We are now days away from the start of the Cowboys 2016 Training camp. Finally, right? With camp comes competition, starting positions and backup jobs are all in jeopardy as players will be fighting day in and day out to earn a spot on this years Cowboys' roster.
Cowboys' camp is filled with "sexy" position battles, such as the backup quarterback position and the number two receiver role. Possibly the most intriguing battle of all might be one you haven't thought about yet, the battle for the "swing tackle" role.
What is a swing tackle?
In simplest terms, the swing tackle is the first-backup offensive lineman who can fill in at both left and right tackle if needed. While he is the "sixth man" of sorts and wouldn't be in the weekly starting lineup, the importance swing tackle position cannot be understated.
In 2014, Jermey Parnell filled this role for the Cowboys and was needed to actually start at right tackle during Doug Free's absence. While Parnell certainly didn't play poorly, there was still a noticeable drop-off in his play from that of Free's. Of course there will be a drop-off when any backup fills in for a starter, but Parnell was about as good a backup tackle as you could ask for.
Parnell's departure has left the Cowboys with questions about their swing tackle role for the past two offseasons. With the reported signings of tackle Cameron Bradfield and Darryl Baldwin, there now seems to be three players legitimately competing for this very important role.
The Cowboys drafted Chaz Green in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft to the surprise of most of the football world. While the team had been declared the owners of the league's top offensive line, they still found it necessary to select an offensive lineman with one of their first three picks.
Green spent most of the 2015 season injured, after undergoing hip surgery during the offseason. This offseason, however, was filled with hope for Green's future, as the team seems to believe Green is set to show why he was worth a third round pick. It was even rumored for a while that Green would have a chance to compete for the starting right tackle job with Doug Free, something that seems well out of the realm of possibilities at this point.
Others, including myself, remain skeptical. I didn't see a whole lot out of Green during his time at Florida to make me believe is he up to the challenge of starting in the NFL as a tackle, but I hope to be proved wrong. His chances don't look great after the Cowboys recent moves to add two offensive tackles, however.
Bradfield was the first of two offensive tackles signed to the Cowboys this week. These moves came to the surprise of many, especially considering the optimism around Charles Brown and Chaz Green among many Cowboys fans and writers.
Bradfield has something Green doesn't have, NFL-game experience. While he hasn't played in the league since the 2014 season, Bradfield did start 27 of his 41 career games over three years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Most importantly, he did so at both right and left tackle.
Now it is hard to know how much Bradfield has left in the tank, or even if he can play at all anymore, but his experience, size, and relatively young age give him a shot to compete for the swing tackle role.
The second of two tackles signed to the Cowboys this week, Darryl Baldwin might as well be a rookie. After signing as an undrafted free agent to the Baltimore Ravens in 2015, Baldwin saw no game action during his rookie year, and was only on the roster for three preseason games.
What gives you hope with Baldwin is his excellent length. At 6'6" 305 pounds, Baldwin has good arm length and knew how to use it at Ohio State. His upper body strength and pass blocking punch also give you some hope that he could carve himself out a niche as a swing tackle.
Baldwin started all of his college games at right tackle, however, and is probably nothing more than a camp body. With that being said, I would be surprised if Baldwin made the final 53-man roster at all.
What should they do?
As you can see, the Cowboys offensive line depth, especially at tackle, is lacking. Bradfield gives a sort of veteran presence to the bench, but the ceiling of this swing tackle position will go as high as Chaz Green will.
Green has to make good on his third round selection, and if he doesn't, we will all look back at rounds two and three of the 2015 draft with a ton of questions about the team handled their picks.
Hopefully for the Cowboys, Chaz Green can come through. But I certainly have my doubts.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
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:
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!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
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.
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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