The 2015 season is over thankfully and we can put the past behind us and turn our focus to what lies ahead in the upcoming season.
Year in and year out, organizations around the league have to continuously tinker with the roster in order to hopefully put together the best 53 man squad as possible.
Well, I decided to take a look at the roster and share with you five players that I think need to step up their game in 2016 in order to secure a roster spot. Not all of these players are in jeopardy of losing their jobs, but through improved play they should be able to not only make the 53 man roster, but earn more playing time.
Devin Street, WR (6’3″, 200)
There was a lot of talk last off-season that he improved so much so that he could possibly push Terrance Williams for that number two wide receiver spot, but we know now that that was probably just a bunch of smoke blown on the Cowboys part.
In two years with the Cowboys, Street has been unable to prove that he is worthy of more playing time and has only managed to catch nine total passes for 132 yards. Unfortunately, he has just as many touchdowns as he does fumbles, one.
A lot of fans are already predicting that his time with the organization is coming to an end, but he has a step up on the competition because he has had time to learn the offense and work with quarterback Tony Romo.
Street will have to show that he is ready for a larger role and prove what he should be kept on the roster ahead of some of the other wide receivers he is competing against.
Brice Butler, WR (6’3″, 215)
The Dallas Cowboys traded with the Oakland Raiders to obtain Brice Butler in hopes that he would be able to pick up some slack when Dez Bryant went down with an injury. Butler showed flashes in 2015 that he could be a reliable receiver for the Cowboys and could possibly push Terrance Williams for the opportunity to start opposite Bryant.
Last season he was able to catch 12 passes for 258 yards, but was unable to find the end zone. He did however average 21.5 yards per catch and proved that he could be the deep threat fans have been hankering for.
Unfortunately, he struggled with a reoccurring hamstring injury for the majority of the season and couldn’t truly prove that he could be relied upon.
Butler’s roster spot isn’t secure by any means, but he does add the deep threat dimension that the Cowboys offense is missing and that improves his chances over some of the other wide receivers.
He does however need to prove that he can remain healthy and earn the trust of his quarterback.
Chaz Green, OL (6’5″, 300)
Chaz Green was drafted by the Cowboys in the third round of the 2015 draft with the hopes that he could at the very least be a swing tackle. Unfortunately, he had to have hip surgery which pretty much wiped out his entire season.
Green needs to prove to the coaching staff that he is ready for a larger role and that his health concerns are behind him.
It is rumored that he could be kicked inside as an offensive guard, but there is still hope that he could push Doug Free for the starting right tackle position.
With a full off-season in the strength and conditioning program he should be full go once practices kickoff.
There is still a lot that is unknown about Green, but he has a chance to prove what the scouting department saw in him coming out of Florida, which led them to believe he was worthy of a third-round draft pick.
Lucky Whitehead, WR (5’9″, 183)
The coaching staff never quite felt very comfortable with Whitehead as their primary kick off and punt returner, but he did seem to find role towards the end of the season as a WR, albeit mostly on gimmick plays.
It would appear that Lucky knows that he has to step up his game in hopes of remaining on the roster in 2016 and has been putting in the time in the strength and conditioning program to improve his chances.
Whitehead played the majority of the 2015 season at around 170 pounds, but has been able to bulk up to about 183 in preparation to better handle the pounding that the body takes throughout the season.
It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys decide to keep a return specialist on the final roster due to the new rule change to kickoffs.
Whitehead will probably have to prove that he can be a complete receiver instead of the gimmicky type to help justify a roster spot, but you can’t say he isn’t putting in the work.
Kellen Moore, QB (6’0″, 200)
Kellen Moore is penciled in as the backup QB to Tony Romo as of now, but Jameill Showers and Dak Prescott might have something to say about that once the pads are on.
Moore finally got a chance to prove to everyone that his college statistics weren’t a fluke when he got to play in the final three games for the Cowboys in 2015.
It wasn’t always pretty, but he did show flashes that he is capable of being the Cowboys backup in 2016.
Personally, I’m not completely sold that he is up to the task, but with more repetitions in practice he should be able to prove to the coaching staff that he is ready to step up his play and show that he can take command of the offense.
Of course, he will have to prove that he is the best option not only on the Cowboys current roster, but from other quarterbacks around the league. It would come to no surprise that the organization is keeping a watchful eye out for someone who might have a little bit more NFL experience.