The upcoming season has a lot of similarities to the doom-and-gloom projection of the 2014 season: Tony Romo recovering from an injury, starting MLB out, and top edge rusher unavailable. But as Jeremy Bielenberg points out - these issues aren’t as bad as before.
Quarterback Tony Romo may be recovering from a twice-broken collarbone, but after undergoing Mumford surgery in the offseason he appears to be back to normal and rounding into form. Romo has mentioned on numerous occasions that he feels better than he has in several years and he has been a full participant in OTA’s. Barring another injury (knock on wood), Romo will be ready to go Week One of the season which is more than we can say for 2014.
The Cowboys are once again without their starting Mike LB. However, depending on what the team decides to do with recently suspended LB Rolando McClain, the Cowboys could have their guy back in Week 11. This would potentially give the Cowboys six games with their starting LB. Also more than we can say for 2014.
The Cowboys find themselves without their top two pass rushers this season instead of just the one, however, both players should return from suspensions in Week Five. The team will have to manage without them for the time being, but at least there are re-enforcements coming!! Also more than we can say for 2014.
Brian Martin gives us his best & worst list of the 2016 off-season.
One of the worst things imaginable that could’ve happened to the Dallas Cowboys during the off-season happened, and it went down in a big way.
The worst is absolutely when the announcement was made that Rolando McClain will miss 10 games of the season because of his suspension, but the four-game suspensions that was handed down to both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory might hurt just as much.
Usually, it is some questionable front office move that is the recipient of this honor. If you want to blame the organization for investing in red-flag type players, that’s fine, but some of them would be assigned to a different off-season.
All the suspensions hurt, but which one is most damaging to the team? Jon Machota answers some questions, including which suspension will hurt the most.
Question: Bigger loss -- DeMarcus Lawrence or Rolando McClain?
Jon Machota: Lawrence. Their biggest weakness is getting to the quarterback and he did that better than anyone on the team last season. Rolando's very talented, but give me the pass rusher.
The loss of McClain will still leave the team searching for answers, but can they be found within the current roster?
They will give Anthony Hitchens the opportunity of taking Rolando McClain’s spot and reps in practice for the beginning of this 2016 season. I just wouldn’t sleep on Andrew Gachkar anytime soon, somebody who has been known to play all three linebacker positions. Have people also forgotten the fact that the Cowboys have Mark Nzeocha on that linebacker depth chart as well? I know, we don’t have another Sean Lee in the making with this guy, but I get the feeling he’s going to want to make some noise in Training Camp in a few weeks.
Hitchens may not be the ideal replacement for McClain, but he’s still the Cowboys best candidate.
Anthony Hitchens had a limited but productive role for the Cowboys. Hitchens made nine starts at all three linebacker positions and finished 2015 with a team-credited 85 tackles, one pass defensed, and a forced fumble.
Hitchens is not the type of player that "wows" you with his size or his athleticism. He is actually rather undersized and isn’t exceptionally quick or strong. What Hitchens has is a great knack for finding ball carriers. He has starter-caliber instincts and you will usually find him at the bottom of the pile.
The depth at linebacker may be less of a worry since the team plays a lot of snaps in the nickel, which could draw more attention toward the importance of a third corner.
Claiborne’s rookie contract expired and the team didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, but instead signed him to a less expensive fifth-year tryout. He’s a wild card player because he is showing improvement in his game, but constantly has trouble staying healthy.
Scandrick is expected to move back into the starting lineup next to Brandon Carr. But Claiborne will still see plenty of action. He's among the team's top three corners, which means he'll be on the field the majority of the time in the Cowboys nickel and dime packages.
Claiborne had a strong offseason program and was arguably moving around as well as he has at any time during his Cowboys career. But durability remains an issue. The cornerback has missed 24 games in his first four seasons in the league. If you want a smaller, more disturbing sample size, here it is: Claiborne has missed 23 of the Cowboys last 40 regular season games.
Claiborne played in more games last season than the previous two seasons combined. If he could put together a full 16-game season, he could up being a bright spot for the Cowboys secondary.
