Roster projections feel eerily like fantasy football rosters, and I’m no fan of fantasy football. There’s no bigger beating than some bloke at work outwardly wrestling in self-debate over whether to start Ryan Tannehill or Carson Palmer. If you’re said bloke, trust me on this, NOBODY CARES……EVER.
That said, I readily admit that roster projections hit closer to home when it comes to our team, especially right now, a mere 18 scorching days from Showtime. It’s good fun to guess along with what the coaches are thinking.
Fascinating machinations are taking place across the league, as position coaches fight for their respective units and guys. Every team is different, heavy in certain positions and dangerously thin in others. The defensive front seven is the painfully obvious worry here, so my list carries the more obvious legal disclaimer: “Ain’t all our dudes here yet.”
And so, my would-be 53…
Quarterbacks (2): Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden
Romo looks like Romo right now. How long that will continue lies in the dastardly mood of a surgically repaired disc that we all hope takes about a six-month spasm nap. Weeden’s tools are apparent, although it remains mysterious if a quarterback can actually be cured from Brown Syndrome. I feel just fine if he has to manage a couple of games this year. Dustin Vaughan would be kept on a better team, but too many holes elsewhere won’t allow such luxury, so it’s practice squad hopes for him here.
Running backs (5): DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams, Tyler Clutts
J.C. Copeland is this year’s Adrian Hamilton, an overhyped internet phenomenon that simply can’t play in the NFL. Clutts is a decent lead blocker who also has some usefulness as a pass catcher, and this offense needs a fullback to go with the road-graders up front. Dallas is going to be one of the best running and screen teams in the league, as weird as that is to write. I simply can’t cut Ryan Williams. I find a way to keep him and Randle, especially with the injury histories of Murray and Dunbar. However, the needs at defensive line might make this a pipe dream. Personally, I keep a good back over a nobody defensive lineman, but they likely won’t think that way.
The Rubik’s Cube at defensive line will prevent it, but I think the Cowboys would like to go six receivers. Unfortunately, there are some good receivers that have to be cut, including Jamar Newsome and LaRon Byrd (and others). Thankfully, the top five keepers are young, versatile, dynamic, and trusted by the QB. Even Street seems to have the sense when it comes to running routes and knowing what to do, for a young guy. That far exceeds talent in the NFL; just ask Dez, who took time to earn Romo’s trust.
Tight ends (3): Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna
Much uncertainty still, but much hope, too. Escobar shows hints that he is going to arrive soon as a big weapon in an expansive arsenal at Linehan’s disposal. Hanna is in a crux year because he hasn’t done a thing to earn a bigger veteran check. All flash and no sustained substance so far, and that drop Saturday was cankles ugly.
The days of old are returning. Time to maul some people. This group gives me hope that Romo, in fact, can play a good while longer because the run and screen game could be the best in the business soon. Jermey Parnell is the odd man out, especially if Weems returns healthy soon. Parnell isn’t worthy of the salary he now commands, and he’s not developing at all. Same dude as before, with younger, cheaper players with more upside on hand. Plus, Martin can play tackle, and Bernadeau can play center, so versatility accents what has become a reliable strength of this team. In fact, if needed, this unit could open the season with only eight lineman. Kudos to the rebuilding of this unit.
Defensive line (9): George Selvie, Anthony Spencer, Jeremy Mincey, Tyrone Crawford, Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Nick Hayden, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman
I'm afraid that immediate need will force Dallas to put DeMarcus Lawrence on short-term injury, so he’s out six games. The waiver wire offers some hope to a question-laden group of almosts, coulda-beens, and never-wases. Making the cut won’t mean much until these guys see kickoff on September 7th, because the personnel department will be working overtime scouring cuts around the league. My hope is that they pick the right eight guys by then, and then we see a gradual IMPROVEMENT as the season wears on. The return of Spencer and Lawrence will obviously help (and perhaps Josh Brent), but the other guys have to get better as this season wears on. My only optimism lies in that somewhat logical improvement. Sounds eerily like peace in the Middle East.
Linebacker (6): Justin Durant, Kyle Wilber, Rolando McClain, Bruce Carter, DeVonte Holloman, Anthony Hitchens
Dallas desperately needs Rolando McClain to continue to return to the player he was before. It looks promising, but a lot of work and commitment still to go. Durant is having the best camp of any linebacker, but he needs to be somewhere other than the middle in my opinion. Bruce Carter might be headed for backup status, and ultimately off this team next year altogether. He’d better show big soon and consistently. Still, I do think this could be a decent group in the end, and it’s ultra critical that they are.
Cornerback (6): Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne, Sterling Moore, Terrance Mitchell, B.W. Webb
Scandrick’s suspension might have saved Webb’s bacon for now, and it’ll be interesting to find out if Tyler Patmon can win Webb’s spot in the next two weeks. Still, I think Webb holds on, especially if he can show up in special teams. The waiver wire won’t offer much because teams simply don’t cut good corners these days. When healthy and unsuspended, this is a more than serviceable group.
Safety (5): Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jakar Hamilton, Ahmad Dixon, Jeff Heath
I like this unit when it’s healthy because I’m a believer in Church and Wilcox. They’re going to get better and better. Heath and Dixon will be critical special teamers, but you just don’t want them on the field in anything other than dime packages. Most teams are thin at safety beyond their starters, too, so the same thing generally rings true around the NFL.
Specialists (3): Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
Rock solid here, though I wouldn’t mind a more dynamic punter. Bailey is a godsend to this team, and Ladouceur might be long-snapping here for the next two decades. Why didn’t I learn how to do that? Best gig on the planet.
Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten’s Game?
