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Cowboys starters and backups: Where have they gotten better and where have they gotten worse?

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Let’s breakdown each position group and see where the team has improved.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys will enter the 2019 season a new and improved team. With changes on offense and defense, this team has had a great offseason and have improved their chances of going deeper into the playoffs this upcoming season. But just how much better did they get?

Here is a position group breakdown that identifies projected starters and the top player off the bench at each position. Each position group will be highlighted with the following colors to depict whether or not the team has taken a step forward or back from a year ago.

  • Green indicates an upgrade
  • Yellow indicates no change
  • Red indicates a downgrade

OFFENSE

What’s gotten worse?

Nothing. Every position group on offense has either improved or stayed the same. At this time last season, the Cowboys were facing a handful of areas were there was a drop off from the previous season. The loss of Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Travis Frederick put their respective position groups in a precarious situation and it was ultimately felt once the season began.

What’s stayed the same?

The Cowboys quarterback position still consists of Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. Fans are hoping the 2019 season shows a growth for Dak as new quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore were brought over to help him along. There is no guarantee that Rush holds down the backup job. This could be the year that Mike White takes a step forward and challenges Rush for the no. 2 spot on the team.

What’s gotten better?

The biggest change comes from the team getting their All-Pro center Travis Frederick back. His return has a trickle down effect as the team immediately gets a bump up for their backup center with Joe Looney proving he can handle the job if his number is called.

Not only does the team get Frederick back, but Jason Witten has returned as well. People are always tapping the brakes with Witt, but all he does is get open, so having him back makes the team better.

The Cowboys surprised people when they selected Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern, but he was high on their board and they couldn’t pass him up. This brings some nice depth to an already great offensive line.

The wide receiver position group gets an upgrade since Amari Cooper will now be on the team a full season. The team lost Cole Beasley, but nobody will be talking about that much if Randall Cobb can put together a healthy season. It’s unclear who will round out the bench at WR, but with candidates like Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns in the mix, the group as a whole should be better than they were a year ago.

While Rod Smith was a serviceable backup with special teams flex, the offense now has a dynamic receiving back in Tony Pollard to play with. It’s early, but this could be the most exciting RB tandem the team has had in a while.

DEFENSE

What’s gotten worse?

The Cowboys linebacker position group is one of the strongest in the league thanks to the dynamic duo of Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. Even though they were on the team last season, the starting group technically should be green because of the growth of these young LB stars. Sean Lee went from first to worst on the starter’s depth chart, which speaks to how top heavy the talent is.

But despite the team having great starters, the change from Damien Wilson to Joe Thomas is a small downgrade. It’s not anything that we’d worry too much about unless the team battles some injury issues at the position, but it’s still worth noting.

What’s stayed the same?

The players at the cornerback position group are the same from a year ago, but this is a young group that continues to get better. The impact of Kris Richard has brought the best out of his corners as the starters Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown all had the best seasons of their career. And with a hungry Jourdan Lewis buried on the depth chart, this group should be even stronger in 2019.

What’s gotten better?

The team made subtle upgrades at their two weakest defensive position groups - safety and defensive tackle. Free agent George Iloka should be a more reliable backup safety than Kavon Frazier. The team also signed free agent Christian Covington to shore up the depth on the interior defensive line, and rookie Trysten Hill is a player the Cowboys love as they used their top draft resource to snag him in April.

The biggest improvement may come at defensive end. With the trade to acquire Robert Quinn from the Miami Dolphins, the Cowboys suddenly have two legitimate threats on the edge. Randy Gregory, who was starting to put things together last season, now slides in as the top rotational pass rusher once he is cleared to return. And many are hopeful that Taco Charlton finally breaks out, which would only further strengthen this position group.


Overall, this team has gotten better across the board. Not only have they improved their starting units, but they’ve done a great job building up their depth as well. Credit the front office for making some tough decisions as the team had to sacrifice a lot to get to this point, but this team is primed and ready to go for another playoff run. This 2019 Dallas Cowboys team is going to be a lot of fun to watch.