The former top ten pick has underwhelmed during his career with a star on his helmet. The LSU product has struggled with injuries, but now appears to be healthy and will be working with a motivational one-year contract. If he can improve mentally, he'll be able to flash the kind of ball skills that made him a surefire selection five years ago.
Do you remember all the wide receivers that put up big games against the Cowboys last season? Yeah, me neither, and Claiborne played a big part in that.
Many fans were upset that the team passed up on the extremely athletic Jalen Ramsey, but they should take comfort in the fact that the Cowboys already have a safety on the team with even greater athleticism. K.D. compares his spider chart to that of Byron Jones and shows that the Cowboys already have the most athletic free safety in the league.
This year’s combine participants haven’t been very earth-shattering when looking at the class as a whole, but on today, the final day of testing, Ramsey put on a show that summarized why some are calling him the best prospect in this draft. Five of Ramsey’s 11 measurables ranked him in the 92nd percentile or better. For someone of his play pedigree and size, 6’1″ 209 lbs, it was the highlight performance of the day.
The interesting thing of note is that even if he were available at the fourth pick and Dallas selected him, he still wouldn’t be the most athletic safety for the Cowboys. That’s how sick Byron Jones performance was.
Jones is stronger, faster, and can out-jump him (or anyone for that matter). The Cowboys didn’t have to use pick #4 to get him and he’s already got a year under his belt. If were wanted Ramsey real bad, just embrace the goodness of what Jones will give the team this year.
But the most impressive quality is his unique dancing ability with his good friend, Lucky Whitehead.
Man, I never get sick of that video.
While Byron Jones is the future, the team has a couple other safeties who aren’t signed past this season.
Right now all signs are that Church will retain his starting job without much open competition from Wilcox. That could obviously change if Wilcox stands out in training camp. Dallas could save a little over $4 million off the cap if they release Church, compared to just roughly $1.5 million for Wilcox. That’s a pretty clear tiebreaker.
Barry Church will be 29 when the next offseason begins. That’s not an ideal age for defensive backs but still young enough that Dallas might give him a one or two-year extension. If Byron Jones excels as a rangy free safety, Church could get to stay closer to the line of scrimmage and plays to his strengths like never before.
Without Tony Romo around last season, all the wide receivers suffered as the trio of Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley all showed a decrease in catch percentage. Despite everyone being affected, Williams got the brunt of the criticism as he wasn’t able to step in and fill the shoes of the injured Bryant. Now, many people have him fighting for his job as the number two receiver.
Brice Butler is expected to push Williams for that number 2 receiver spot this season. Whether or not he ever fulfills his potential remains to be seen. Aged 26 Butler has never started more than two games in an NFL season; hardly the stats of a top 2 receiver. Nevertheless, coach Garrett seemed pleased with what he saw.
As many of us start piecing together our preliminary 53-man rosters, it’s good to check in with the eligibility rules of the practice squad.
Each team is allowed to have 10 players on a practice squad. Those players practice with the team during the season, but are not eligible to be part of the game-day roster.
The practice squad is mostly for young, developmental players. To be eligible for practice squad inclusion, a player cannot have more than two accrued seasons of NFL experience. An accrued season is six or more games on the active roster, or a year of experience on a club's 53-man active roster. If the player was on the active list for fewer than nine games during their "only Accrued Season(s)," he maintains his eligibility for the practice squad.
Since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I would end today’s news with a little comic relief. A few days ago ESPN was wondering which NFC East teams would trade their QB for the services of Eli Manning. Todd Archer answered how most Cowboys fans would - no way. Ed Valentine of Big Blue View didn’t quite agree.
Valentine’s View: I agree with Archer, but in reverse. Would I make this trade if I were Jerry Reese? Heck no.
Archer is right, statistically Romo, 36, is superior to Manning. When you look at the regular season body of work — and Giants fans will kill me for this — it’s hard to argue that Manning is a better player.
Seems reasonable, but this is where it gets funny.
The thing is, durability counts. The fact that Manning is behind center game after game after game after game means a lot. If Manning had been quarterbacking the Cowboys last season they might have won the Super Bowl. Instead they won just four, going 1-11 in the 12 games Romo missed.
Might have won the Super Bowl? Sure, okay.