NFL teams frequently rank their own talent by position. The Cowboys have their team scouts assess the roster for the first two weeks before they hit the scouting trails. The practice has two benefits. First, it gives the team a sense of where its talent lies and does not. Second, it gives the scouts a baseline.
The Cowboys scouting Kahuna Tom Ciskowski told me last year that he and his guys maintain profiles of their own roster and rate any college prospect against the talent in the Cowboys cupboard. The theory is that you don't want to target any prospect who can't challenge and beat out what's already here.
Today, I rank the offense, with a comparison to what was around in '08.
Tony Romo -- Tony Romo
- Jon Kitna -- Brad Johnson
- Stephen McGee -- Brooks Bollinger
Quite an upgrade in the backup slots. Kitna needs more reps to improve his timing, but he can get the ball to all areas of the field. McGee is VERY green but you can see his skills, however raw. Bollinger was a multi-year vet when Dallas scooped him up last year. McGee's arrow points up; Bollinger's didn't.
- Marion Barber -- Marion Barber
- Felix Jones -- Felix Jones
- Tashard Choice -- Tashard Choice
That's a comfortable depth chart, no? Jones should really be 1B to Barber's 1A and does anybody doubt that Choice has one of the smallest gaps between his 3 and Barter's 1? And that Choice will bust his butt to erase that gap?
- Jason Witten -- Jason Witten
- Martellus Bennett -- Tony Curtis
- John Phillips -- Martellus Bennett
Another area of significant upgrade. Let's begin with Bennett. Last year at this time he was wiping the Hard Knocks egg off his face. Now, he's a proven receiving weapon. His blocking needs work, but it's fair and improving. Let's not overlook the value John Phillips brings. I think he's better than Tony Curtis right now, and his all-around game, not to mention Bennett's down-the-field skills, give the Cowboys some cover.
Last year, Witten played with cracked ribs, a bum ankle and an assortment of other injuries, because he had to. Curtis' blocking skills abandoned him and Bennett was an unknown. Now, if Witten were to suffer either of those injuries, the team could sit him for a game or two, let him heal, and not see the tight end position collapse. That's good bang for your 7th-round buck.
- Roy Williams -- Terrell Owens
- Patrick Crayton --Patrick Crayton
- Miles Austin -- Sam Hurd
- Sam Hurd -- Miles Austin
- Kevin Ogletree -- Isaiah Stanback
- Isaiah Stanback -- Mike Jefferson
The names are mostly the same but the situations are different. At this point last year, Hurd, Austin and Stanback were all nursing serious injuries. Danny Amendola was in the running for a roster spot by default. Today, the top five seem likely to dress and dress in good health at Tampa Bay twelve days from now.
Now, quality? Will Williams be better than Owens? I don't see how he can be worse. T.O. wasn't hurt last year and his play making skills went missing after the first Eagles game. Yes, he lit up Nate Clements for 200-plus yards, but remember, Kevin Ogletree got Clements last week. Austin has caught everything thrown his way since he dropped a grossly over-analyzed pass against Oakland. Sam Hurd is Sam Hurd, though maybe a bit faster, and hopefully more healthy. (His injury is a quad strain, which should be in good shape by opening day.)
Ogletree is an upgrade from Stanback. As always, health is the question here. This looks like a steady unit -- if Williams stops burning through his cat lives at warp speed and Hurd finds a way to avoid the knock, as the soccer folks say. The other question is whether Dallas keeps five or six wideouts? Stanback has been a core special teammer and if the rookie defensive players keep going down, he'll stick around a bit longer.
- Flozell Adams -- Flozell Adams
- Leonard Davis -- Leonard Davis
- Andre Gurode -- Andre Gurode
- Marc Colombo -- Marc Colombo
- Kyle Kosier -- Cory Proctor
- Doug Free -- Pat McQuistan
- Montrae Holland -- Montrae Holland
- Duke Preston -- Doug Free
- Pat McQuistan -- Kyle Kosier
- Cory Proctor -- A jar full of rabbits feet
Another big upgrade, even though the names are about the same. Consider:
--at this point last year, Kosier was injured and everybody was crossing their fingers that he would not miss more than one real game. He missed fourteen.
-- Cory Proctor was the 5th best O-lineman on this team. Now, I'd rate him tenth, on the outside of the bubble, with Duke Preston still sight unseen. That's because...
-- Doug Free has looked much, much better this preseason. This is the guy everybody was talking about in '07, not the guy whose feet were abducted by aliens at Oxnard last year.
-- Holland is just Joe Average, but that's miles ahead of the '08 Holland, who could not displace Proctor in the lineup until November because he was overweight and unfamiliar with the Cowboys' scheme.
-- Preston is number 8 on this year's list; he's matched by the '08 Free who was never active for a real game. I haven't seen him yet, but I still feel safe calling this year's 8 an upgrade over last year's 8.
-- McQuistan has also improved this year, if not as much as Free. His counterpart is the one-legged Kosier.
Right now, Dallas has nine linemen. Free could play in a pinch. I'd say the same for McQ, who is no worse, and probably better than Rob Petitti. Holland and Preston have both been NFL starters.
Compare that to last year's team, which was really only five deep until Holland got his act together. And if we're honest about Proctor, they were four deep. That team could absorb one injury -- Kosier's -- but collapsed when a second guy got hurt. This group could probably handle a second injury, provided it was not long-term.
Compare spots 5 through 9 on this year's team to their counterparts on last year's team. There simply is no comparison.
Deon Anderson -- Deon Anderson?
The guy has to stay healthy. Julius Crosslin plays with a lot of heart, but he bought his hands at the Roberto Duran store.