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Is The Cowboys Roster Churning Fast Enough?

Roster Churners: Caleb McSurdy (56), Morris Claiborne (24), Matt Johnson (37), and Danny Coale (81) all have their eyes set on a 2012 roster spot.
Roster Churners: Caleb McSurdy (56), Morris Claiborne (24), Matt Johnson (37), and Danny Coale (81) all have their eyes set on a 2012 roster spot.

Two weeks ago, rabblerouser looked at how the Cowboys have been retooling their roster this year, which holes are being filled by free agents, which holes are plugged with rookies and which holes could remain soft spots.

Related: Cowboys Offseason 2012: Retooling The Roster

Inspired by his post , I wanted to understand just how much of a roster churn the Cowboys have undergone in the last two years. Remember, the last two seasons were the first consecutive non-winning seasons since the 5-11 years in 2001 and 2002, so a good degree of churn is to be expected.

To determine the level of churn over the last two years, I looked at the 53-man roster on opening day of the 2010 season, and compared it to the current roster. So make like House Of Pain and jump around the break to see what the churn looks like.

Less than half of the players going into the 2010 season remain on the current roster. 24, to be exact. Here's an overview of which players from the 2010 opening day roster are still with the team, arbitrarily grouped into starters and backups.

Position and No. of players
Starters Backups
Quarterbacks (3) Tony Romo Stephen McGee
Fullbacks (2)
Running Backs (3) Felix Jones
Wide Receivers (5) Miles Austin, Dez Bryant Kevin Ogletree
Tight Ends (2) Jason Witten
Offensive Linemen (10) Doug Free, Phil Costa
Defensive Linemen (5) Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher Sean Lissemore
Nose Tackles (2) Jay Ratliff Josh Brent
Outside Linebackers (4) DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer Victor Butler
Inside Linebackers (5) Sean Lee
Cornerbacks (3) Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick
Safety (6) Gerald Sensabaugh Barry Church, Danny McCray
Specialists (3) L.P. Ladouceur

Once rabblerouser saw the number, he immediately cautioned against overrating it, saying he suspected that the 24 might be a pretty normal number for an NFL team. So I thought it might be a good idea to crosscheck the Cowboys' number against a random sampling of three NFL teams: a recent Super Bowl winner, a ho-hum team and a bottom dwelling team - which is how I ended up with the Giants, Eagles and Redskins. Here's how the four NFC East teams compare:

Players left on 2012 roster from the 2010 opening day roster
Cowboys Giants Eagles Redskins
24 27 26 25

Well, duh. Everybody had about the same level of churn. So by itself, the number is not terribly interesting.

There are some commentators that would have you believe the Cowboys are in a rebuilding mode. I always scoff at that notion, because if you were to look closely at what is happening with the roster, or if you actually knew what you were talking about, you'd see the same continuous roster renewal that you see with most other teams.

What is perhaps more interesting than looking at the absolute churn number is to look at where the churn on the Cowboys' roster occurred. The Cowboys completely gutted their roster on the offensive line and at inside linebacker, and if you're so inclined, you could easily call that a rebuilding mode at those positions. The Cowboys returned only three of the 15 players who were on the 2010 season-opening roster at those two positions, and I'm sure there are those who would argue that is still one player too much.

Overall though, while there is significant churn at some positions, the total churn so far looks to be at a fairly normal rate. The question is, are the Cowboys churning their roster fast enough?

Of course, looking over some of the names penciled in as a backup on the table above, chances are some of them won't be on the 2012 opening day roster. Also, there are 13 free agent acquisitions, seven draft picks and legions of college free agents who are all working very hard to get the roster churning even faster.

And we'll keep a close eye on how that turns out.

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