It is a yearly occurrence, as predictable as the buzzards coming back to Hinckley. The NFL Combine has arrived, free agency is about to get into full swing, and arguments rage about all the rumors and questions surrounding the Dallas Cowboys. At times, there is a state of near-panic over what one of the Jones family says, or a report about what the coaching staff may try out during camp. It can make for some social media reading that ranges from the amusing to the maddening. With so little hard data to work with, it looks like a good time to touch on some of the hot topics and try to offer a bit of calm.
Remember: It’s early, and nothing is set in stone.
This has been called the silly season, and for good reason. It is the time for floating trial balloons. Just because something is mentioned or suggested, it doesn’t mean that is a harbinger of what is to come. Don’t get too wrapped up with what is being said. It is fun to play GM and argue about what should be done, but until contracts are signed and draft picks turned in, it is all very fluid. Things can change in an instant.
One of the hottest topics, and one that is being written about repeatedly, is the Dez Bryant situation. And with the repeated statements from executive vice president Stephen Jones that leave open the idea of parting ways with Bryant or trying to force a pay cut, there is a lot to hash out. I certainly am a participant in that, including my latest appearance with our own Michael Sisemore on the Brews and the Boys podcast. But (at least as far as we can tell), no actual discussions have taken place with Dez and his agent.
Once that actually happens, then we will be able to discuss whether the team mishandled the situation or not. But that is still in the future. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. It is all we can really do.
So the team is going to try Jaylon Smith at the SAM linebacker spot.
This really set people off. Smith has always been a source of some contention, given that the team spent a second-round pick on him knowing that he was not going to be able to play for a year, and may never be the player he was before his devastating knee injury.
It was thought that he might be the future at the MIKE position, but then word emerged that the team was thinking about seeing how he could do as the SAM.
Furor ensued. The Cowboys’ management/staff was roasted for making such a huge mistake in projecting what Smith would become. But maybe it is not such a foolish thing when you step back and look at it.
The team, Stephen Jones in particular, has indicated that they have not given up on keeping Anthony Hitchens. IF they succeed in that, the idea of trying Smith at SAM, with Hitchens in the middle and Sean Lee at the WILL, may just be a way to get their three best linebackers on the field at once in the best alignment possible. This seems to be the idea for the base defense, and nowadays, that is not the way the defense will line up most of the time. On the majority of snaps, there will only be two linebackers on the field as they go to the nickel package. And the plan there still seems to be rolling with Lee and Smith most of the time. It seems to be more of an adjustment the team is looking at. And we saw how much criticism there was of the staff for not making the right adjustments in 2017.
I am more than open to hearing suggestions on how you defend against the diverse set of offenses in the league without moving some people around in the scheme. https://t.co/rerN2gESPS— Birddog26 (@Birddog26) March 1, 2018
Also, trying something in camp does not mean that is what they will do in the regular season. We have a long time to go. Patience is hard for fans, but we will have to exercise a little.
The draft is still almost two months away.
Mock drafts are fun, but are so unpredictable. And we as fans lack so much crucial knowledge. Most importantly, we will likely not know how the draft board at the Star really looks - much less those of the other 31 teams. With the Combine just now getting into full swing, those boards really haven’t begun to take shape.
There is so much to still sort out. One of the most important things for the Cowboys has always been who they bring in for their 30 visits. That has usually given some strong indications of who the team is looking at, and it also tips a bit what rounds they are trying to target them in.
The most fun in the draft are the inevitable surprises. The head-scratchers, the players that go way earlier than we thought, and the ones that fall unexpectedly. And those are the things that can create opportunity, but also lead to some bad mistakes. The draft always has an element of chance. Seemingly sure things bust, and players you never expected become stars. Try to keep a sense of fun about things. Sure, you will be either thrilled or crushed by the picks the Cowboys eventually make, but remember: Right now, you have no idea who those picks will actually be. Enjoy the suspense.
Always remember to check if their lips are moving.
For the next few weeks, be very careful taking what you hear at face value. This is especially true regarding free agency and trades, and certainly applies to the draft as well. While Jerry and Stephen Jones have an unusual history of being rather open and honest with their statements, most things you hear from coaches and executives this time of year are shrouded with mystery and disinformation. Pay attention to who is saying what, and how reliable various sources have been in the past.
One of the interesting things for those who have been paying attention is how often old news gets thrown out as something breaking and new. The Jaylon Smith story is just one example. There was mention of just that kind of experimentation over a month ago, but memories are short and clicks are precious. Keep a good supply of granular salt around. You are going to need it.
The big thing: Try to stay calm and keep a little perspective. Once deals are actually made and the draft picks are done, then we will have some real things to go over. For now, we are at times a bit like Jon Snow, and really know nothing. And that is just fine.