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Spring Cleaning: A Look Foward at the 2011 Starters

The 2010 NFL season is nearly over for our Dallas Cowboys. With no playoffs to look forward to, it is time to look forward to the 2011 season. This is the time of the organization should be evaluating all the players on the roster, deciding which free agents should stay or go, and identifying positions of needs based on departures and the player evaluations:

The Offense

This is our projected lineup for 2011:

RoyBryant                        Free    Kosier?     Gurode   (TBD)  (TBD)    Witten                             Miles

                                                                  Romo

 

                                                            Gronk/Phillips

                                                           BarberF. Jones

Projected departures include Marion Barber, Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo, Roy Williams, Alex Barron

Lets take a closer look at the up for grabs starting positions on offense for 2011 (New starters needed)

  • Offensive Line (2) - Marc Colombo is on his last leg. Leonard Davis is simply not getting it done at his position and is a liability. While Doug Free and Kyle Kosier are free agents, I believe they will both be back. Kosier may be allowed to test the market. If he is somehow not resigned, Montrae Holland may play at LG as a stop gap option if a rookie draft pick is not ready. Logan Mankins and Jared Gaither are the premier free agent options, however indications are that Mankins will resign with the Patriots. Relying on Sam Young to be the RT is not a smart gamble and the team should look to the draft if they strike out at this position in free agency.
  • Wide Receiver (0) - Roy Williams has been a disappointment throughout his career. Coming into this season, I had hopes he would play better and he has. It seems to me that he has outlived his welcome in Big D. Bad things seem to happen when he is thrown the ball and Dez Bryant certainly makes this decision easier. While there is no proven player to take over the third receiver role Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree should be able to compete for the job. Also the return of John Phillips should give this offense another capable receiver out of TE heavy packages.

The Defense

(TBD)                        Spencer   Ratliff     Brent   IgorBowen   Ware                     Jenkins

                                                      James     BrookingLee

 

                                    SensabaughAkwasi

                                                                                               Ball(TBD)

 

Expiring contracts include Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher, Alan Ball, Gerald Sensabaugh

Projected demotions/cuts include Terence Newman, Igor Olshansky, Keith Brooking

 

Lets take a closer look at the starting positions for 2011 (spots that need to be filled)

  • Corner (1)- Terence Newman may or may not be on the roster next season. This may hinge on the pipe dreams of Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara dropping down in the draft. If either player does not end up in Big D, Newman may have to fight nickel corner Orlando Scandrick for the starting spot opposite Mike Jenkins. Jenkins, however, must return to his Pro-Bowl form for this defense to become one of the better units in the league. Better pash rush and safety play will mask the deficiencies of this unit that ranks in the bottom three in numerous pass defense categories. If an elite corner does not fall in the draft, I still see a corner being brought in around the mid to late rounds.
  • Safety (1)- Since Darren Woodson donned the star, this unit has since searched for his replacement. Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh were not the answer and both will likely not be resigned. The only chance Ball stays is as a backup. Sensabaugh has played better of late, but will likely leave for more money. I pencilled in Akwasi as one of the starting safeties with the hope that he emerges any potential camp battles (Andrew Sendejo?) and shows a good grasp of the pro game, after dominating at a lower division football program. The other safety spot should come from the draft, where options include Rahim Moore, DeAndre McDaniel, and Deunta Williams among others.
  • Inside Linebackers (0) - Keith Brooking is done and Sean Lee is ready to take over. Lets hope he can overcome some of the injuries he has had to fight through since his knee injury at Penn State. While Bradie James may be nearing the end, I believe he still has some tread left on his tires. He should continue to be a starter until his contract expires after 2011. Depth is a real issue here, and maybe Kenwin Cummings can provide some after Bart Scott and Rex Ryan gave him high praise as a Jet. He is a player I will keep an eye on in training camp.
  • Defensive Line (1?, 2?) - This position could go through the most change this offseason with 3 free agents. There are a few different scenarios that could take place. There are also some key decisions to make:
    (1) Should Jay Ratliff be move to end, allowing Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore to handle the nose? In the last few games Brent has graded out positively against the run but has not been as good getting to the QB. The signing of Aubrayo Franklin or another free agent nose is a possibility. Or perhaps a new defensive coordinator moves Ratliff around and tries to create more mismatches a la Haloti Ngata (who is also a free agent but should be resigned). However until the coaching staff and the defensive scheme is in place we can only speculate.
    (2) Which free agents should be resigned, if any? Stephen Bowen seems the most likely, since he can rush the passer from the nickel. Marcus Spears has been steady for most of his career in the run game and a true professional in the locker room, but he cannot rush the passer. It should be taken into consideration that Spears has made Ratliff better and the run defense has performed better when he is in the game. I think Jason Hatcher will be out of the mix since he has reached his potential. This question should be revisited once we figure out who is running the defense and what scheme we play.
    (3) Will the club move forward with Igor Olshansky, known as a Wade Phillips guy? He was thought to be a bargain when he was brought in to replace Chris Canty. However, this season is a different story as he hasn't brought muchanything to the pass rush and his gap control has bad, especially the 1st Philly game. LeSean McCoy was allowed to run the clock out at will largely coming at the expense of Igor, Bradie James, and Keith Brooking. My take is that Igor will only stay if Bowen, Spears, and Hatcher are all let go.

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By my count at the least 6 new starters (2 on o-line, 4 on the defense) must be brought in through free agency and the draft. This means more or less three draftees and three FA pickups should be counted on to start (assuming guys like Brent, Young, Scandrick, Bowen don't take advantage of potential open starting jobs). So what does the BTB community think? Is Roy Williams good as gone? Will Newman be a starter next year? Or should Ratliff move to end? Discuss.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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