The consensus is pretty much universal. The Dallas Cowboys did as much or more to improve their roster as any team in the NFL this offseason. With some very efficient free agent signings plus just crushing the NFL Draft, they have seen a badly needed infusion of talent. The usual caveat applies that we are just making a projection here pending the resumption of real football activities. Still, everyone and their little dog Mr. Waggles seems to share the belief this is just a better football team than it was a couple of months ago.
That leads us to the question of the day: What is the strongest position group on the team now?
This is not just about having the best starters, although that obviously is a big part of the equation. It includes depth, which plays a big part in at least one case.
In the past, the answer for most people was pretty much a given. It was the offensive line. Loaded with All Pros, it has been seen as one of the top units in the league for years now, and was recognized as the best of them all in 2014. But developments there and at some other spots makes this a much more open question for 2020. So here are the contenders, and why.
Just because there are other contenders it doesn’t mean that this still talented bunch is going to just give up the title. Although the loss of Travis Frederick after his suffering through Guillain-Barre Syndrome hurts, they still have Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, both still in the conversation for the best at their positions in the NFL. La’el Collins is underappreciated by many, but he is showing the potential to eventually earn his own awards and is particularly valuable in the run game.
La'el Collins thunder slapping the LDE will always be my favorite part of this play. https://t.co/zeVhgPQ151— John Owning (@JohnOwning) May 11, 2020
Connor Williams is still growing as a left guard, but he was not at all inadequate in 2019. There might be competition for his starting job from Connor McGovern.
That leaves center. With Joe Looney back and McGovern also an option there, the team went into the draft in pretty good shape to fill that hole. Things just got better on day three of the draft when they traded up for the last pick in the fourth round and took Tyler Biadasz. If he is fully recovered from the injuries that caused him to slide, after being seen as a possible first-round pick before last season, he has future starter written all over him. His pedigree as a Wisconsin product doesn’t hurt, as Frederick is also from that school, which turns out some impressive NFL line talent.
The depth in the interior of the line looks good already, and players like Adam Redmond may also get into the mix as a backup. Tackle is more problematic, but the team just signed Cam Erving to compete with Brandon Knight and Mitch Wyatt, among others, for a swing tackle job. And the new rules on roster size may allow the team to carry separate backups for LT and RT.
Look for this group to continue to play at a very high level.
OK, this one is all about the starters. With two 1,100 yard receivers already on the roster in Amari Cooper and Micheal Gallup, the Cowboys had the amazing good luck to have Ceedee Lamb somehow fall right into their laps at pick 17 of the first round. While rookies don’t always live up to their potential, Lamb looks as ready for the big league as any from this years draft class. The Cowboys use a lot of 11 personnel (and hopefully will rely on it even more) so Lamb is going to get plenty of opportunity to show what he has. This may not be the best starting trio in the league - but it should be in the conversation.
Depth is uncertain, to say the least, with a collection of players that have little playing time or production even when taken together. They currently have seven to contend for backup jobs, however, and can always sign more. You never know when a real value will unexpectedly go on the market, as we will discuss a bit more later. The WR camp battle is always an interesting one, and just one more reason we are so eager for football to finally come back.
And with those starters, things should go very well no matter who is on the bench.
Dak Prescott is by any objective measure already one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league, and probably more top five or six quality. The team still has not reached a deal with him on a new contract, but he will play this year, even if it winds up being on the franchise tag. He has started every game of his career with Dallas, which means he possesses the invaluable qualities of availability and durability. But during his four years, the team has flirted with disaster by relying on players like Mark Sanchez, current offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, and UDFA Cooper Rush as his backups.
Enter Andy Dalton. While it was fairly obvious that he might go on the market with the Cincinnati Bengals targeting Joe Burrow in the draft, it was widely believed that he would have teams with a need for an experienced and often productive starter. No one expected him to sign with the Cowboys with a clear understanding that he would be the QB2.
His Texas roots and college career at TCU just down the road from AT&T Stadium helped tilt him in Dallas’ direction, and now the Cowboys have, at the least, one of the two best backups in the NFL. The case is pretty strong that he is indeed number one. From a position that was just one deep, the quarterback room now has to be considered for the best of the team.
Just like quarterback, the situation here has been vastly improved this offseason. The signing of both Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe provided a sudden infusion of very talented and accomplished interior linemen. Both are seeking to reassert their value in Dallas and should be quite hungry as a result. Then the team drafted Neville Gallimore in the third round, and he will likely be a key rotational piece this year. They also still have ERFA Antwaun Woods that they can bring on at any time. That puts a lot of pressure on Trysten Hill, since Mike McCarthy has already stated that he likes to carry four DTs on the roster. Hopefully once practices begin, he can show some improvement and keep himself in the mix.
And Tyrone Crawford will be another source of depth, although he is likely to be carried on the roster as a DE. His ability to play inside as well is proven.
For years, the Cowboys have not been willing to invest in IDL talent. The resources they put into the group was arguably the most dramatic change in philosophy this year. A massive nose tackle like Poe was simply something they had avoided in recent years. Now, what was once a persistent weak spot has to be considered for the strongest position group Dallas has.
Those are my top four positions for the team. The important thing here is not which one is really the strongest.
It is that there are four that all merit that consideration.
Let us know which you would crown. And if you have another to add, let us know.