Before I get into my article about the Cowboys, I just want to take a moment to express my sorrow for the victims of the Colorado theater shootings. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers . . . and hug your loved ones, for you never know when something might happen for no reason.
I am sure most of you have already played with Coty Saxman's most excellent roster building simulator for the Dallas Cowboys. He mentioned that at least one other team's blog has contacted him about adapting this, and I would not be surprised to see this soon being used by NFL fans everywhere. If you haven't given this a try, it is a blast, and even keeps you from making impossible moves (like exceeding the salary cap or putting ineligible players on the practice squad, just to name two of its many bells and whistles).
This is not just a fun way to pretend you are Jason Garrett or Jerry Jones. It is a good tool that makes it so much easier to try different combinations and compare alternatives than just playing with it on paper or even a speadsheet. I find that it can lead to some interesting considerations as well.
One thing that it brings home to me with extra clarity is that there are inevitably going to be cuts made that I will really not enjoy. I suppose that has always been true, but playing around on Coty's creation really hammered home how some guys I think would be good Cowboys are just not going to have a spot when the final cuts happen. All of us have our pet . . . uh, certain players we like as much for emotional reasons as for their talent or potential. What is really bad is when you have a couple of guys you don't want to see fall by the wayside, and they pretty much are competing with one another.
Here are eight names that I think are very much at risk to get a visit from the Turk, and will cause me to sigh in regret if it happens.
See the names, and why I will feel badly for them, after the jump.
Alex Albright I love unheralded guys who come in and pretty much force their way onto the roster. That is the way I see Albright. A kind of a "tweener", he can play as either an OLB or an ILB. But that makes it a bit difficult to excel at either. And the team has brought in a lot of competition, including two draft picks and free agent Dan Connor. I fear Albright's ceiling is not high enough to stick for a second year, and he also is ineligible for the practice squad, so he would be gone for good.
Cole Beasley He was the darling of the OTAs and minicamps, and the chief beneficiary of the time missed by Danny Coale due to his broken foot (a subject of particular sensitivity for me, but I am trying to not discuss the reasons why). He is an underdog and a local kid. But his biggest obstacle consists of two numbers: 5-9 and 177, his height and weight. Conventional wisdom says he is just too small to handle the wear and tear of facing significantly larger opponents for a full NFL season.
Lance Dunbar I could cite much the same reasons I gave for Beasley, because they are largely true. But that is not the main reason I really would like to see Dunbar around. I just see him as a great backup for Felix Jones, that speedy, change of pace, elusive guy who would be effective both coming out of the backfield and lining up as a receiver in the slot. Given Jones' recent history of injury, I just think the team needs Dunbar. I do have hope that he can make it to the practice squad where he would be available later in the season - but I would be much happier seeing him on the team (and not in place of Phillip Tanner - I would like to see the team keep four running backs in light of past injuries, I just don't think it will happen).
Kevin Kowalski Killer K always seemed full of promise, and appeared to serve adequately when called on to fill in at center last year. But the arrival of Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary puts a lot of pressure on backup offensive linemen. This is likely to be the most closely watched position battle in training camp, plus getting the O line decisions right is the most important thing for the team to accomplish in camp. If another backup center emerges, Kowalski may be gone.
Danny McCray He has made his living as the Cowboys' special teams ace. But that is not the most crucial thing for a team to have, and the team may need that slot to keep a young talent on the squad. McCray is going to have to show his worth at his primary position, safety, and that would also mean he would have to beat out free agent Brodney Pool. While McCray is probably more athletic and faster than Pool, experience is a tough thing to beat out. As an old Bill Bates fan, I wish McCray all the best.
Caleb McSurdy To make the team, McSurdy would probably have to push McCray out of that special teams job or possibly freeze Albright out as a backup linebacker, so this is a classic lose-lose situation for me. And in more than one of my scenarios on the roster simulator, they all wind up off the 53. I have a special place in my heart for seventh round picks, no doubt heavily influenced by Jay Ratliff and Sean Lissemore. Plus, "Caleb McSurdy" just sounds like one mean sonuvagun of a football player. And you can never have too many of those, especially on D. At least he seems a decent bet to clear waivers for the PS - I hope.
Bill Nagy Speaking of mean sonuvagun seventh-round picks, Nagy showed some of that before going down with a broken leg last year. Not the most accomplished lineman, he was a fighter and should be one of the players benefiting greatly from the full offseason and a new position coach. Besides, he broke his leg for the team. But in another lose-lose, I am seriously doubtful he and Killer K both can make the team, especially since they would most likely make it as a backup center. And I don't see Phil Costa being beat out by both of them. Therefore, at least one of them will almost certainly leave.
Raymond Radway I was never one of the big Radway boosters last year, although I do agree he seemed to be on the verge of making the team. But you cannot get any closer to the NFL dream, only to have it literally shattered, than he did. It is as close to heartbreaking as anything in football can be to hear that he does not appear to be all the way back from his broken leg. I just want him to have his chance again. Perhaps the team will place him on PUP or Injured Reserve to see if he can recover with some more time. But no matter how much I would like some kind of karmic justice to prevail here, I have long understood that life is not, has never been, and never will be fair. I just have a bad feeling for Radway.
So those are players that I really would like to see make the roster, but who I unhappily expect to hear have been cut. The NFL is a harsh business in many ways and survival of the fittest is truly the supreme law. I have my expectations here - and this is one place that it would please me no end to not have those expectations met.