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10 Thoughts On The Cowboys 2015 Preseason At The Halfway Point

With two pre-season games down, it's times for "things I think I think."

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I attempt to infuse my writing with facts, statistics, and direct, film-based analysis. Then again, sometimes I just have impressions and opinions.  As we reach the halfway point of the preseason, here are ten ideas I have about the 2015 Cowboys.


Orlando Scandrick

I am actually a little relieved the injury shoe has finally dropped. Dallas had been ridiculously safe from serious injury thus far, and I was beginning to get nervous about who would become the first victim. From a personal perspective, I am really upset. Oscar the Grouch is one of my favorite players, both because he is often underrated and because he has a particular version of swagger that I like. It's not talk with him, it's infused in his entire body. The team will miss his fire.

But if you were to tell me "you're going to lose the best player on your team at one position, pick the position," I would've picked CB. Not only there is the least drop off to the back up, but I honestly think there is the least drop off from 1st to 6th in that position. Scandrick was the best, no question. Carr's probably second. Claiborne, Patmon, White, Jones...?  who you got?  They have all had great off-seasons and I am honestly comfortable with any of those guys on the field.

Davon Coleman

He has played both 1-tech and 3-tech, the former with the first team players. He's shown strength, quickness, and push. He's been a factor in many of the sacks we've seen. I don't think he'll be on the practice squad this year and he has made me pretty much forget about Terrell McClain during his injury time. More on this in another piece (with pictures).


Ben Gardner

The Man Chuck Norris Fears has been every bit the player I thought he'd be. He's been active and aggressive with a  high motor and makes plays against non-starters. I have really liked what I've seen from him and it jibes well with the tape I saw of him at Stanford. Unfortunately for him and guys like Lavar Edwards, who has also had a good camp by all accounts...


The Defensive Line

This line is strong. Really strong. I genuinely believe it might make as big a leap this year as the offensive line did last year. I'm not sure the aforementioned Gardner makes it to the 53, because as good as he's been, Ryan Russell has been better. I like Coleman in the inside, but Bishop has been strong as well and Jack Crawford seems to have the back up 3-tech position nailed down. Efe Obada has also looked less raw than you would expect. Do the Cowboys save $1m by cutting Terrell McClain? Does Randy Gregory's quick development make Mincey a marginal player, especially after Hardy comes back from suspension? Does the Golden Cock finally crow his last? I have 12 linemen I'd like to keep. They will likely only keep 10 and I can't see them going past 11. Dallas will cut a GOOD player from their defensive line. Will they let someone claim a strong developmental player? Or will they let a veteran walk and save some salary?

Nick Harwell

Harwell was a standout WR at Miami of Ohio once upon a time. He got crossways with an ex-girlfriend and the law (not a DV situation, from a brief overview it looks like he took her car for a vengeful joyride) and left the program.  He joined on at Kansas, but never had the kind of success he previously enjoyed. His name hasn't been mentioned much by anyone outside of Bryan Broaddus this camp, but he made a number of plays in preseason, including a nice leaping TD catch. I think he can be an interesting long-term project and believe he makes the practice squad. Don't forget about him.

Geoff Swaim

Not sure how the team found this guy with him catching only 13 passes in his final two years at UT, but his pro day offers some enlightenment. At 6-5", 242 lbs, Swaim ran a 4.61 forty and had a 35.5" vertical. He has been very effective in his action thus far and James Hanna is finding himself in a real roster battle here. I'll be watching this one closely.


Offensive Line

Not as deep as we had hoped and that is a matter for concern, with Travis Frederick the only starter to not get dinged up in camp. The swing tackle spot appears to be particularly vulnerable. At one point, Zack Martin was taking some center reps and I wonder if they are looking for ways to make Mackenzy Bernadeau expendable. If Martin can be an effective center or if Shane McDermott can continue his solid work, I could see Dallas letting Bernadeau go as he is the older, more expensive option. There's been some noise about Lawrence Gibson and his improvement, but he was picked as a physical specimen and a project, so it would surprise me if he could jump all the way up and be a legitimate swing tackle as a rookie.


Safety

I am ready to join those who feel that the safety position is the weak spot on the team. Considering that I think both starters, Church and Wilcox, are underrated players, that's good news. Heath has not stepped up as much as I had hoped he would, and appears to be about where he was last year when I was looking for further development.  It should be noted that he has had some good plays in with the bad. McCray has been better than I remembered him being, but I still do not want to see him on the field for anything but punts and kickoffs. Fortunately Corey White and Byron Jones have shown some good ability here as well, in their position flex. In particular, Jones appears to be finding a role I had anticipated for him: man-to-man covering the athletic, physical TEs that are becoming a huge part of some offenses.


Running Back

I still like Gus Johnson. I am glad to see Ben Malena get another chance. I think that, like Eli Manning, Lance Dunbar is, by turns, overrated and underrated depending on the rater. I think that Randle is much better than any of his compatriots at actually running the football. I think that the changes in Dallas's run game come down to this:

  • Demarco Murray will be missed
  • Demarco Murray will miss this offensive line more
  • I think the effect of Dez Bryant/Tony Romo on defenses is the least appreciated aspect of this situation

Football Operations

I think that, regardless of who you believe is the catalyst for it, the front office has gotten scary good. It might be Will McClay's scouting. It might be Stephen Jones calming his father down. It might be Jason Garrett's vision and dispassionate ability to decide what is best and act on it, regardless of appearances. It might even be Jerry himself, who seems to gain wisdom with each mistake, rather than repeating them endlessly. But this team has made catch after catch, find after find. They've been good at the top of the draft (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), the middle of the draft (Tyrone Crawford, Terrence Williams, Anthony Hitchens), and the end of the draft (Joseph Randle, James Hanna, Ken Bishop). They've been wise and frugal in free agency, both with rookies and veterans. This year's draft class might be the strongest yet under Garrett, yet it's equally possible, as Rabble said, that none of them is a true starter this year (though several may start because of injury or suspensions). That's mind boggling to me, and speaks towards a team that is built to succeed now, as many have pointed out, but also for the future as very few, especially nationally, seem to realize.


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