Jason Witten is 37 years old, retired from the NFL after the completion of 2017 season to try his luck as an announcer in the booth, but has now decided to come out of retirement to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys? It seems a little unrealistic to think he can come back after a year away from the game and pick up where he left off, but it sounds as if he's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
Jason Witten has been the talk of Dallas Cowboys OTA practices so far. These practices are unpadded and basically just an opportunity to do install some of the offensive and defensive plays, but that doesn't make them any less important. One of the things that has been somewhat surprising though is how talked up the future Hall of Famer has become.
Here is what Head Coach Jason Garrett had to say recently about Jason Witten's return:
“Yeah, absolutely. He’s been excited about every part of it ever since I met him and that hasn’t changed,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The work that he’s done in the weight room in the off-season program has been outstanding. His testing numbers and all of that are what they’ve been or even better. And he just has an unbelievable way about him. Tremendous passion for the game. And he demonstrates that every day. Witt looks good. He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly fortunate to have him back.”
The main thing that stands out from Garrett's quote to me is how Jason Witten looks just as good, if not better after not playing at all in 2018. To think that his testing numbers are possibly even better is unfathomable. We typically don't see NFL players in their mid-30s retire from the game and then return just as good, or maybe even better than they were before.
Maybe that's just what Jason Witten is, a little inhuman. Maybe he's found the secret to turning the clock back just a little bit. Or, maybe he found the fountain the youth and didn't tell anybody. Regardless, there's no doubt Witten will be a welcomed addition to the Cowboys offense, especially if he's gained a step.
I don't know about all of you, but I'm hoping the year away from the game did him some good. I honestly thought he made the right decision to retire prior to the 2018 season. It just looked like father time was catching up to him in 2017. But, hopefully all he needed was a little time away from the grind he's been putting his body through for over a decade.
Whatever he's done hasn't gone unnoticed though. Even Quarterback Dak Prescott has noticed and said he's on to Witten's scheme.
“I guess the trick is to take a year off because he’s definitely gotten better, stronger and faster,” Prescott said. “He hasn’t lost a step.”
I'm not afraid to admit I wasn't too excited to see Witten come out of retirement and rejoin the Cowboys at first. I was skeptical he could be the player he once was after a year away from the game. But, all of this talk about him looking as good as he once was, perhaps better, has me really looking forward to seeing him on the field once again.
Do you think a year away has rejuvenated Jason Witten's game?
Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Cambio en La Ofensiva
Los Dallas Cowboys tuvieron un interesante 2018. La ofensiva dejo mucho que desear toda la primera mitad de la temporada cuando carecían de un receptor número uno. No fue hasta media temporada cuando consiguieron a Amari Cooper de los Oakland Raiders, que la ofensiva comenzó a verse realmente amenazante. Siendo sinceros, el cuerpo de receptores de los Cowboys lucía muy débil al inicio y Michael Gallup aún no conseguía mucho tiempo de juego en el emparrillado. Incluso una vez en el equipo, a pesar de las grandes hazañas de Cooper en Dallas, la ofensiva no terminó de dar el siguiente paso.
Sí, con Amari en el equipo vimos un equipo de Cowboys que movía constantemente las cadenas e incluso se convirtió en una de las mejores unidades en tercera oportunidad en la liga, pero no fue suficiente. Los problemas en zona roja persistieron y continuamos viendo una selección de jugadas muy cuestionable semana tras semana.
Es por eso que al finalizar la temporada, la administración de los Cowboys finalmente tomó una decisión muy anticipada. El entonces coordinador ofensivo, Scott Linehan, fue despedido.
En cuanto a talento, los Dallas Cowboys no verán un cambio mayor en su ofensiva. Cole Beasley, uno de los mejores WR slot en la NFL, firmó con los Buffalo Bills durante la agencia libre. A pesar de la llegada de Randall Cobb, la ofensiva probablemente extrañará bastante a Beasley. Además está el regreso de Jason Witten al campo, quien se repartirá el balón mucho con los jóvenes del equipo, principalmente con Blake Jarwin. Por último, Travis Frederick podría estar de regreso como el centro titular. Fuera de eso, no se anticipan cambios de jugadores en la ofensiva.
Y a pesar de esto, la afición de los Cowboys espera ver un cambio grande entre la ofensiva del 2018 y la de 2019. Si las cosas salen bien, así será. Pero más que por el talento del equipo, que ya está ahí y es un muy buen talento, deberá ser por el hombre al mando.
Kellen Moore ha tomado las riendas como el nuevo coordinador ofensivo y finalmente podremos ver su potencial. Muchos han criticado a Moore, en gran parte por nunca haber sido un quarterback exitoso en la NFL. Sin embargo, hay muchas razones por las cuales deberíamos estar emocionados.
Desde que Moore salió de la universidad de Boise State, se le veía como un prospecto muy inteligente. Incluso analistas como Jon Gruden (en ese entonces conductor del programa de ESPN Gruden's QB Camp) mencionaban que Moore probablemente no sería un gran mariscal, pero que tenía la mente de un coach.
En Boise, Moore trabajaba con la ofensiva del actual coach de los Washington Huskies, Chris Petersen. Esta ofensiva es una muy complicada que le exige al mariscal saber casi tanto como un jugador profesional. Muchos han descrito a Moore como un genio ofensivo que será un gran coach en el futuro.
Para los Cowboys, Kellen Moore será una pieza clave en 2019. Si vemos una ofensiva realmente diferente, será gracias a su creatividad y filosofía que implementa a un grupo bastante talentoso en Dallas. Los jugadores están ahí, ¿sabrá el coordinador ofensivo de 30 años aprovecharlos?
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.
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