Cowboys 53-man roster projection, 2.0: Opportunity, competition abound on Dallas’ revamped defense - John Owning, DMN
Trysten Hill would be a surprising cut for the Cowboys.
Defensive line (10)
DeMarcus Lawrence, EDGE
Randy Gregory, EDGE
Osa Odighizuwa, iDL
Neville Gallimore, iDL
Brent Urban, iDL
Chauncey Golston, EDGE/iDL
Quinton Bohanna, NT
Tarrel Basham, EDGE
Dorance Armstrong, EDGE
Bradlee Anae, EDGE
While most of the roster spots on offense are locked in and accounted for, the defense is a bit of a free-for-all with a lot of roster spots up for grabs, especially on the defensive line.
The biggest surprises here are that former second-round pick Trysten Hill and free-agent addition Carlos Watkins didn’t make the cut. While Hill flashed some great things last year, earning a new coaching staff’s trust coming off a serious injury is a tall task, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he was a surprise cut.
While I think it would be unwise, there’s also a chance Dallas keeps Hill or Watkins over Bradlee Anae, Dorance Armstrong or Tarrel Basham to keep more interior defensive line depth on the roster.
The Cowboys have a real competition at tight end.
16) How Will The Cowboys Juggle Their Tight Ends?
Rob Phillips: Dalton Schultz definitely earned a spot in the rotation last year while Blake Jarwin was injured, so it’ll be interesting to see how those snaps are split with Jarwin returning. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Cowboys played two-tight-end sets on 21% of the snaps in 2020 and 18% in 2019, when Jarwin and Schultz rotated with Jason Witten. That’s not a huge diet of 12 personnel – overwhelmingly and understandably, the offense mostly features three wide receivers (71% in 2020) – but it has been part of Kellen Moore’s system. The club also signed Jeremy Sprinkle to replace Blake Bell as a proven blocker in the run game.
Jonny Auping: I think that, in all likelihood, Blake Jarwin gets considerably more snaps than Dalton Schultz and Schultz becomes something of an odd man out this season. I know a lot of smart people disagree with me, and I certainly think Schultz proved that he deserves the coaching staff trying to figure out how to get him on the field, but that’s easier said than done. The Cowboys have the envious problem of too many playmakers. Plenty of teams have success with two-tight end sets, but I don’t know that Schultz is a more important weapon than who would be taken off the field for him. If you assume that Jarwin is on the field, then you have to tell me which of CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott shouldn’t be out there so that Shultz can be on the field. And they’re already trying to find creative ways to get Tony Pollard on the field. Obviously, this all banks on Jarwin being ready to handle a full workload, and either way Schultz will be worked into the rotation. I’m sure we’ll see them both on the field at times, I just wouldn’t expect heavy doses of it.
Could Schultz end up being a bigger force in 2021?
Dallas Cowboys: TE Dalton Schultz
After topping 300 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons, Dallas Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin missed the majority of the 2020 campaign after tearing his ACL in Week 1. In his absence, Dalton Schultz (615 receiving yards, four touchdowns) established himself as a reliable starting option.
While Jarwin will be back in the rotation this year, Schultz should be poised to take another step toward tight end stardom. His emergence in 2020 largely came with Andy Dalton at quarterback as starter Dak Prescott was lost five games into the regular season.
Prescott, who led the NFL with 1,856 passing yards when he was injured, is expected to be at 100 percent by Week 1. With the Cowboys’ franchise quarterback under center, Schultz should be even more productive than he was a year ago.
Anthony Brown is healthy, eager to embrace leadership role in Cowboys’ young secondary Calvin Watkins, DMN
Dallas may have to rely on a vet to bridge a gap.
If Joseph can’t start opposite 2020 second-round pick Trevon Diggs, which is the early expectation, veteran Anthony Brown is waiting.
Brown, who started 10 games last season before rib injuries forced him to miss six games, got the first-team reps in offseason practices. When the Cowboys get to training camp in Oxnard, Calif., Brown is one of the starters until, or if, Joseph ascends past him.
The Cowboys secondary was a maligned group the last two seasons with many critics ready to push players such as Brown out the door. But the Cowboys signed Brown last year to a three-year contract when he hit free agency, so on the surface he’s not going anywhere.
Drafting Diggs last year and Joseph this year puts pressure on Brown to produce.
“There’s always competition,” Brown said. “It’s the NFL. There’s always going to be competition. We lost [cornerback Chidobe Awuzie] so we got to replace him and somebody got to come in. So, there’s always going to be competition and you got to do your part and don’t worry about that. Like I said, make everybody better around you. At the end of the day, if we win, everybody win.”
The LVE question.
After a stellar rookie season that resulted in a Pro Bowl nomination, the Dallas Cowboys figured they’d hit the lottery with the selection of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. Four years later and the Wolfhunter could be playing his final season in Dallas.
That’s quite a steep decline. From being a breakout superstar on America’s Team to the Cowboys refusing to pick up the fifth-year option on your rookie deal, making 2021 a contract year for the 25-year old Vander Esch.
Since that spectacular rookie season, when Vander Esch recorded a whopping 140 total tackles, seven pass deflections, and two interceptions, the young linebacker has missed a total of 13 games over the past two years due to injuries.
If the best ability a player can possess is truly availability, then the Cowboys were right to pass on that extra contract year in order to force Vander Esch to prove he can stay healthy. And if he’s unable to do so this season, his time in Dallas could come to an end.
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