Offense or Offensive?

star sunday

The preseason is officially over and after today’s roster scalping, and by the time you read this the team will have its beloved 53-man roster. If you’re a true fan of this team, you know that this is not the end of player acquisition but the beginning. The reality is all of the starting positions on the team are spoken for and in some areas crowded. As I take a look at the offense and how they will adjust without Romo at the beginning of the season, it’s easy to see that on the offensive side of the ball it’s about finding backup players who will grow in the next sixteen weeks as well as the future. The team will ground and pound defenses allowing Dak Prescott to find his rhythm within the offense.

Currently the Cowboys have five running backs and two fullbacks on the roster. I’m not sure what Jason Garrett’s love affair is with the position but with roster spots needed, I wouldn’t waste one keeping a player that may see the field for five to ten plays a game. At running back the team is stacked (Elliott, Morris, Jackson, Dunbar and McFadden) which in my opinion is two more than they need. It will be interesting to see how the position is handled. Elliott and Morris are set and I believe that Darius Jackson has done enough to make the team. Lance Dunbar is a bit of an enigma, he has a certain skill set that Linehan is in love with and gives the offense a scat back player that can give a defense fits. The problem with Dunbar is that he’s had a hard time staying healthy and as the saying goes, you can’t make the club in the tub, so see ya and I wouldn’t want to be ya.

Darren McFadden is currently on the NFI list which would make him unavailable for the first six weeks of the season and the rumor is that he may stay there which would give the team an extra roster spot but the other option would be to trade him for a mid-round pick to a needy team which would be my decision. Thank you Mr. McFadden but your services are no longer needed.

There has been a lot of attention around the tight-end position and most of it has to do with Gavin Escobar. Escobar was selected in the second round of the 2013 draft and for the most part has been a disappointment. I’m not sure if it’s because of skill set, unfair expectations or improper use but going into his fourth year you would expect him to have more than 26 catches for 303 yards for a twelve yard average. With James Hanna starting the season on PUP the team needs someone to replace the blocking that he provided and everyone knows that’s not Escobar’s strong point. Geoff Swaim had a good camp overall and is a willing blocker but is still wet behind the ears and i’m not sure when it comes down to it they will trust him. Although Austin Traylor has garnered some attention it’s highly unlikely that he makes it on the 53 man roster and at this point Rico Gathers is nothing more than a possible practice squad player. In the Texans game, Escobar was playing which could be taken as a bad sign but I would be shocked if they decide to cut the cord due to his experience within the offense. If I was a betting man, Escobar’s spot on the team should be safe and sound.

Watching these preseason games it has become apparent the team has depth issues on the offensive line, specifically at tackle. We know the starting five is above-average outside of turnstile Doug Free but it’s a shame that for the last two years the team has not bought in a little competition for him. Before you jump down my throat, I know about Chaz Green who was a third round pick last year from Florida who lost the majority of his rookie season due to injury, returning by the end of the year. After a full offseason with the team, I expected him to come in ready to earn his check and for the most part he’s been consistent but not in a good way. Green will make the team due to his draft position and let’s hope he can stay off the field this season so that he can continue to grow. Don’t be surprised if the team finds another player to compete with him. The best part about this line is that they have position flex with Zack Martin and La’el Collins both playing tackle in their college careers and at times I have wondered if they made a mistake by not letting Collins take Free’s spot at right tackle allowing Ron Leary to play guard, which would keep your best five players on the field.

Dez Bryant is back and looking to reclaim his spot as a top five receiver in the league and he shouldn’t have a problem doing that even without Romo. Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler and Lucky Whitehead round out the wide receiver group. This group can be dynamic if everyone stays healthy and that’s a big IF. Justin Hunter was released by the Titans and I can admit that I would see if he can give me what Whitehead does in the lineup.

The wait is over! In nine days and counting, your Dallas Cowboys will take the field against the Giants. Let’s hope there are no roster surprises.

So Mote It Be!

Dolphins vs Cowboys MePlay

I know the title is a little weird but let me explain. I can only call a game through my view hence not a replay, a meplay. (Note to ed. Please go copyright that for me)

Ed Note: We take a moments respite here while I make a quick dash to DC – trade mark time.

There has been a frenzy in the Cowboys training camp, let me correct myself, since the draft. Romo and Dez are healthy, the drafting of Ezekiel Elliott, the forever lingering backup QB dilemma, the greatest o-line ever and so on and so on. The final week of training camp Dez and Claiborne get in a little tiff and come out the following day wearing each others jerseys. (Insert any CLEAN smart remark) Dak Prescott started off shaky but rode into Los Angeles like the Old Spice guy.

The offense is finally healthy and should be able to capture a top five NFL ranking and that’s even with the uncertainty of Elliott’s play. We can all hope he will run for at least 1,400 yards this season but for every Emmitt Smith there is a Blair Thomas. I’m not comparing but explaining that there’s no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL. The good thing for the Cowboys is that they protected themselves with the free-agent signing of Alfred Morris.

