The Dallas Cowboys' offseason schedule has been underway for a few weeks leading up to training camp when we will see the Cowboys' roster go from 90 names down to 53 names. 2016 is a scary year for the Cowboys, at least in my eyes. All it takes is an injury to left clavicle of Tony Romo and this team could very similar to the one we saw in 2014. But if Romo can stay on the field, then there is no reason why this team shouldn't be a good one. Taking a look at this offense, there's an elite quarterback in place, a good receiving corps, the best offensive line in football with a dynamic running back group lined up behind it.
This offseason was no different for the Cowboys in comparison to the other recent years. There were plenty of headlines, some for the wrong reasons, and there was a ton of media attention. With around 90 days until the first game of the year, a lot of preparation goes into creating the best version a team can be. Let's take a look at some things the Cowboys should and shouldn't do in the 2016 NFL season.
Do: Promote Dak Prescott to QB2, Keep Only Two Quarterbacks
Because there is such little space on an NFL roster, the Cowboys have to find a way to make the best use of it. With the suspensions to defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys are not only going to carry a lot of defensive lineman, but they will probably keep plenty running backs as well. For the Cowboys to stay heavy within these two groups, they will need to carry only two quarterbacks.
Dak Prescott is ahead of schedule in terms of his progression and while I do understand that Prescott is one Romo injury from playing in the NFL, I also believe that actually playing is the best way to get acclimated to the professional level. The idea of this may scare many people, but the Cowboys have other holes that warrant a heavy usage for roster spots. Hoping either Kellen Moore or Jameill Showers lands on the practice squad would be ideal.
Don't: Cut/Trade Darren McFadden
Unless the trade is too irresistible for the Cowboys, the team should keep McFadden. Despite taking over the starting gig about halfway through the 2015 season, McFadden finished fourth in the league in rushing. That's not to say he's one of the better backs in football, however. The offensive line did wonders for McFadden, that's for certain. But despite how good Ezekiel Elliott will be in Dallas, he's still a rookie.
Darius Jackson isn't ready for an NFL workload and Alfred Morris is still new to the roster despite being a seasoned veteran. McFadden is an excellent teammate and person to have in the locker room. Carrying four backs will be difficult, but I can't see the Cowboys getting rid of any of their guys come roster cuts.
Do: Figure Out a Way to Get Cole Beasley, Gavin Escobar More Involved
With the attention Dez Bryant commands on the outside and the respect Jason Witten receives on the inside, the Cowboys can really take advantage of opposing teams by getting guys like Beasley and Escobar (once he is healthy) more involved. I'd like to see more production from the slots in 2016, as I believe defenses will load the box to stop the running game, making Beasley and Escobar extremely important at getting open in a hurry.
Don't: Cut/Trade Ronald Leary
This is the exact argument I have with McFadden. If it weren't for injury, Leary would likely still be starting at left guard and La'el Collins would still be trying to duke it out with him. Leary is a seasoned veteran that has had success playing for the Cowboys. If the trade offer is too irresistible, then the Cowboys should send Leary packing, but he's a nice backup piece to have, even if it's only for a year.
Do: Promote Chaz Green to Starting Right Tackle... Eventually
The production the Cowboys are getting from the right tackle position right now is good. But I fully believe that it could be great. Chaz Green's rookie season was a bit of a whirlwind, but once he starts to learn the nuisances of the game and he brushes up on his technique, he could be the team's starting right tackle. Free will enter the last year of his deal in 2017 and if the Cowboys choose to cut him before that season, he would only cost $1.5 million in dead money.
Don't: Forget About Ryan Russell
Remember the rookie that continuously got yelled at by Rod Marinelli last offseason? Oh you don't, well that player is Russell. When the Cowboys drafted Russell last year, they did not draft him for the player he was. They drafted him for the player he could turn into. With unbelievable athleticism and explosiveness, the Cowboys may actually be just fine at the defensive end position in the absences of Gregory and Lawrence if Russell can reach his full potential. You barely heard of him last year, but remember Russell's name as the season rolls around.
Do: Make Darius Jackson the Kick/Punt Returner
I can remember scratching my head when the Cowboys made drafted Jackson. But I threw on the tape and gave him a clear evaluation. Hint, hint, he's an unbelievable player. On a collegiate team that truly lacked talent everywhere, Jackson was simply a one-man show. His quickness is insane and his athletic ability is one of the best I've seen out of a running back. I firmly believe the Cowboys should exploit his explosiveness by putting him as the return man, something he did in college. I was waiting for Lucky Whitehead to come around last season as the return man, but he just never did so.
Don't: Use James Hanna Only in Running Situations
I've been public about my liking towards Hanna. When he came to Dallas, he needed some refinement to his run-blocking ability, but he's quickly turned into the best blocking tight end on this roster. Hanna put on quite the show at the combine, as the top performer at the tight end position in the 40-yard dash, the 3-cone drill, the 20-yard shuttle, and the 60-yard shuttle. Hanna may struggle in-line, but if the Cowboys get creative with the way they use him, I think he has the tools to be what Escobar was supposed to be to this offense.
Do: Extend Morris Claiborne
I spoke about it the other day, I firmly believe this is the year where Claiborne finally pays off the Cowboys for taking a chance on him in the draft. Dallas brought him back and if he can stay on the field, it will allow him to get into the mental cycle he needs to play to the level that he is capable of.
Don't: Play Too Conservatively... Ever
This was something I saw too consistently in the 2014 season, when the Cowboys beat you, but they didn't necessarily knock you out. I think back to the Week 14 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, a game that the Cowboys needed to win to finish atop the NFC East. Dallas started the game with a 21-0 lead, but they let the Eagles hang around. Dallas ended up winning the game, but that was after a 24-point comeback for the Eagles. Dallas should love its running game in 2016, but when they near the end of games, they need to make sure to not overuse it.