The Cowboys released their first official depth chart of the 2015 season today because the NFL requires all teams to do so prior to the season opener.
Unfortunately, what the league requires and what the league gets are not always the same thing. So if you were hoping that this depth chart was put together by Jason Garrett and his coaching staff after hours of debate and hand wringing, you're bound to be disappointed. The depth chart probably originates somewhere in the PR department, and we're lucky, if it wasn't some intern who threw this together.
Be that as it may, it is the official depth chart, even if you may want to take it with a grain of salt, but it is still worth a look. Here's what the full depth chart currently looks like, with returning players marked in green, rookies marked in yellow, and free agent additions marked in orange:
|WR1||Dez Bryant||Devin Street|
|TE||Gavin Escobar||James Hanna|
|LT||Tyron Smith||Darrion Weems|
|LG||Ronald Leary||La'el Collins
|C||Travis Frederick||Mackenzy Bernadeau|
|RG||Zack Martin||Mackenzy Bernadeau|
|RT||Doug Free||Jordan Mills|
|TE||Jason Witten||Geoff Swaim|
|WR2||Terrance Williams||Cole Beasley
|QB||Tony Romo||Brandon Weeden|
|RB||Joseph Randle||Lance Dunbar||3. Darren McFadden
4. Christine Michael
|1-tech DT||Nick Hayden||Terrell McClain|
|3-tech DT||Tyrone Crawford||Jack Crawford||Davon Coleman|
|RDE||Jeremy Mincey||Randy Gregory|
|SLB||Kyle Wilber||Keith Smith|
|MLB||Anthony Hitchens||Andrew Gachkar|
|WLB||Sean Lee||Damien Wilson|
|LCB||Brandon Carr||Byron Jones||Corey White|
|RCB||Morris Claiborne||Tyler Patmon|
|FS||J.J. Wilcox||Jeff Heath|
|SS||Barry Church||Danny McCray|
|KR||Lance Dunbar||Lucky Whitehead||Cole Beasley|
|PR||Cole Beasley||Lance Dunbar|
Notes / Observations from the initial depth chart:
Color by numbers: Notice how the column with the No. 1 players is a tranquil sea of green, indicating that all key players in the column are returning players from 2014. This is an experienced group of players from last year's 12-4 team who are returning to a familiar scheme, familiar coaching, and familiar teammates. It's not unrealistic to expect this group to match or even exceed their 2014 performance.
Note also that all the veterans brought in this year (marked in orange) are shown as depth players for now. That may obviously change over the course of the season, but it's interesting anyway.
Another thing that might change over the course of the season is where the rookies (marked in yellow) are ranked. None of them is penciled in as a starter, but five rookies are listed as the second guy at their position on the depth chart on offense/defense.
The two types of tight ends. Interesting that the Cowboys have two lines for their tight ends. For the last few years, we've assumed that the sequence was Witten - Escobar - Hanna - and now Geoff Swaim, but that may not be entirely accurate. Last year, Escobar was the "move" or "F" tight end, which is usually a guy who a better receiver than a blocker. By contrast, Witten and Hanna played the "Y" position, which is a player that usually lines up in-line and has a much bigger blocking than receiving role.
This depth chart seems to suggest that Witten and Swaim could be the "Y" or blocking tight ends, while Escobar and the speedy Hanna (4.49 forty) might be the "F" tight ends. Or I could be simply reading too much into this.
Who gave up the Bishop? DT Ken Bishop doesn't show up on the chart. This is probably just an oversight (he's still listed on the official roster at the mothership), but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in this depth chart.
Special teams: Notice how Dunbar and Beasley are the kick- and punt returners respectively? Whitehead seems to have been relegated to the backup here, if this depth chart is to be trusted.
Drafting starters: The top three picks from each of the three drafts from 2012-2014 (2014: Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthiny Hitchens; 2013: Travis Frederick, Gavin Escobar, Terrance Williams; 2012: Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Wilber) are all penciled in as the No. 1 at their respective positions, even if those positions may be the No. 2 receiver, tight end or corner. If the 2015 draft class can move up the depth chart in similar fashion next year, good things will happen for the Cowboys.
Share your thoughts on the depth chart in the comments section.