The Cowboys lost some key contributors this off-season as several players decided to bounce for a nice pay day. As the Cowboys have become more vigilant about how they put together new contracts they continue to be frugal with their new purchases. But these judicious decisions have consequences and those consequences are the holes left by the departed. Through the draft and their own free agency acquisitions the Cowboys have attempted to fill those holes. Did they do enough?
Loss: DeMarco Murray (74% of the offensive snaps)
One of the most captivating camp stories in the upcoming month will be how well Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden are performing as they look to fill the shoes of Murray. The RB situation is going to continue to befuddle fans until someone gets on the field and demonstrates that they can be an effective runner. The sooner one of these guys scampers off for a big run, the better, because until then - fans are going to be holding their breathe.
Ryan Williams is a complete wild card. He's got interesting upside with some thumper-back appeal, but he hasn't played a snap in the NFL since October of 2012. Expectations should be tempered for Williams.
Lance Dunbar accounted for 12% of the Cowboys offensive snaps. While his playing time should see an increase, his additional snaps won't be enough to make a dent into Murray's touches.
Loss: Anthony Spencer (36% of the defensive snaps), George Selvie (49% of the defensive snaps)
Rotational guys like Spencer and Selvie don't seem like a big loss, but they logged a decent amount of time last season. But even without their services, the Cowboys find themselves sitting in good shape at the defensive end position this season. The addition of Greg Hardy will replace a lot of those snaps. Second-year edge rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence should see an expanded role. The team got great contribution from veteran Jeremy Mincey. Year two under Rod Marinelli could mean even better things from Mincey. And finally, the second-round draft investment of Randy Gregory should log some pass rushing snaps as he gets phased into the program. The Cowboys have this area covered.
Loss: Henry Melton (41% of the defensive snaps)
Melton was a great free agent find in the first part of 2014, but then his play fizzled down the stretch. The Cowboys did not bring in any new faces to fill this void. Nick Hayden is the resident iron man as he played in the second most defensive snaps last season, behind only Tyrone Crawford. While it is nice and all that Hayden is so reliable, it would be nicer to have an upgrade in skill at this position. A healthier Terrell McClain could be that guy. Or maybe last year's red-shirt player, Chris Whaley, could sneak in and get some playing time. And finally, there's the rookie DT that did play, Ken Bishop. Could he show some nice strides heading in to 2015?
Loss: Bruce Carter (50% of the defensive snaps), Justin Durant (32%)
The Cowboys saved some money at the LB position as they let Carter and Durant go in free agency. Both these players had an impact on the defense so finding equivalent replacement won't come easy. The return of Sean Lee will chew up a lot snaps and provide great LB play as long as he can stay healthy. Rolando McClain and Anthony Hitchens were thrown into starting roles last season due to injuries, and now they are expected to remain the starters. With McClain already slated to miss the first four games, the Cowboys will be going to the reserves early. Free agent acquisition, Jasper Brinkley should be the linebacker called upon first to help out. And rookie, Damien Wilson would love to be able to step in and give a similar contribution as Hitchens did last year.
Loss: Sterling Moore (71% of the defensive snaps)
Moore played a lot last season. Next to Murray, his reps will be largest void to fill. Fortunately for the Cowboys, they invested a first-round pick by selecting super athletic, Byron Jones. The rookie from Connecticut will certainly come with some growing pains, but his talent should be a clear upgrade over Moore.
Loss: Jermey Parnell (36% of the offensive snaps)
Parnell was thrown into service due to Doug Free's injured riddled season. Parnell did a great job filling in, so much so that the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to make him a rich man, signing him to a five year, $32 million deal. That's nice chunk of change for backup tackle. A healthy Free should keep the Cowboys line intact, but just in case, UDFA La'el Collins in waiting in the wings should an opportunity present itself.
Loss: Dwayne Harris (97% of the kick/punt return snaps)
Harris was the special team's ace. Not only did he hold down the return job, but he led the team in special team tackles with 11. Replacing Harris will be done with multiple players. For the punt returns, there are a slew of candidates. They have rookies Lucky Whitehead, George Farmer, Deontay Greenberry, and Antwan Goodley. Lance Dunbar could be the kickoff return guy. On the other side of the return, the Cowboys could look to get contribution from free agent Andrew Gackhar or rookie Mark Nzeocha. The team definitely has options.
With training camp around the corner, the replacements for these missing snaps should start revealing themselves soon. Dallas has a good deal of contenders to fight for these reps. Has the team done enough to supplant it's free agent losses or are there areas that still need to be addressed?