This is my first FanPost attempt at Blogging the Boys. I've been reading BTB for three years now, and started following the blog closely during the dismal season of 2010. I'm a transplanted Texan who grew up watching Troy, Emmitt and Irvin.
Tony Romo has more fans up here in Eastern Illinois country than most Cowboys fans are aware of. The consensus among Chicago Bears fans seems to be that Romo is way better than Jay Cutler, who has not been forgiven for hurting his knee against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.
After looking at I am Ironman!'s 53 and practice squad picks I refined my own. Clearly, some BTB fans' pet cats have a looming date with the Turk, as well as salary cap cuts and players like Kevin Ogletree or Phil Costa who may have already maxed out their potential.
There's also the Boys recent history in which mid-round picks like Cedar Hill, Texas native Josh Thomas weren't able to get snuck onto the practice squad. If the Boys talent, particularly in the wide receiver corps, is as deep as some here propose, then at least one wideout besides Kevin Ogletree currently on the roster will be wearing another team's uniform come September...(follow the jump to see where he and another WR end up)
Like the majority of fan voters at BTB, I also decided to roll with 2 QBs. But in an example of great minds thinking alike, I also had my eye on Gilmer, Texas' own G.J. Kinne to take a spot on the practice squad after he gets cut by the New York Jets -- even before Tom Ryle wrote an article this week suggesting the possibility.
OFFENSE = 25 (2 QBs, 5 WRs, 3 TEs, 5 RB/FBs, 10 O-linemen)
2 QB Romo, Orton
1 PS G.J. Kinne (R - signed at end of training camp after being cut by the New York Jets)
It all starts with the quarterback position. I was surprised that Dallas didn't take a flyer on a late round QB in April's draft. The alternative is the front office making a move to sign a guy with more than just 3rd QB potential for the practice squad.
Tom Ryle had an excellent post up Wednesday on the best practice-squad-eligible talent that may become available after cuts, as yanking someone off another team's PS requires a starting spot. Judging by what Tom wrote about the Chiefs' Division 3 phenom Alex Tanney, I don't see us being able to poach Tanney after he beats out Tyler Palko for the third spot on Kansas City's depth chart.
5 RB/FB Murray, F. Jones, Tanner, Lance Dunbar (R - Punt Returner), FB Vickers
Here's where it gets interesting. I believe Jason Garrett knows the likelihood of either DeMarco Murray or Felix Jones missing at least one game in 2012 is high. Dunbar gives the team some speed and elusiveness from the punt return position, and Garrett might see him as a poor man's Darren Sproles who can catch passes out of the backfield. Tanner may prove to be a game day inactive early in the year.
1 PS FB Jamize Olawale (R)
As mentioned, Garrett is not going to go light in the backfield after last year's injuries and Lance Dunbar's North Texas teammate is someone Lawrence Vickers can groom in case the veteran battering ram goes down. I also project the team keeping five backs plus one on the practice squad as Garrett seeks to slow down opposing pass rushes and work the clock better this season.
3 TE Witten, Phillips, Hanna (R)
This is where Witten's durability comes into play. The Cowboys could decide they don't need someone else on their practice squad, and sign a PS TE from the San Diego Chargers. This depends on whether one of Norv's youngins catches the Cowboys eye during joint practices. The JAG the Boys' just signed from the Seahawks is unlikely to make the final roster.
5 WR Bryant, Austin, Holmes, Beasley (R- Slot WR), Hakim (Kick Returner)
1 PS Harris (KR), PUP Coale (R), IR Radway, Ogletree cut
The decision to carry 4 running backs instead of 6 wide receivers may puzzle some BTBers, but it's based on a clear eyed evaluation of which receivers have plateau'd (Ogletree) and which are going to have a hard time making the final 53 -- but are nonetheless good enough to get picked up by a receiver-hungry team (Raymond Radway). I predict
that Radway joins fellow Abilene Christian alumni Edmond Gates down in Miami as that team's fifth receiver gets placed on injured reserve to get one more off season to prove he an make it in the NFL.
Ogletree likely returns to his native New Jersey to play for the Jets as their third or fourth receiver. I haven’t seen enough of Tim Benford or Donovan Kemp to project even a practice squad spot to them, but logically if Harris is the last man standing unclaimed they’d be his primary competition. Andre Holmes steps into the Laurent Robinson role of the team’s third wide receiver as a big 6”5
210 220 pound target on the outside while Austin mans the slot in a three-wide formation.
In this projection, Cowboys rookie Danny Coale goes on the six-week PUP list as he continues to recover from his broken foot, while no other team snags Dwayne Harris so we re-sign him to the practice squad.
As mentioned by some other BTBers, Salim Hakim (a cousin of the Super Bowl-winning, Greatest Show on Turf speedster Az-Zahir Hakim, who won a title with the St. Louis Rams) is a burner. The coaches are clearly hoping Hakim gives this team the explosive return game it has lacked anytime a player other than Milesor Dez is back returning punts and kicks. Cole Beasley just catches too many balls to get cut. As Jason Garrett alluded to recently, he’d hate to see Beasley or another young receiver sign with another team and catch over 80 balls in a season.
4 OT T. Smith, Free, Parnell, McQuistan
1 PS Levi Adcock (R)
The Boys signed McQuistan for his ability to play blocking TE in goal line jumbo packages, as he did for the New Orleans Saints last season. Although you'd hate to see McQuistan ever have to start a game for Dallas he is familiar with the system and versatile enough to play special teams and slide inside to guard if one of our interior o-linemen goes down. Levi Adcock was an All Big 12 right tackle protecting Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State and seems the most polished of the practice squad candidates to groom as a future swing tackle and replacement for McQuistan.
