FanPost

Examining "The Process"

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via nbcprofootballtalk.files.wordpress.com

When hired as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys midway through the disastrous 2010 regular season, Jason Garrett spoke of an all-encompassing process. The process of each player improving every day, the process of building a team, and the process of winning in the NFL were highlighted.

Within the philosophical framework of Garrett's coaching gestalt, he also mentioned the process of assembling a roster. Inherent within building a team was instilling competition at every position. Through increased competition, individuals would improve, depth would be developed, and a competitive team would be forged.

Obviously, in a league of parity governed by a strict salary cap, there will be limitations to the strategy. Supremely talented football players are in short supply, limiting the possibility of having a plethora of great players throughout a NFL roster. The position of quarterback is an anomaly, where having more than one great quarterback only helps the team in time of injury, retirement, or when one of the individuals is traded for additional resources.

Coming off another late season swoon, where the Cowboys lost three of their final four games, questions abound regarding the organization. Some solace can perhaps be taken by die hard Cowboys fans, as instead of releasing a coach or coordinator, the Cowboys made changes to the part of the club dedicated to the acquisition of football playing personnel.

Perhaps this significant step is in response to the obvious dearth of competition currently existing on the Cowboys roster. The depth that the head coach has desired has yet to materialize three and a half seasons into his tenure.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the following probable 2014 starters are considered "blue-chip" players. Since these players are among the best in the league, it is likely that a chasm of difference will exist between them and their respective backups.

2014 Cowboys Projected Roster under contract

Probable Starter

POS

Primary Backup

Secondary Backup

Jason Witten

TE

Gavin Escobar

James Hanna

Tyron Smith

LT

Darrion Weems

Sean Lee

MLB

DeMarco Murray

HB

Lance Dunbar

Joseph Randle

DeMarcus Ware

DE

Caesar Rayford

Dez Bryant

WR

Miles Austin

Dwayne Harris

Travis Frederick

C

Phil Costa

As anticipated, the expected drop off in talent from the starter to the backup is tremendous, but several details should not be overlooked. Despite his propensity for injury, there is no current dedicated backup to Sean Lee for the middle linebacker position on the Cowboys' roster. While Bruce Carter could slide over from his Will linebacker position to assume the responsibilities of the Mike linebacker, that would create a hole at the Will. Holloman never played the middle linebacker position until the final games this season, and has a chance to be productive as an outside linebacker, so bringing him into the Mike would also lessen his potential playmaking impact elsewhere.

There appears to be a significant drop off in expected performance between Tyron Smith and his backup, Dez Bryant and his backup, and DeMarcus Ware (if he is still on the team) and his backup. Injuries to any of these players could cost Dallas a playoff berth in 2014, as it did in 2013 when Lee and Ware lost significant time and effectiveness to injury.

According to PFF, the following players were deemed NFL starter quality to slightly below average in terms of their respective 2013 performance. The drop off in talent from the starters to the backups should not be as noticeable as with those receiving a "blue chip" grade from PFF and there should be some emerging starters among the backups.

2014 Cowboys Projected Roster under contract

Probable Starter

POS

Primary Backup

Secondary Backup

Tyrone Crawford*

DT

Ben Bass

Doug Free

RT

Darrion Weems

John Wetzel

Mackenzy Bernadeau

OG

Ray Dominguez

Tony Romo

QB

Kyle Orton

Orlando Scandrick

SCB

BW Webb

Barry Church

SS

Jeff Heath

Jakar Hamilton

Brandon Carr

RCB

BW Webb

George Selvie

DE

Caesar Rayford

JJ Wilcox^

FS

Matt Johnson

Kyle Wilber"

SAM

Justin Durant

Cameron Lawrence

*Since early reports suggested that Tyrone Crawford (injured throughout 2013 but receiving a good PFF grade in 2012) was drafted as a replacement for Jason Hatcher, Crawford has been projected as a three-technique DT. ^While several reports contend that JJ Wilcox is better suited to play strong safety and supplant Barry Church at the position, he was included as a free safety according to his position in 2013. "Kyle Wilber did not receive enough snaps as a SAM linebacker in 2013 achieve a PFF ranking, but did grade well enough to be included on this list in his limited action at the position.

Besides Matt Johnson possibly remaining healthy and earning the free safety position, there is not one backup that appears likely to realistically compete for a starting position sans injury to a starter. The process of building a roster through competition appears to be falling apart at this critical juncture on the team.

Crawford and Bass missed the entire 2013 season due to injury and are currently the only candidates to fill the vacancy left if Hatcher departs via free agency. Selvie, Free, and Bernadeau are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the 2014 NFL season, and there is nary a viable replacement available on the roster at this time. Not only is there a dearth of competition, but a lack of foresight seems to be evident.

The following players were graded as underperformers and red flags. Many are young players learning the position with a reasonable chance to improve. With a process of competition within the positional ranks, young, talented players should be poised to supplant many of the following veterans struggling to perform up to par.

2014 Cowboys Projected Roster under contract

Probable Starter

POS

Primary Backup

Secondary Backup

Terrance Williams

WR

Miles Austin

Cole Beasley

Ronald Leary

OG

Ray Dominguez

Morris Claiborne

CB

BW Webb

Bruce Carter

WLB

DeVonte Holloman

Nick Hayden

DT

Ben Bass

The process unveiled by Garrett at his initial press conference on November 8th, 2010 appears to be faltering due to failures in acquiring the talent necessary to increase positional competition. Perhaps this provided the genesis for a change in the front office, but it is likely that this team continues to flounder in December after injuries deplete the front line talent and expose the soft underbelly of the franchise.

Until the shallow Dallas roster is provided with some depth, the Cowboys will likely continue to hopelessly flail in fights against opponents following Thanksgiving. Positional competition appears to be a fantasy before the 2014 NFL draft due to the lack of talent Dallas currently boasts.

As it stands at the moment, the starting defensive line will likely include Ware and Selvie at the ends with Crawford alongside Hayden or Bass at the tackles. Ware will not likely be released due to salary cap ramifications, as nary a rushman that would remain on the defensive line reached a starting quality of play in 2013. Despite being ridiculously overpaid (Ware counts $16 million against the 2014 salary cap if he remains with the Cowboys and about $8 million if he is released), the Cowboys need Ware more than Ware needs the Cowboys.

Another injury to Sean Lee would leave the Cowboys in a lurch for the third consecutive season, and an injury preventing Claiborne from playing could see BW Webb receiving playing time. Any injury to an offensive tackle could prove catastrophic as a post-surgical Romo would face the prospect of being protected by Weems. Losing Dez for any length of time would result in a dramatic drop off in production from the wide receiver position, as Williams and Austin did not provide even slightly below average play in 2013.

It appears that unless Dallas magically finds another dirty dozen in the 2014 NFL draft, injuries to specific individuals (that have been limited by injuries in the past) could once again derail the season. The process of finding competition at every position has degraded to a sadistic game of football injury Russian Roulette. The hopes of the Cowboys in 2014 will fall upon the injury fates of its best players...again.

So much for abiding by the process.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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