It's not even close to Thanksgiving but there are quite a few Cowboys related things to be thankful for. Though last season ended in heartbreak like many others in the past, this team has done much more to get the arrow pointed up this offseason. In the NFL, you can't always rely on bounce-back performances to hopefully build on a good year. The Dallas Cowboys had a very good year in 2014, but the front office understood it would take more than that to get to where they want to go.
The best teams in the NFL can always look at themselves in the mirror and figure out what they truly need to be better. Though the dust is not all settled and there are a few more questions that need answering in training camp, let's examine some of the things that should get fans to pass around the Kool-Aid.
5. The Cowboys added the best athlete in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Byron Jones shot up the draft boards after his amazing combine performance, but people forget that Jones was pretty good in college, too. Unfortunately for him, a shoulder injury that he played on for seven games got him in the end. However, Jones recovered and is turning heads all over Valley Ranch. It's one thing to be a gifted athlete, but he seems to be able to handle just about everything that is asked of him. Jones has the flexibility and intelligence to play both free safety and corner in the Cowboys 4-3 scheme. Another positive is that Jones is comfortable both in zone and press-man coverage. There is a reason that a lot of Eagles fans were cursing at me during the NFL draft back in Chi-town. Byron Jones was the 2015 Sparq Champion as well.. He's not just a gifted athlete, he is the most gifted athlete in the entire class. The Cowboys have a long history of excelling when they add some real athletic prowess to their team.
4. Doug Free is fifth best offensive lineman (possibly sixth).
This is not a slight to Doug Free, who has shown to be the veteran leader of this very young offensive line. However, any time you can say there are four or five more talented guys on the roster than your starting right tackle, that is what we call depth. Free has been a solid player for the Cowboys, but they understand this game doesn't favor the old. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, La'el Collins and Ronald Leary could be argued as the most talented group of young linemen in the league. When the Cowboys drafted guys like Chaz Green and Laurence Gibson then turned a round and recruited Collins, they were making a very strong statement. "We are the O-Line Factory of the NFL." Now we have reports out of camp about how Darrion Weems is finally playing up to his talent level. Ladies and gentleman, take a gander at the great greedy Cowboys and their amazing uglies up front.
3. Morris Claiborne is likely the fourth cornerback.
He's trying real hard to get back and should be a viable option for training camp work. However, you can argue that he's the fourth-best at his position on this team. That is another strange feat of depth by the Cowboys' front office. As much time as NFL defenses spend in nickel, you can argue that there are three starting corners. For Dallas, Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Byron Jones will be those three. However, the former sixth -overall pick is the first off the bench. Claiborne is a guy you still root for because if he gets it together than watch out. The Cowboys declined picking up his option naturally, but think about what happens if he can just show he deserves a number two spot? If he shows anything at all, it will be a huge plus for the defense. In year's past, it could have been frightening to have one injury. However, with the depth this team has created including guys like Corey White and Tyler Patmon, Dallas will be in a good place this season.
2. Sean Lee is going to play next to Rolando McClain
This reminds me of my childhood the first time I ever saw Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan team up in a tag-team match. The power is just too strong to witness. If both of these guys can remain healthy, just think of the endless possibilities. McClain was pretty good when paired with Justin Durant against Seattle last year, now think about how much better Lee is than Durant and commence head exploding. Lee is one of the most instinctual linebackers in the league and McClain is an all-out force to be reckoned with on Sundays. If the Cowboys can mange to get a full season out of these guys than there is no doubt they will be among the best in the NFL. However, another story of depth reveals that Anthony Hitchens, Jasper Brinkley, Andrew Gachkar, Damien Wilson and about 40 others are waiting in the wings.
1. Best 4-3 end in free agency? Check. Best 4-3 end in the draft? Check.
This defensive line had it's trouble last season getting to the quarterback, and it was never more evident than that cold day in Green Bay. Yet, in just one offseason, the Cowboys have completely flipped the script on their entire defensive front. Jeremy Mincey, Dallas' best last season, will now split time inside and is likely a role player. The Cowboys went out and snagged Greg Hardy, although a suspension will be served first. Then they were able to draft arguably the best option in the draft in Randy Gregory, whose marijuana issues plus weight concerns were too much for some. Twelve pounds later and under Rod Marinelli's vice grips, Gregory is looking to make an impact. When we factor all that in, we can't leave out second-year monster DeMarcus Lawrence and depth players like Ben Gardner. It would be unfair not to mention breakout candidate Tyrone Crawford too. Opposing quarterbacks find your nearest shelter; you have been warned. Release the rushmen!