For the Cowboys it's the offseason, but that doesn't mean we're completely done with 2015. There are season reviews to be had, after all...
Archer's roster review settles upon the guys who spend all of training camp off to the side: the specialists. After extolling Dan Bailey's virtues for several paragraphs, Toddzilla nominates an area for improvement:
A look out: As much as Whitehead improved, the Cowboys need him to be dynamic in 2017.
The special-teams unit did not make enough big plays, outside of Bailey’s field goals. They were not able to flip field position enough. Given how good kickers are at kickoffs these days, the return game is mitigated greatly. Finding a special returner is hard.
Archer, the most reliable of reporters, changes things up with a more opinion-driven piece in which he makes a case for coaching continuity, even after terrible seasons:
The Dolphins hired their seventh coach in 10 years, if you count interim coaches, hoping Adam Gase can do what Dan Campbell, Joe Philbin, Todd Bowles, Tony Sparano, Cam Cameron and Nick Saban couldn’t.
The San Francisco 49ers are looking for their third coach in three years.
The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants are in the same coaching search as the Buccaneers. The Tennessee Titans might have one if they don’t stick with Mike Mularkey, who took over as the interim coach last season. The Detroit Lions could be looking for a replacement for Jim Caldwell if their new general manager, Bob Quinn, wants his guy.
Oh, and the Cleveland Browns are starting over again because that's what they do almost every year.
Which reminds me...
The first stop of the offseason process is self-scouting...with a focus on McClains.
Machota counts down the Cowboys roster, beginning at number 60. The bottom ten is populated by the virtual unknown, and then there's this fellow, who, if healthy, would surely be much higher:
51.) Terrell McClain, DT. After playing 22 snaps in the season opener and 23 in Week 2, McClain had his season ended because of a toe injury. The 27-year-old played in 13 games in 2014 and all 16 the year before in Houston. When healthy, he's a regular in Marinelli's defensive line rotation.
Hansen makes a case against re-signing Ro-Mac. It's a three-part argument; here are parts one and two:
According to Pro Football Focus, Rolando McClain was one of the NFL’s worst inside linebackers in stopping the run. He was rated consistently poor throughout the entire season and for every bit of an asset he was against the pass, he was twice as much of a liability against the run.
Besides being extremely one-dimensional, Rolando McClain also has reliability issues that need to be considered before re-signing. Injuries, and more specifically, concussions, have been a large part of McClain’s career. It’s not a matter of "if" McClain will get injured; it’s a matter of "when" and "for how long". With one injury-prone LB already under contract long-term (Sean Lee), the Cowboys can ill afford to sign a second.
Part III? McClain's off-the-field issues, natch.
The Broad One reviews the Cowboys four free agent D-linemen, speculating about each one's chances to return. Gauging from his take, this is the man most likely to wear the star in 2016:
Height: 6-5 Weight: 288 Position: DE/DT
2015 Performance: Crawford is, simply put, one of the hardest-working defensive linemen on this squad. He played several spots during the season and was consistent in both his efforts and results. He was outstanding in his ability to finish plays when put in those situations. He managed four sacks on the year, and those numbers were more due his desire than athletic ability or technique.
2016: Forecast: You need to have guys like Crawford in the rotation if this defense is going to have success. The fact that he played all over helps his chances to return, but his best position is as that under tackle and not as a nose. Built more to get up the field than hold blocks.
And, finally, we get to draft talk. Yippee!
Sabin starts off his piece by noting the debate raging inside the Cowboys front office: should the team draft Tony Romo's heir apparent or simply sign another veteran to back him up? He then turns to two former QB-turned-ESPN-pundits to support each side of the debate. We'll start with Trent Dilfer:
"I would have no problem taking a quarterback in the first round and not playing him," Dilfer said. "In fact, I think that would be ideal. I know these guys have success at times, but I think the streets are littered with guys who played too soon also....When you have that opportunity, if you love that guy, I don't think you pass him up because there is a quote, unquote public perception that you have to play him. I can't think of a better guy to sit and learn from that Tony Romo. It's very much like what Aaron Rodgers did with Brett Favre. People laughed at them. People said, 'Hey we could have got somebody who could have helped us next year.' But I don't think anybody is laughing now."
Providing the opposing viewpoint is Tim Hasselbeck:
"It's one thing if you drafted somebody with the 25th pick [and let him develop]," Hasselbeck said. "But if you drafted somebody with a top 10 pick, I don't know how you don't play him right away because you need to evaluate him. And I don't know that you evaluate him as you're still getting good work out of Romo. A lot of it is going to come down on the medical opinion on [Romo]."
Sturm kicks off an offseason draft series that he hopes will include at least 50 players with a look at Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. There is much to like and much to be cautious about. Here's Sturm's summary:
If I am Dallas and he is available for selection, after doing this study I am left with 2 conclusions - although so much can change and so many others must be considered, first. 1) I absolutely would be excited to leave this draft with a prospect as good as Lynch and 2) I would want 12-24 months of not having to play him, if possible. I believe he is going to be a very impressive pro, but I would like to buy as much time as possible to prepare and develop him for the incredibly hot seat he would assume in Dallas after Tony Romo.
Ratty reviews the tape on Lousiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon and comes away impressed. Here are his concluding paragraphs:
Dixon seems to be the full package. Not only can he run with power in between and outside the tackles, but he’s also a playmaker out of the backfield. He catches the ball with ease and he’s extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands. Dixon is the type of player that isn’t scheme-specific. He can do a ton of things at the NFL level and he won’t be limited by the type of scheme he’s in.
How would Dixon fit in Dallas? Darren McFadden has one more year on his contract and while he played extremely well as the starter in 2015, the Cowboys will be looking into adding a back to fit their zone-blocking scheme. Dixon makes a ton of sense, as his combination of power, speed, athleticism, and cutting ability make him a real solid fit in the Cowboys’ offense.
Mullenax's seven-round mock eschews the first-round signal caller in favor of the "highest overall rated player" on the board. Who is that? Well, he plays linebacker. Went to UCLA. Name of Jack. That's a last name, not a first name:
Jack is equally adept against the run and the pass. An uncanny athlete with superior instincts and desirable intangibles, many experts believe this young linebacker has the ability to become an All-Pro at the next level. Drafting Jack is not only about filling a need in Dallas, but also likely taking the highest overall rated player on your board. He recorded 87 total tackles and had seven pass defends in 13 games in 2014.
And we end with these, to get you in the mood...