6 Interior OL Livings, Nagy, Leary (R), Bernadeau, Arkin, Kowalski
I don't see the Cowboys giving up on David Arkin in his second year, particularly if they try him out at center during training camp. The veteran Mackenzie Bernadeau can also play center but JG5000 has indicated the team sees him at guard. I don't put Bernadeau ahead of Leary on the depth chart primarily because Bernie is still recovering from off-season hip surgery. While I don't see the team stashing Bernie on PUP if he's ready to go by training camp, he could be a game day inactive the first two to three weeks. That means Leary starts and Arkin backs him up.
In my view, Phil Costa finally becomes a victim of his short arms and low PFF grades, while either Bill Nagy or Killer K starts at center. I would not rule out the Boys signing a veteran center or bringing back Montrae Holland late in training camp, particularly if any one of the six interior O-linemen get hurt in preseason. Such an injury could also bump Adcock off the practice squad and put Killer K on it if he clears waivers. Costa will likely ply his trade as a backup center somewhere else in the NFL.
DEFENSE = 25 (7 DL, 8 LBs, 10 DBs)
5 OLB Ware, Spencer, V. Butler, Wilber (R - back-up ILB), Hamilton (R)
As Brian Broaddus has alluded to at the Mothership, this team may keep five outside linebackers this year, particularly since rookie Kyle Wilber is fast (see these pro day numbers from IamIronman!) and has the skills to slide inside in Rob Ryan's scheme. Butler has stood out in limited snaps and may force the team to try and keep him in the pass rusher rotation with a mid-season two or three year extension. However everyone's favorite pet cat remains Adrian Hamilton who compiled a freakish single season sack total at Prairie View A&M.
If the Boys can finally get more sacks from opposite Demarcus Ware without even having to break the bank or spend a first round draft pick for Anthony Spencer's replacement next April, that would allow them to look at safety or center with their first pick in April 2013. Journeyman Baraka Atkins goes on his way in September while Alex Albright gets snatched up by another 3-4 defense -- most likely Rex Ryan's NY Jets. Inside linebacker Aston Whiteside is probably the biggest long shot to make this team on defense.
3 ILB Lee, Connor, Carter
It's quite possible given the team's desire to see who can replace Anthony Spencer next year that the Boys take a risk and roll with only 3 inside linebackers, particularly since only three may be active on game days. The other reason for this move is that strong safety Barry Church is already the team's nickel/dime linebacker.
1 PS Caleb McSurdy (R - 4th insider linebacker/special teamer)
7 DL Hatcher, Ratliff, Lissemore, [2nd line -- like in hockey] Crawford (R), Brent (2NT), Geathers, (3rd NT) Callaway
The decision to keep seven defensive linemen instead of six may prove controversial, particularly if it comes at the expense of pushing Caleb McSurdy to the practice squad and losing his services on special teams. But Geathers is a run stuffing load at 6"7 330 pounds and Robert Callaway could give this team a younger, cheaper replacement for veteran run stuffer Kenyon Coleman.
It seems logical that Lissemore will get more reps this season with more time playing the nose tackle position on passing downs. I don’t see Ben Bass beating out Callaway for the final DL spot and the team probably won’t carry him on the practice squad if that means dumping Madison. Crawford and Brent are going to get their share of snaps.
5 CBs Carr, Claiborne (R), Scandrick (slot corner), L. Smith (R - ST), T. Williams (STG)
2 PS M. Butler, Isaac Madison (R), PUP Mike Jenkins
This is a position I expect Rob Ryan to 'carpet bomb' and hope the best players emerge given the injury to Mike Jenkins and the likelihood the former Pro Bowler could start the year on the PUP list.
While Mario Butler almost didn't make the cut due to his lack of speed, he provides some insurance in case (knock on wood) either Carr or Claiborne goes down. A rookie UDFA from Texas A&M, Lionel Smith is Scandrick's understudy in the slot, bumping Madison to the practice squad. BTB pet cat Teddy Williams makes the 53 as a special teams gunner and possible kick-off return man -- though the former UTSA sprinter’s hands might not be ready for more than getting down field and tackling somebody in a hurry.
5 FS/SS Sensabaugh, Pool, Church, Johnson (R), Owusu-Ansah (FS/CB), McCray (STG)
Danny McCray led the team in special teams tackles last season and also performed well when given the opportunity to blitz, as witnessed in his forced fumble versus Mark Sanchez and the Jets last year. As indicated by Broaddus, Barry Church is a serious threat to bump veteran Brodney Pool and his seven figure contract out the door. As other BTBers have noticed, what Church lacks in speed he makes up for in plays around the ball, and the team seems very high on the rookie Matt Johnson. This training camp is Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (better known at BTB as AOA)’s last chance to stick with the Boys and I expect the light to start coming on for him.
1 PS FS Eddie Whitley
The Virginia Tech product Whitley beats out former Baltimore Ravens practice squad member Manu Silva and Justin Taplin-Ross to be groomed as a possible backup free safety and special teamer.
Cutting Pool, Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears' cap hits could save the team money this season [actually only cutting Coleman would save money according to comments below] and the next [check Spears cap hit in 2013] that could be used to extend Romo's
or Dez Bryant's contract, or lock up Andre Holmes to a very friendly deal so he doesn’t become the next Laurent Robinson to walk away if he busts out.
In this projection our old friend AOA benefits from Jenkins' injury to get a slot as a backup free safety/outside cornerback. However, AOA and Teddy Williams are the two guys most likely to get cut if Jenkins doesn't get trade and Coale returns from the PUP list in Week 6, with Lionel Smith taking Teddy's spot on the outside as a punt team gunner.
That's all for my first FanPost at BTB. Please feel free to let me have it in the comments if this piece ran too long.
[P.S. This post assumes the return of Mat McBriar from his drop foot surgery and no changes in personnel among the three fulltime special teamers]