Roster Competition Can Build a Winner for Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has many mottos, and one of the best is ‘The Team, The Team, The Team.’ It’s all about one combined goal under Garrett, not individuals; the team will be a sum of its parts.
Another thing Garrett preaches is competition, something the Cowboys have done a great job of building in the last few years. In 2017, the depth of the team is outstanding and there will be competition all over the field.
Now, the offense looks pretty much set, but there will be competition in training camp. Starting spots at left guard and right tackle will be up for grabs, with La’el Collins, Chaz Green, Jonathan Cooper and Byron Bell trying to lock down two starting roles. These will be some of the best battles this summer and it should make each player better. Those who don’t start will have worked hard to secure a valuable role as a backup, hopefully without much drop-off.
However, those are not the only places on offense where there will be competition. Backup running back seems set with Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris but that is not necessarily true. The Cowboys drafted Ryan Switzer and added Jahad Thomas out of Temple as a rookie free agent, to battle for a place on the roster. McFadden isn’t the model of health and Morris seemed to fall out of favor with the team late last year, so neither is safe behind Ezekiel Elliott. There will be a fight for carries.
Then there is Switzer, who may take those specialty carries on jet sweeps that Lucky Whitehead used to get. The team may also find ways to get the rookie involved with even more stuff behind the line of scrimmage as a runner. Whitehead will be in a fight for his roster spot, something Switzer is poised to take as a return man as well.
There will also be a battle in the backup tight end rotation. Jason Witten remains the standard, but the Cowboys routinely use multiple tight end sets and both of their primary guys last season got hurt. Geoff Swaim and James Hanna should be ready to compete to be the top backup, but Rico Gathers has supposedly wowed the team with his off-season improvement. That makes three players fighting for time at a position where the team likes to put guys on the field.
Defensively, there will be competition for starting roles at each level. Everyone is aware of the fight that will take place along the defensive line, where there are no “war daddy’s,” but plenty of solid football playing dudes. The Cowboys boast a good group of seven or eight players up front and they will compete for snaps. The hope is the battle for playing time will lead to increased production, as will going up against the All-Pro offensive line every day.
At linebacker, the only job that is set (barring injury) is Sean Lee on the weakside. Middle linebacker will be a competition with Anthony Hitchens and possibly Jaylon Smith, who is fighting with himself just to play. Hitch is best suited as a jack of all trades, super-sub type of player who has been pressed into too much work over the last two years.
On the strong side, Damien Wilson and Kyle Wilber will compete for the starting gig. Wilson was poised to take the job last year before a paintball incident put him behind the
eight-paint-ball for the season.
In the secondary, the only thing we know for sure is that Byron Jones will be starting, that’s it. The cornerback spot will be an open competition between Anthony Brown, Orlando Scandrick, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Nolan Carroll and a few others. The good news is that it’s a passing league and the top guys will see plenty of time. However, most of the players on this list are well suited to play the slot and there will be competition to play that role for the defense. They are also some of the guys that have the most ‘dog’ in them, so expect the competition to be fierce for playing time.
Finally, don’t forget the safety position, where Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier and Xavier Woods will compete for snaps. No one is sure who will get the starting role next to Jones and it will be one of the more intriguing battles in training camp.
They say iron sharpens iron, and Jason Garrett believes in that philosophy. There is competition for playing time all over the roster; it should make for a great training camp and an even better team this season.
That’s a good sign for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys.
You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi