With the draft approaching, the Dallas Cowboys will be able to add more young talent in hopes of going on a deep playoff run for the upcoming season. Dallas made it clear in free agency that they wanted to bring back their own, rather than going out and spending quality money on players who would have to learn the system. This means the Cowboys are banking on continuity and knowing what they will get out of their players.
Dallas' focus on improving the roster over the past few years has been fascinating. In the draft, the Cowboys have been better at assessing players. And then in the player personnel department, they've found production out of players like George Selvie, Darren McFadden, Jeremy Mincey, and even Justin Durant.
For the Cowboys to reach their aspirations, they will not only need to have talent in place at the most important positions, but they will need to have good depth pieces as well. The following five names are all guys who will take on bigger roles in 2016. There are some names on this list that may frustrate fans, but because they're still on the roster means that the Cowboys have plans in store for them. Let's take a look at each player and see what role they are capable of taking on in 2016.
The Cowboys decided to re-sign Hanna on a three-year deal for just over $8 million. Considering his speed and his ability in the blocking game, bringing back Hanna was an easy choice. As Jason Witten gets older and older, his abilities go with him. While Witten does look ageless at times, there are times where he simply isn't quick enough in the running game to seal edges. This is where the Cowboys can utilize Hanna. Lastly, Gavin Escobar is recovering from his Achilles injury and his availability for the year is up in the air. Hanna isn't a bad contingency plan at all.
Out of the Cowboys' 2015 draft class, the one player that not many knew about was Russell. Coming out of Purdue, Russell's tape wasn't magnificent, but his combine proved just how athletic he was. He had the looks of a project player and with a full year in the Cowboys' weight room and getting coached up by both Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett, it's going to be interesting to see what Russell can do in his second season. To prove how much the Cowboys value Russell, there's a reason why the team seems content with letting Jeremy Mincey play elsewhere.
When McClain is healthy, he has been a productive player for the Cowboys' defensive line. McClain is a nice option at the 1-technique position. And while the Cowboys signed Cedric Thornton in free agency to upgrade this position, I still believe McClain will be able to prove himself and earn playing time. If McClain can provide the burst and anchoring ability he has shown at times, he'd be a commodity fans will be happy to have back.
When the Cowboys traded for Butler last season, it didn't quite make a lot of sense. Butler was a guy that couldn't carve out a role in a weak receiving corps with the Oakland Raiders. But when he was given a small role in Dallas, he proved to be a player that could spread the defense and open up holes for his teammates. Butler has an excellent combination of size and speed. There were multiple times where he burned defenses, but he couldn't get the football because Brandon Weeden and/or Matt Cassel couldn't supply him with the football. If they can get comfortable, Tony Romo could find himself a new weapon.
Being on the PUP list didn't help his cause, but there wasn't a bigger disappointment of a pick in the 2015 NFL Draft for the Cowboys than Green. With guys like Henry Anderson and Steven Nelson on the board, Green needs to prove that he is capable of one day becoming the team's right tackle. For now, Green will likely play a depth role as the swing tackle, but one day Green could be asked to be the starting right tackle. While he had a solid career at Florida, it's yet to be seen if he is capable of manning the right exterior part of the offensive line.