On Saturday, the Cowboys trimmed their roster down from 75 players to 53. Some of the cuts/trades were foreseen, but others came as a great surprise to the players, as well as to fans and critics alike. Of the 22 players cut/traded, four may have a profound impact on the outcome of the Cowboys 2010 season due to their departures...
Patrick Crayton was shipped to the San Diego Chargers on Saturday for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2011 draft that can become a sixth if he catches over 40 balls. Crayton's departure was not a surprising one, as the Cowboys were never going to carry six receivers - especially with Dez Bryant fully recovered from a high ankle sprain he suffered in San Antonio.
With Crayton leaving, Romo loses one of his most trusted receivers. Crayton is a very crafty and intelligent receiver that knows how to find the holes in the opposing secondary's coverage. Romo knows this, and is why he always looked for Crayton when he was either flushed from the pocket or under duress. Think back to the second game against the New York Giants in 2008; Romo is flushed out to his right, finds Crayton down the field for a touchdown. Against the Atlanta Falcons in 2009; Romo avoids four would be pass-rushers, and then finds Crayton open in the end zone for the touchdown. Or, the first game against the Washington Redskins in 2009; Romo is flushed out of the pocket, runs left, and finds Crayton sitting between two defenders for the game-winning touchdown.
Crayton might not be the most physically gifted receiver, but he is a crisp route runner that makes timely plays and brings a level of consistency to the field each and every week; a level that the Cowboys may no longer have.
After the jump, the three other key departures.
Defensive tackle Junior Siavii was released on Saturday. While Siavii is not necessarily the most dynamic player, he brought something to the Cowboys that they do not have much of along the defensive line: a big body. Siavii tips the scales at 325lbs. The heaviest player on the Cowboys roster after Siavii is Josh Brent (DT), who currently weighs in at 315lbs (but reportedly played at 320lbs in college). After Brent, every player along the defensive line is sub-310lbs. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but still, somewhat surprising. One would think that it would be advantageous for a defense to carry a ‘bigger' defensive lineman on the roster in case the smaller linemen are overwhelmed by an opposing teams' much larger offensive line.
The loss of Siavii is not a particularly worrying one, yet it still removes an experienced veteran and puts the onus of backing up Jay Ratliff on an unproven rookie, Josh Brent.
Cornerbacks Cletis Gordon and Bryan McCann were both - surprisingly - released on Saturday. Gordon had performed quite well in training camp and preseason games, but was victimized, as was McCann, in the final preseason game against the Miami Dolphins first-string players.
The release of these two players leaves the Cowboys with only three ‘true' cornerbacks - Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Of course there are the two cornerback converted safeties, in Alan Ball and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah; could they provide the necessary depth?
Owusu-Ansah, while immensely gifted - athletically, is still a rookie from a Division II college that has only played in three NFL preseason games, and is currently trying to learn the free safety position.
Alan Ball could fill in at corner quite adequately. However, by moving Ball to corner, instead of one positioned being weakened, now two are adversely affected: cornerback and free safety, as Mike Hamlin would have to step in at free safety to replace the void left by Ball moving to cornerback.
It is great that the Cowboys believe Ball and Owusu-Ansah have the versatility necessary to play both positions (cornerback and safety) adequately. Yet it isn't out of the realm of possibilities that the starting secondary lineup could look like this at some stage during this season:
Orlando Scandrick (CB)
Alan Ball (CB)
Mike Hamlin (FS)
Gerald Sensabaugh (SS)
Now try and tell me that doesn't scare you.
These decisions may or may not affect the Cowboys 2010 season and their Super Bowl aspirations. With a bit of luck you may never have to know. If Miles Austin continues to perform at a high level and Dez Bryant plays the way he trains, Patrick Crayton will become a distant memory. If Jay Ratliff stays healthy and Josh Brent is only asked to play a handful of snaps a game, no one will remember who Junior Siavii is by season's end. If all the cornerbacks stay healthy, we'll never have to see what happens if the starting secondary lineup was as aforementioned.
And even if everything doesn't go as smoothly as one could hope, find solace in the fact that Jerry Jones and Co. haven't made many mistakes - personnel-wise in the last couple of years.