20Q: What Position Still Needs An Upgrade? - David Helman, Rob Phillips, Nick Eatman, DallasCowboys.com
The Cowboys could still work on their roster, and here are some thoughts about where.
David Helman: Ready for me to sound like a broken record? Let’s talk about the safeties. Following the disastrous decision to sign HaHa Clinton-Dix last spring, the Cowboys opted to spend even less in 2021, bringing in Damontae Kazee on a prove-it deal. In a vacuum, I like the move. Kazee knows Dan Quinn’s scheme, and he’s had several good NFL seasons. The problem is that he’s coming off a torn Achilles – which is a heck of a challenging injury for a safety to bounce back from. But he’s going to need to. The Cowboys have a promising up-and-comer in Donovan Wilson, and they also signed some veteran experience in Jayron Kearse. But the bottom line is that neither of these guys is a completely proven commodity. I’m not going to be surprised if we’re once again talking about safety as a problem spot in 2022.
Nick Eatman: I know we’re going to talk about this in other questions down the road, so I’ll bypass the center position for now, but I do think that’s a spot that needs some more experience. But to answer this question differently, I would say the secondary, specifically at safety. There’s just no one there right now that you completely trust. Again, this is a question before camp – before we’ve seen what Donovan Wilson looks like and what Kearse and Kazee show us out in Oxnard. But if a better option comes available in camp, I could see the Cowboys adding a little more experience at this spot.
Rob Phillips: The Cowboys haven’t added more competition at backup quarterback to this point, but they’ve made no secret about looking into free agent options, and they’ve held some workouts this spring. It’s no mystery why: There is talent behind Dak Prescott, but the trio of Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci have two career starts between them: one start each for DiNucci and Gilbert last year on extremely short notice. It’s just a big gap in experience compared to what Andy Dalton provided as the No. 2 guy last year. Perhaps the Cowboys are waiting to see how the backups perform in preseason, while also keeping an eye on the free agent landscape into the summer. But it’s definitely a position to watch.
Tyler Biadasz is already drawing comparisons to Travis Frederick - Justin A, Morris, Blogging The Boys
Dallas seems confident in Tyler Biadasz as their starting center.
His replacement: Tyler Biadasz, Dallas’ fourth-round (146th overall) selection in 2020, who wholly impressed the team’s staff during his stinted spurts of playing time. Looney and Biadasz both had injury issues in 2020, but it didn’t take long for the ‘Boys to opt for Biadasz’s services in favor of Looney’s following the season. Now the former is ready to lay claim as the franchise’s unquestioned long-term snapper.
As of right now, Dallas is giving him the leeway to do so.
Biadasz’s job security is tight as a safety belt entering 2021. He’s the far-and-away primary center on the team’s depth chart, and according to several sources, he’s doing everything he can to affirm his coaches’ faith in him.
His teammates are taking note of the development.
He’s just figured out everything that he needs to know being the center of the offensive line — making the calls. He’s speaking with more confidence. He’s asking the questions that you want a center to ask against certain different things, adjustments, and everything like that, what to do.”
“He reminds me a lot of Trav [Frederick]. He’s got a lot of Travis in him. He’s great to see because we all know how great Travis was.”
That’s quite the comparison given such a little body of work. Now, Biadasz isn’t nearly the player that Frederick was in his heyday. But if he can transform into something resembling the player “Trav” was, the Cowboys committed highway robbery in the fourth round of last year’s draft.
The backup QB position is still one that could see some tinkering.
Aside from wide receiver Amari Cooper, who is battling an ankle injury, everyone else appears to be fully healthy. Players like tackle Tyron Smith, tackle La’el Collins, guard Zack Martin and even running back Ezekiel Elliott looks to be better than ever.
However, the Cowboys might still look to improve their team through free agency. With Dallas having about $6 million in cap space left for the 2021 season, according to overthecap.com, they could still sign a veteran or a backup player.
