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If the Season Started Today (Offense )…

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Injury Report: Dallas Cowboys At Buffalo Bills

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see what kind of team the Cowboys would be fielding if the season started today. They have 62 players under contract right now, which is nine more than they'll have in Week One. How set are they at some positions, and how much more work is needed at others?

We're going to divide this up into separate articles for the offense and defense. Here's a projection of what the Cowboys offense would look like using the currently signed players:

QUARTERBACK

Tony Romo, Kellen Moore, Jameil Showers

If Dallas decides to wait one more year before drafting a quarterback than this could easily be the QB depth chart in 2016. They may just go with two quarterbacks if Showers or some other prospect isn't worth holding with a roster spot.

Cowboys Blog - Dallas Cowboys Must Start Kellen MooreMoore isn't the Messiah that some claim him to be but at least he's been around a while and will now have a full offseason with the Cowboys. It is important to remember that Moore was signed in September last year so missed out on training camp and preseason with Dallas. There is the possibility for him to be much improved in our system in 2016.

Personally, I'm not very high on Moore and would like to see the Cowboys spend at least a mid-round pick on a QB to work with. I wish they could have landed Matt Moore as a backup option and hope they will pursue one more veteran, also. They could run with what they have, but I sure hope they look to improve.

RUNNING BACK

Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, Rod Smith, Ben Malena

lance-dunbarDallas just re-signed Dunbar yesterday and will hope he can return to the role he was serving last year. That alone would take some touches way from McFadden, who needs to be handled carefully after such a heavy workload last year.

Given injury concerns for McFadden and Dunbar you'd assume that they will keep four runners this year. Smith is a bruiser and Malena is a speed back, but neither is at all proven. Dallas also has to think about the future with both McFadden and Dunbar on expiring deals. I imagine they will draft someone of consequence in April.

WIDE RECEIVER

Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Lucky Whitehead

I don't expect the Cowboys to add anyone of note here. Williams and Butler will likely compete for a starting job and they will be happy with the loser of that battle as a backup. Whitehead should be locked in to his roster spot for return duties alone and was starting to find an offensive niche late last year.

TIGHT END

Jason Witten, James Hanna, Gavin Escobar, Geoff Swaim

Hanna's new contract pays him an average of $2.75 million a year, which is pretty rich for a backup. That deal tells me Hanna is now ahead of Escobar on the depth chart. What's more, Dallas may utilize Hanna as a backfield blocker rather than add a more traditional fullback.

Cowboys Blog - 2016 Contract-Year Cowboys: TE Gavin EscobarIf he has been passed by Hanna, will Escobar even be on next year's roster? It's the last year of his rookie deal and he's owed $1.3 million. He could be released for about $1 million is cap savings. Escobar will certainly be in camp and preseason, but could Dallas cut him for cheaper depth options? He will need to start making some plays again, like the one pictured here, to save himself.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Tyron Smith, Doug Free, Charles Brown

The Cowboys have the bare minimum right now for next year; two starters and a veteran swing tackle. They will certainly have some younger prospects in camp and may even draft one in the middle rounds as an eventual replacement for Free. However, this was their trio last year and they could stick with it if need be.

GUARD & CENTER

Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Travis Frederick, Ronald Leary, Chaz Green

Green was drafted as a tackle but was taking practice snaps at guard last year, and at least one Cowboys insider says that's where he will be going forward. Leary is back for at least one more year an overqualified backup.

Backup center is the glaring issue here. Mackenzy Bernadeau is gone and neither of these backups has shown the ability to play that role. The emergency plan seems to be having Martin slide over and play it, but I imagine they will bring in some prospects before we get to Oxnard.

~ ~ ~

As you can see, there is at least a workable team among these players but still opportunities for better depth and long-term prospects. One more quality running back is the most glaring need, though personally I want to see them with more behind Tony Romo as well.

The good news is that, unlike with the defense, Dallas can go into April's draft without feeling forced to fill any holes. They can stick to their board and go with the best talents.

Speaking of the defense, look for that breakdown tomorrow.

 



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. George Johnson

    March 18, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Jess Haynie: I guess I disagree with your statement that." I am not very high on Kellen Moore and hope they bring in at least a mid-round pick to work with." A mid round pick IMO is not likely to ever beat out Kellen Moore. K Moore has proven at this point he should have been drafted in 2012, at least in later rounds. The draft QB class that K Moore was in is way better than this years QB class. In this years class K Moore should be a mid-round pick. K Moore is more likely to develop into T Romo's replacement than a mid-round draft pick in the 2016 draft. I do agree that an experienced QB or a franchise type QB in the draft, if there are any, should be brought into compete with K Moore for 2nd team QB position. When you say you are not very high on K Moore, I am not sure of why you think this way. He has always played way better than he looks. He looks like the equipment manager, not an NFL QB. He is a master at pocket passing with physical limitations including not having a real strong arm. (i.e. velocity) The question is are his skills/abilities to be a pocket passer so outstanding that he can overcome or compensate for his physical limitations? I believe S Linehan thinks so and that's why he keeps supporting K Moore. Also, I put a lot of weight on his college coaches statement after his senior year, and I quote, " K Moore is the best pocket passer I have EVER SEEN". He didn't say ever coached or ever played against, but ever seen. I assume he has seen P Manning, T Brady and D Brees. Maybe not. Anyhow this is a strong statement from a respected coach who is not known to be outspoken.

