third round draft pick to become a force in the passing game, Gallup is a high upside player that fits the Cowboys new approach on offense.
Phasing out the need for a true number one receiver, Gallup is the Cowboys newest "Dak-friendly" asset. Perhaps playing under the radar too much at Colorado State, Gallup has all of the traits needed to explode onto the scene in 2018.
A lengthy athlete with effortless vertical ability and soft hands, Gallup will have no problem separating as a big target on the outside for Prescott. Because of this, I expect him to be the closest thing the Cowboys have to a "WR1" this season - lining up primarily at the X position and putting up numbers better than some of the eight receivers drafted before him.
Tight End Dalton Schultz
Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: TE Dalton Schultz Fits Cowboys Need as Willing Blocker"
The Cowboys have a Jason Witten sized hole to fill inside The Star at Frisco. While just how much on-field production this constitutes is up for debate, the reality is that no player will mean as much to the Cowboys as Witten did for so long anytime soon.
Especially fourth round pick Dalton Schultz, drafted the day after Witten announced his retirement from the NFL. If given a chance to make a name for himself though, the Stanford tight end may rarely come off the field for the Cowboys.
Joining Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin on the roster - two experienced run blockers that are developing as pass catchers - Schultz has plenty of experience playing in Stanford's pro style offense.
Not the most overwhelming blocker, Schultz understands how to control bigger defenders at the line of scrimmage - never shying away from a chance to show his dominance and finish blocks to the ground.
Limited as a route runner and true receiver, Schultz is going to be eased into the Cowboys offense, but will have plenty of opportunities to stand out this summer in training camp and carve out a role in 12 or 13 personnel packages.
Quarterback Mike White
It's refreshing for the Cowboys to have a young quarterback that has stayed remarkably healthy through his first two seasons, as Dak Prescott will have no competition for the starting job in 2018. The real competition at quarterback will be directly behind him.
With Kellen Moore trading in his helmet for a coaching hat, second-year Quarterback Cooper Rush will be joined by fifth round pick Mike White. A touch thrower with pro-ready size and plenty of workable traits, White was one of the better late-round candidates the Cowboys could have added to their QB room.
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Taking 2018 to soak in as much as he can about Scott Linehan's offense, it truly doesn't matter much if Mike White is QB2 or QB3 this season. If he was worth the 171st overall pick, the Cowboys believe in his potential, and will work to push him as far as he can go up the depth chart this offseason.
Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson
In 2017, the Cowboys entered the draft with a promise to restock their depleted secondary - doing so by drafting starting cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second and third rounds. This year, the wide receiver position felt the same way. Although the Cowboys waited until the sixth round to add their second rookie at WR, Cedrick Wilson is absolutely a player that can make an impact this year and outplay this draft status.
By trading Ryan Switzer at the draft, the Cowboys showed some faith in slot receiver Cole Beasley. Likely not coming off the field much this season, Wilson will have a hard time earning reps on the inside, where he menaces defenders with his length and long speed.
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These are still traits that Cedrick Wilson uses to win on the outside, where every receiver the Cowboys have is going to get a chance. Talented pass catchers are not going to make the final cut on the Cowboys roster, but Cedrick Wilson is one that will earn his spot all summer long.
Look for him to standout in the preseason regardless of who's throwing Wilson the ball, forcing the Cowboys to rotate him into their versatile offense for Prescott to have another big target out wide.
Running Back Bo Scarbrough
Scouting Report: "Film Review: What Bo Scarbrough Brings to the Cowboys Running Game"
Bo Scarbrough has generated plenty of buzz from Cowboys Nation, and mostly because his name is Bo Scarbrough. A recognizable name out of Alabama, Scarbrough became the Cowboys last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft at 236th overall.
For as much as we've discussed the decisions the Cowboys will have to make elsewhere on offense, their faith rests in starter Ezekiel Elliott. Behind Elliott, the Cowboys have a completely new stable of running backs though.
Tavon Austin was acquired during the draft by the Cowboys to fill the void once left (?) by Lance Dunbar, and at least for now it seems like Dallas has big plans for Tavon on offense. Working both Elliott and Austin onto the field won't be a problem for Linehan, but including Rod Smith and Bo Scarbrough very well might be.
With Smith firmly holding his roster spot because of special teams contributions, Scarbrough will have to follow in similar footsteps to secure his spot on America's Team. The idea of the Cowboys keeping a bruising back like Scarbrough to help them finish games is a fun one, but it doesn't feel practical when crunching the roster numbers.
If Scarbrough does make the cut however, he can absolutely spell Elliott in short yardage and goal line situations, running with consistent power and better-than-expected vision.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys have way too much invested into their offense to see it sputter like it did a year ago. Instilling optimism with the injured players they'll welcome back, the Cowboys were not complacent in adding talent at the draft either.
While Connor Williams and Michael Gallup may be the only true "starters" the Cowboys found, I expect both rookies to excel. Contributions from Dalton Schultz and Cedrick Wilson could put this offensive draft class over the top - prepared nicely for the long run while featuring five players with high enough floors to play this season.
Cowboys en Español: La Llegada de Kris Richard, ¿La Salvación de Byron Jones?
Desde el momento en el que llegó a la NFL, Byron Jones ha dado mucho de que hablar. Su talento y sus increíbles hazañas atléticas han llevado a pensar a la afición que está destinado al éxito como un defensivo en la secundaria de los Dallas Cowboys. Desafortunadamente, a pesar de algunas jugadas realmente sorprendentes y varios destellos, Jones no ha logrado establecerse como un claro titular de calidad en sus primeros tres años en la liga.