Morris has shown why he is a perfect fit for this offense by bringing a patience to the running game that Darren McFadden struggled with. I’m not one of those writers that feel comfortable enough to question an athletes skills, especially since I timed myself on the forty-yard dash recently and let’s just say that most 300 lb offensive-lineman would beat my time with ease.

Ed note2: It’s on! Finally! Someone I can take in the 40! … no sandbagging !

Morris ran for 85 yards on 13 carries and had no notable mistakes in pass protection. I will have a hard time understanding why Morris is not the starter in New York in September. He stayed healthy during training camp and showed improvement from his past by being able to pick up the blitz and be a suitable receiver out of the backfield. If Garrett is serious about players earning their playing time on the field then Morris should be the starter and let Elliott’s play earn him more playing time. What’s that old saying “You can’t earn playing time with the trainers”, well Elliott would have to earn his carries going forward and if I was Stephen Jones, I would start sniffing around for a potential trade partner for McFadden due to the fact that Darius Jackson has shown enough to be on the 53 man roster.

In my opinion the first string defense was slightly above average. It was good to see Tyrone Crawford get a sack against the Dolphins first string offensive line and Jack Crawford showed why he is a valued member of this defensive line rotation. The defense accounted for three sacks with the two coming from Shaneil Jenkins and Kyle Wilber against the Dolphins second and third string reserves and the line did not look as efficient with their stunts which should be cleaned up going forward.

With the influx of injuries during camp to their rotation, it’s a miracle that the defense has been able to muster any continuity. As the team goes into it’s third preseason game, it would be smart for the team to rest both Crawford’s and allow Jenkins, Thornton and McAdoo to prove their worthiness of consideration for the 53 man roster.

The reality is that the Cowboys pass rush is still questionable and with Demarcus Lawrence’s suspension at the beginning of the season it will be important for the Cowboys to have a strong rush up the middle to compensate for a lack of pressure on the outside. Ryan Russell has slowed down and i’m not sure if it is because of the amount of playing time he has received during camp or his inability to add more pass rushing skills to his repertoire. At this time the free agent pool has dried and I am hoping the Cowboys Pro Personnel team has devoted a large amount of time looking at the lines of the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks with the hopes of plucking a player they were hoping to sneak onto their practice squads. The pass rush has fans on Twitter so worried there are calls for the team to consider resigning Greg Hardy. According to Stephen Jones that ship has sailed. I’m starting to wonder why Rolando McClain’s ship is still in the dock? Has he kicked the “purple drank” demon?

purple drank

Watching this defense it’s imperative for the Cowboys to learn about their backups. We know what a healthy Sean Lee will do once the big lights come on but there are still questions about Anthony Hitchens and although he has been solid, I can’t say that I haven’t thought about donating the nerve in my knee to Jaylon Smith so that he can start his career. Although it’s likely that he will be put on the IR once the season begins, I hope he recovers because everyone wants to see a good guy succeed.

Damien Wilson played his first game since the incident that could have made him a fake pirate and he showed why the coaches are excited about his growth. The problem is that Derek Akunne and Deon King haven’t shown enough (yet) to make it past the second cut.  When the defense goes to nickel, don’t be surprised to see Wilson paired with Sean Lee. Wilson is an athlete that can run and it looks like he has been studying because there hasn’t been the mistakes that you would associate with someone who has missed the majority of camp. By my count there are only five linebackers that will make this team and I am hoping that one of the rookies or first year players replace Andrew Gachkar. I’m of the belief you should churn the roster but it should happen with players ranked 45-53 on the roster and salary should be a consideration.

The Cowboys secondary has played with an attitude since the beginning of camp and it’s carried over to their preseason games. Claiborne looks ready for the season and Brandon Carr looks aggressive, which is a good thing. The safety position is a little muddled currently due to Jeff Heath’s injury. Although I have been a JJ Wilcox supporter since they drafted him, I have to admit it’s been hard to defend his recent play. Wilcox looks like a player that could benefit from a change of scenery. I’m not sure if this coaching staff has made it’s mind up about him but if they continue to play him out of position he will wind up unemployed. His reaction skills have decreased and it looks like he’s still thinking too much instead of playing. Kavon Frazier hasn’t shown enough to unseat him (yet) and the team has not shown the testicular fortitude to go with the unknown. Would anyone be upset if they signed Antonio Cromartie?

One last thing….It was great to see Orlando Scandrick playing without limitations. Scandrick is the heart of this defense and his fiery play may be what this defense has missed. Could the Cowboys get away with only four cornerbacks on the roster at the beginning of the season. The teams roster will evolve as suspended players like Lawrence returns but if this team keeps a FB on the roster, I might be forced to write Jerry a letter.

So Mote It Be