  2. Bryson Treece

    Bryson Treece

    March 18, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    One of these days, George, you've got to tell me what the hell your obsession is with Kellen Moore. I mean, dude… I don't think (I know, actually) I've ever seen a fan SO supportive of a single player, especially one that has only ever started because of injury and didn't win a starting job out of that. Gotta respect the support you show, but I seriously don't understand it.

    • George Johnson

      March 18, 2016 at 11:32 pm

      Bryson Treece: I have followed him since he was a Sophomore in high school and read everything said about him. He almost broke some national high school QB records and probably would have if he hadn't played only about three quarters a game because of big leads. I had followed college and high school football and this kid was extremely talented and mature in his playing for a high school QB. His accuracy was out of this world for a high school QB. I was extremely impressed and thought he would be a star in college. K Moore wanted to play in the Pac-10 and preferably at Washington State. The Pac-10 coaches thought he was too small and a product of his dad's system. I was shocked by these comments but figured I must not know certain things because I am no coach and never played football at the college level. The Boise State head coach, Peterson had to be talked into giving him a scholarship by the defensive coordinator who had recruited in Washington State and everyone at the high school level said K Moore was the best player in the state. This coordinator was also impressed with seeing K Moore play in person and/or on tape. I was shocked that the Pac-10 schools were passing on this kid. I had never seen a high school QB that was this talented. I had become a big fan at that time and followed K Moore over his four year career at Boise State. I was again shocked when K Moore was not drafted and the NFL experts said they questioned whether he could even play in the NFL. All he had done at the college level is turn into one of the all time best pocket passers in the history of college football. His college coach said he was the best pocket passer he had ever seen. He almost set a new four year record for fewest interceptions so his lack of a strong arm did not seem to cause interceptions at the college level. I followed K Moore at Detroit and now in Dallas. I have seen most of his games including all his preseason games and season games last year in the NFL. He has continued to play at a high level in preseason games but mostly at 3rd team. As an example he had a 108 QB rating in preseason games in Detroit in 2014. I have posted a lot about K Moore because I know a lot about him and everything that has been said about him. I see post after post that don't have any faith in K Moore and have no idea how good he really is. He tends to be judged even by coaches by his looks and he doesn't look and throw like an NFL QB. I try to be objective and point out what I know. I was the first to admit I wasn't sure he could play in the NFL because of his physical limitations but suspected that he probably could. I am more confident now than at any time that he can play in the NFL either as a top backup or possibly even a starter someday if he keeps improving. More importantly S Linehan seems to think highly of K Moore also and seems to understands that he can get the job done with his own set of skills/abilities even though he lacks the cannon arm. I think he will get a chance to prove himself because of S Linehan. He may be able to overcome or compensate for his physical weaknesses with his skills/abilities at pocket passing which are outstanding. He can't and never will be able to make the rocket throws that a QB like M Stafford can. I could see him being the first QB in the history of the NFL to play in the NFL with his set of physical limitations. I guess I am obsessed but this is because people over and over again criticize K Moore at the NFL level and have little faith in him because he wasn't drafted and doesn't look like an NFL QB. He has always played way better than what people think he can play. This happened in college and his entry into the NFL and is continuing. Just like the NFL draft experts, they don't fully understand the skills/abilities he has because they are mostly cerebral except for his accuracy and quick release. They can see his physical limitations including not having a strong arm. I try to point out in an objective manner what he can do and not do and why.

  3. zeakins

    March 19, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    what happened to Devin Street? I mean after watching him play last year I guess it is pretty easy to forget he exists but alas he is still on the roster.

  4. Bryson Treece

    Bryson Treece

    March 19, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    InsideTheStar.com User

    what happened to Devin Street? I mean after watching him play last year I guess it is pretty easy to forget he exists but alas he is still on the roster.

    True, he is still on the roster. An oversight that I am really hoping gets fixed by training camp. The dude is a less talented version of Mr. Body Catch (Terrance Williams)… not impressed or enthused to have him on the field in 2016.

  5. Jess Haynie

    Jess Haynie

    March 20, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Street is a goner barring injury or a miraculous improvement in this year's camp. He would be #6 guy now given Whithead's special teams role. At this point, Dallas would probably use that roster spot elsewhere.

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Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

Jess Haynie

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Devin Smith

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.

Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh

Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.

Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.

The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.

For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!



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DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.

Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.

One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.

ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.

ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t

DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.

Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.

Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.



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When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott

John Williams

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All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.

In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.

During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...

...of his offensive lineman.

During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.

As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.

It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.

With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.



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