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Week 14 BTB mailbag: Questions at cornerback, questions at wide receiver

People have questions about the Cowboys as they prepare for the Texans, and we strive to provide answers.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Every week, we will be taking questions on Twitter about the upcoming Dallas Cowboys game and other questions surrounding the team. So let’s get right into it.

@CowboysnationGermany: With the addition of Mackensie Alexander: [Kelvin] Joseph outside and [DaRon] Bland as slot corner? Or Bland outside and Mackensie from the slot. What do you think is the better option?

Brandon: Bland has had three interceptions on the season out of the slot. I wouldn’t move him because of his development at that position and needing to see what Kelvin Joseph can provide as a starting cornerback. The Cowboys have a lot of decisions to make at the position in the offseason, with Anthony Brown being a free agent and the Cowboys having the ability release Jourdan Lewis and his contract before 2023. Coming out of the draft, Joseph had all the traits to be a good corner, and if there is anyone I trust to get the best out of him, it’s Dan Quinn. I think the Alexander signing provides a safety net in case Joseph is bad between now and, let’s say, the Titans game. At that point, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them move Bland to the outside and put Alexander in the slot. Give Joseph a chance, and let’s see what he’s got.

Mike: I like what DaRon Bland offers from the slot. He’s a nickel corner player with size, agility and speed from slot. But the issue then lies in what to do at outside corner. And, it’s a pick your poison moment for now.

@DonaldAshbury: How do you grade Kelvin Joseph?

Brandon: He has the traits and talent to be a quality No. 2 cornerback in the NFL. Joseph is a more willing tackler than someone like Trevon Diggs. I think with run defense, you’ll see him help on the outside better than Brown because of his time on special teams this season. Dane Brugler of The Athletic said this about Joseph in his Beast Draft Guide coming out of college: “Overall, Joseph won’t be a fit for every organization due to maturity concerns, but he has first-round physical talent and the athleticism to blanket any type of receiver, which is why a team will likely roll the dice on him in the top-50 picks.” Brugler also mentioned that one of Joseph’s weaknesses is his eyes and lack of vision in defending the ball. Look no further than the touchdown he gave up to Alec Pierce on Sunday night. Those problems can be fixed with good coaching and experience, but we’ll see how quickly that happens in the five remaining games.

Mike: It’s literally all binary with Kelvin Joseph. On one side, good tackler, good levels of athleticism, physical and strong, and one thing he does have over Anthony Brown, is his run defense. The other side going against Joseph is simply experience and refinement. He lacks both. When he was taken in the NFL Draft his big negative was playing experience. During his time in his final year playing at Kentucky, he played a handful of games, notched a bunch of tackles and got one pass deflection. That lack of experience and coverage skills is now being seen in the NFL. If you haven’t done it college, then you can bet it gets harder in the NFL. For now, it’s all about getting more experience, getting more time on the field, and getting time with the coaches in practice and film room to get Joseph playing better at game time. But at this stage of the season, can the coaching staff afford to be patient, for even longer than they have been already?

@KeithHopkins: What effect will the return of James Washington make to the offense?

Brandon: I think he will replace what the team wasn’t getting from Jalen Tolbert on offense. This is a receiver who worked with Ben Roethlisberger his entire career. Washington knows how to work with a quarterback's strengths and weaknesses. Dak Prescott has built up rapport and trust with Lamb, Gallup, and Brown, so I don’t expect Washington to go for 100 yards in his first game back. However, his veteran experience will make the transition a lot easier once he gets the feel of playing in the NFL back. Washington got hurt early in training camp so he has been out of commission for a long time. He could be great on go routes, given his speed, which no other receiver besides Michael Gallup has done so far this season.

Mike: This is all about bodies. When the regular season ends, and it looks likely the Cowboys head to the playoffs this year, you need as much depth on your roster as possible. These guys are already tired and beat up. And rotating them, keeping them fresh and healthy is the aim of the game. On the other side of that, Dak and Washington looked good together in preseason training, and Washington was catching some nice intermediate and deep passes. Having that extra passing option, which defenses have to account for and scheme against, only helps open more opportunities for the other pass catchers.

@PatrickMullens: Do we really need OBJ?

Brandon: The Dallas Cowboys want OBJ, and the New York Giants need OBJ. I do believe there is a difference. The Cowboys receivers have gotten way better since the Green Bay game and continue to show play-making ability that wasn’t there during the Cooper Rush era. A lot of that has to do with Prescott coming back, but also the receivers using the OBJ rumors as motivation to get better. If he won’t be healthy for the playoffs, there is no need for him this season. I’ve seen people mention signing him now to prepare for 2023 would be getting him at a discount, but I think there will be better options than him by that point. You always have the draft and players like Brandin Cooks and Cedrick Wilson, who might be cap casualty releases that Dallas can bring in. I would say the OBJ ship has sailed for me if he can’t be a factor in 2022.

Mike: As much as people talk about the OBJ option, I’ve always said this roster was missing depth at cornerback more than wide receiver. And with the Brown injury, that’s even more of the case now. Having OBJ at Dallas would be nice, as the receiver corps is missing a solid route runner that can split safeties. And OBJ is maybe one the best slant and seam route runners in the business. Do the Cowboys “need” OBJ? No, is the short answer. Do they want him here to add more depth and power to the offense? Yes. But if he doesn’t arrive, this receiver corps, which includes the tight ends, has shown plenty in the last few weeks how they can produce at a high level without him.

@RyanLewis: If we do get OBJ, I think he will be the difference in the playoffs, even a 70% OBJ will make the difference. Want to see if you guys agree?

Brandon: I think if the Cowboys had OBJ in the Packers game on that fourth down call, it would have been a higher probability for success. However, I think we’re hearing at this point the locker room is starting to become agitated by the constant questions about him. DeMarcus Lawrence spoke to the media and had an interesting response to the media. All I have to say is if the “circus” is starting to impact the locker room, a 70 percent OBJ won’t be a factor if he becomes a distraction. At this point, keep the team you have, and let’s ride.

Mike: If the Cowboys manage to get OBJ in the building, then it’s more than likely you won’t see him until the playoffs. His injuries, learning the playbook, as well as lack of playing time this year, means he has a long way to go before we see him linking up with Dak. But if they do add him, it’s the Jones’ and coaching staff’s eagerness to make a deep run in the playoffs. When the Cowboys are 3rd and 5 and need to get the first down to keep the drive alive, and Beckham is the first read and needs to make the play - that’s the Beckham signing. But right now, the problem with OBJ is all on the risk assessment with his health. And do the Cowboys want to gamble on that?

Be sure to check @kenfigkowboy and @brandoniswrite on Twitter for the weekly post, asking you for your questions for the weekly mailbag.

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