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Is The Roster Churning Quick Enough? The Cowboys Transition From "Almost-Oh-Seven"

The fates of Tony Romo and Eli Manning have crossed several times as their team's rosters have transformed around them.
The fates of Tony Romo and Eli Manning have crossed several times as their team's rosters have transformed around them.

Back in ancient times, long before Twitter was the rage and young men still believed that wearing their girlfriend's jeans was a bad idea... yes, back in 2007, the Dallas Cowboys thought they had it all. New head coach Wade Phillips had taken over a roster led by Bill Parcells and navigated Dallas to a 13-3 regular season record and the top seed in the NFC.

The offense was impressive, the defense was solid and the team had only truly been stopped twice during the regular season; once to the eventually 18-0 New England Patriots. They also lost to the Eagles in December and then the regular season finale to Washington; although they pulled their starters from a meaningless game.

Of course, things didn't go as planned that '07 post-season for Dallas. After soundly defeating Bye Week (h/t to Wade), they were upset in the divisional round of the playoffs by the eventual Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants. The Giants defeated the aforementioned Patriots in said SB, as we all know, and four years later the two teams are rematching in Indianapolis on Sunday.

One of the interesting facts I've heard mentioned in the nauseating build-up is how much different each of the combatant's roster is from their 2007 version. The Giants only have 16 players remaining on their roster from the '07 championship team. The Patriots turnover has been even more dramatic, only retaining seven players on their 53 man roster.

It made me wonder a few things. Is the Giants number normal? If these two franchises, only four years removed from the season's final game are turning over their rosters this much, is Dallas doing the same? Are the Cowboys married to their past far beyond what they should be?

Follow the jump to see the skinny.

I admit, I went into this exercise expecting to be able to blame the Cowboys front office for not being proactive in moving away from former stars and above average players. It turned out to not be the case; at least no worse than the Giants who missed the playoffs the last two seasons before this recent run.

This chart takes a look at the final rosters for both the '07 and '11 campaigns, with a bit of a caveat. 2007 was a remarkably healthy campaign for Dallas, unlike 2011. Players that ended up on the 2007 IR list weren't in the team's future plans, unlike members of the 2011 IR. The pseudo depth chart arrangement will reflect that.

Players highlighted under '2011' were also on the team to end the 2007 season.

Position Count Final 2007 Roster
Count Final 2011 Roster
QB 2 Romo, B. Johnson 3 Romo, McGee, Greisen
RB 5 Barber, J. Jones, T. Thompson, Hoyte, Anderson(IR) 7 D. Murray(IR), F. Jones, P. Tanner (IR), Sammy Morris, Tony Fiammetta, Shaun Chapas, Chauncey Washington
WR 6 Owens, Glenn, Crayton, Hurd, Austin, Stanback 8 Austin, Bryant, Robinson, Holley, Ogletree, D. Harris, A. Holmes, Radway
TE 3 Witten, Fasano, Curtis 3 Witten, Bennett, Phillips
OL 10 Adams, Colombo, Davis, Kosier, Gurode, Free, McQuistan, Marten, Berger, Procter 10 T. Smith, Free, Kosier, Holland(IR), Costa, Dockery, Kowalski, Parnell, Arkin, Nagy(IR)
DL 7 Ratliff, Canty, Spears, Bowen, Hatcher, T. Johnson, Ferguson(IR) 7 Ratliff, Hatcher, Lissemore, Spears, Brent, Coleman, Geathers
LB 8 Ware, Ellis, Spencer, James, Ayodele, Burnett, Carpenter, Rogers 8 Ware, Lee, Carter, Spencer, Brooking, Butler, Albright, James
CB 6 Newman, Henry, Reeves, Oglesby, Ball, Jones 5 Newman, Jenkins, Scandrick, Ball, Walker
S 4 R. Williams, Hamlin, Watkins, C. Brown 5 Sensabaugh, Elam, McCray, Church(IR), Silva
ST 3 Folk, McBriar, Ladouceur 6 Bailey, Jones, McBriar(IR), Ladouceur, Buehler(IR), Forbath(IR)
P. Squad 9 R. Ayodele, Bartel, Q. Butler, A. Coleman, Everett, Hannah, M. Jefferson, M. Smith, T. Smith 6 M. Butler, Callaway,Bra.Carter, Lemon, T.Williams, Wilson

Here are some interesting notes:

  • Dallas has 15 players on it's roster that were active in 2007, in line with the New York Giants.
  • The late release of several veterans brought this number down for Dallas. Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo, Marion Barber, Andre Gurode were all released at the last minute, though the lockout had something to do with the timing.
  • Dallas has completely remade their offensive skill positions around Tony Romo. Only Witten and Austin remain, and in 2007 Austin was strictly a kick returner. All RBs and all other WR/TEs have been replaced.
  • The two remaining CBs, Newman and Ball, both should expect to be somewhere else once September rolls around. If the Cowboys had successfully signed Nnamdi Asomugha, Newman would have probably already have been out the door.
  • Counting PS and IR, a final NFL roster seems to sit around 65 active/inactive players. With four drafts normally yielding seven players each (28 total), having only 15 remaining players from four years ago still seems to indicate a large amount of turnover.
  • Side note; even when considering the fruits of the 2008 draft; it's still a bit surprising (nauseating?) that the Dallas front office thought the roster was so stacked, special teams improvement was more important than depth.

So, does Dallas hold on to past warriors too long?

They might have, but the purge of August 2011 seemed to be course-correcting. Some of the most highly expected 2012 cuts include names from the list of 15 remaining '07 roster members. Bradie James, Anthony Spencer, Terence Newman, Marcus Spears, Kyle Kosier, Alan Ball and Mat McBriar are all roster churn possibilities (expectations?) for a Dallas team looking to improve on an underwhelming 34-30 record over the last four seasons.

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