One position that the Cowboys could look to improve is their quarterback group. Last season, this group struggled without Prescott. After his ankle injury, Dallas’s backup quarterbacks combined for just 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Additionally, the Cowboys’ backup quarterback from a season ago, Andy Dalton, left for free agency. As a result, this group just got much thinner. Let’s take a look at the current quarterbacks on their roster.
‘Aggressive, competitive’ third-rounder Nahshon Wright named surprise of Cowboys minicamp - Todd Brock, CowboysWire
This draft pick was mocked on draft night, but may have the last laugh.
“He’s made some plays,” McCarthy said per the team website. “There are some technique things, which we’re all are going through right now- pretty much at every position- but yeah, I really like the way that he’s jumped in here. He’s been aggressive, competitive. Definitely what you’re looking for in your young guys.”
The former junior college star has also turned the head of ESPN’s Todd Archer. The NFL Nation reporter singled out Wright as the Cowboys’ “surprise player to know” coming out of minicamp:
“Wright was something of a surprise pick in the third round, but his size (6-foot-4, 183 pounds) made him a perfect match for what coordinator Dan Quinn wants in a cornerback. Through the rookie minicamp and into the organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, Wright has been around the ball a ton. He had multiple interceptions and a handful of pass breakups. It hasn’t always been clean and he has a long way to go, but the Cowboys might have hit on a less-than-known pick.”
Just being a nice surprise thus far doesn’t punch Wright’s ticket, though, especially at his position. The Cowboys already have sophomore standout Trevon Diggs and veterans Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis in their ranks, and Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph was drafted 55 spots ahead of Wright. But the youngster- he won’t turn 23 until after the season starts- is used to fighting for recognition, as evidenced by his ascension from Last Chance U to a starting role in a PAC-12 program.
Cowboys’ Dan Quinn raves about ‘intense’ Leighton Vander Esch ahead of training camp: ‘He’s on a mission’ - Patrik Walker, CBSSports
LVE is fighting for his position on this defense.
“I’ve been really impressed, [and] not just from the OTA time,” Quinn told media. “Every once and a while you can just see a person that’s on a mission, and I think that’s what I’ve seen from Leighton from the time I arrived. You could just feel the energy, the intensity that he’s putting into his workouts to change his body to get as strong as he could.
“From then on, the questions, in the meetings, you could feel the urgency to go. I guess, just a quick story for him: The tackling, ‘Hey I want to improve on this spot. The work that we did and the techniques to do it.’ It’s been so impressive to see him find little things to work on over and over again, to complete his game. He’s been very impressive to me so far.”
As the Cowboys break for the summer and ready for the start of training camp in Oxnard, California, come July, Vander Esch isn’t mincing words when asked if he’s motivated by his fifth-year option having been waived by the Cowboys brass.
“I’ve always been motivated,” the former Pro Bowler said. “I don’t have to use that to be motivated to play better or work harder. I’ve been on a mission since the season was over because we just can’t have a season like we did last season. I’m just controlling what I can control and the rest will take care of itself.
Trades. Maybe they could happen.
Jaylon Smith, LB
The Cowboys bolstered their linebacker corps during the 2021 NFL draft, using a first-round pick on Micah Parsons and a fourth-round selection on Jabril Cox. That helped Dallas improve an area of its defense that needed to get better following the end of the 2020 campaign.
It also could lead to the Cowboys trading a linebacker before the start of the 2021 season. And Smith, who is set to earn $7.2 million during the upcoming season, might be the most likely candidate.
Dallas has received trade interest in Smith, according to Patrik Walker of CBS Sports, and for good reason. The 26-year-old has played all 16 games in each of his first four NFL seasons, and in 2020, he had a career-high 154 tackles, as well as 1.5 sacks, one interception and two fumble recoveries.
Of course, the Cowboys may opt to continue building around Smith on their defense, even with the players they have brought in this offseason. But they would be wise to continue to listen to trade offers and make a move if they can get back a big return.
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