En su primera temporada, el equipo movió a Byron Jones por toda la defensiva, dejándolo jugar como safety, dentro y fuera de la caja, como cornerback interior y exterior. ¡Poco hubiera sorprendido que lo hubieran convertido en un jugador ofensivo!
La versatilidad era un fuerte para el defensivo saliente de la universidad de Connecticut, hasta que el equipo de coaches en Dallas lo convirtió en una debilidad. Al final de cuentas, el dicho lo dice a la perfección. "El que mucho abarca, poco aprieta."
Jones, quien en sus primeras dos temporadas no encontró una posición fija, no obtuvo el progreso que necesitaba. Y una vez que en el 2017 el equipo se comprometió a darle una posición fija, dándole el trabajo de profundo (safety).
Lamentablemente para Jones, debido a problemas contra el juego terrestre y de tackleo, se demostró que jugar con él dentro de la caja, no era la respuesta para Dallas.
Ahora, con la llegada del ex-coordinador defensivo de los Seattle Seahawks y uno de los creadores fundamentales de la entonces llamada "Legion of Boom", Kris Richard, la carrera de Byron Jones cuenta con otra oportunidad y una que podría llevar al jugador de tercer año a finalmente convertirse en un titular de primer nivel.
Tras la llegada de Richard a Dallas, se anunció que Jones se convertiría en un cornerback de tiempo completo para los Cowboys con la esperanza de que este encontrará por fin un lugar donde quedarse.
Probablemente, ambos de los novatos del 2017 Chidobe Awuzie y Jourdan Lewis lograrán quedarse con los dos mejores trabajos en la posición, pero el equipo debe estar contando con que Byron Jones se gané su lugar por encima de Anthony Brown y se establezca como uno de los tres cornerbacks titulares.
"Prototipo. Atleta fantástico, altura genial, tamaño, longitud. Todo está ahí. Tiene una gran actitud. Ha trabajado muy duro desde el día 1. Estoy emocionado de estar a su alrededor." Kris Richard hablando de Byron Jones como un CB.
Los Cowboys tienen esperanzas en Byron Jones, y lo demostraron decidiendo recoger la opción de quinto año en su contrato, asegurándolo hasta la temporada del 2019. Sin duda alguna, una de las razones principales por las cuales el equipo está siendo tan optimista respecto a Jones, es la llegada de Kris Richard.
Con Rod Marinelli cumpliendo 69 años en Julio y bastantes rumores de que consideró el retiro al finalizar la temporada del 2017, el futuro de Kris Richard en Dallas parece prometedor. Tiene todo el sentido del mundo verlo como el coordinador defensivo del equipo en el 2019.
Quizá suene disparatado, pero una mala temporada en el 2018 podría conseguir que Jason Garrett sea despedido. A pesar de que los fans no quieren una mala temporada, si llegara a ocurrir y hay un cambio de head coach para los Cowboys, Kris Richard será un nombre en consideración. Al menos, debería serlo.
Pero por ahora, Richard tiene que enfocarse en replicar el éxito que tuvo defensivamente en Seattle para llevar a la unidad de los Cowboys al siguiente nivel. Byron Jones podría ser una pieza clave en su misión.
¿Será este el año para Byron Jones?
Could New Additions Cause Trouble For Backup RB Rod Smith?
The Dallas Cowboys will be adding a couple of new faces at the running back position in 2018, but it shouldn't really have much impact on Ezekiel Elliott's spot atop the RB depth chart. The person it could spell trouble for is Elliott's expected backup, Rod Smith.
Last year Rod Smith finally received an opportunity to prove himself while Ezekiel Elliott was out serving his suspension. Smith proved to be an effective weapon as both a runner and as a receiver in the passing game. He did so well in fact that many have already anointed him as the primary backup heading into the 2018 season.
Rod Smith will absolutely be given every opportunity to prove once again he is the best man for the job to backup Zeke, but there are also some new additions coming in who could possibly challenge for that RB2 role.
Tavon Austin, who the Dallas Cowboys acquired via trade with the Los Angeles Rams during the 2018 NFL Draft, is expected to be utilized as both a wide receiver and running back this year. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has described him as a "web-back" and said that Austin is expected to be utilized in a variety of different ways.
Unfortunately for Rod Smith, that could mean that Tavon Austin cuts into some of the touches Smith could have received. Austin may not have Smith's size or physicality, but his speed and elusiveness is something truly lacking right now on the Cowboys offense.
But, Tavon Austin isn't the only new face who could cause trouble for Rod Smith. The Dallas Cowboys decided to close out the 2018 NFL Draft by selecting RB Bo Scarbrough, a well-known National Champion, formally with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Bo Scarbrough is more of the old school running back we used to see in the NFL. He is a one cut downhill physical runner, who looks to punish any defender unfortunate enough to get in his way.
Scarbrough and Rod Smith are both bigger backs, but Smith just doesn't play with the same kind of physicality, despite what his size would suggest. Scarbrough could form a formative one-two punch paired with Ezekiel Elliott and together they could wear down opposing defenses.
If you're a fan of Rod Smith, this is certainly a little bit disheartening. He has had to scratch and claw for every opportunity he has received and just when it looks like he has arrived, he may have to prove himself once more.
Fortunately, I think Rod Smith is still the right man for the job to be Zeke's primary backup. He is a better all-around RB then either Tavon Austin or Bo Scarbrough and has the advantage of having the trust of the coaching staff and his teammates.
I'm sure Tavon Austin and Bo Scarborough may steal a few touches from Rod Smith here and there in 2018, but I still expect him to be the RB2 this year. Luckily, all of this talk means next to nothing since Ezekiel Elliott is back and will only come off the field for a breather.
Lookout NFL, Zeke is back and he is hungry!!!
Do you think Rod Smith will be the primary RB backup in 2018?
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