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Cowboys mailbag: Dallas Cowboys roster questions

People have questions about the Cowboys, and we strive to provide the answers.

NFL: OCT 23 Lions at Cowboys Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

@CraigSyke: Of the players drafted in the last few years that have yet to contribute, who will take the next step in 2023?

Brandon: Jabril Cox needs to take a giant leap in his development as a pro. He’s been recovering from a torn ACL in 2021 but has yet to find the field as a contributor to Dan Quinn’s defense. In 2022, Cox was active for nine games as a special teams contributor. When he got his chance on defense, Cox played over 11 percent of the snaps three times, with the highest being 28 percent in Week 17 against the Titans. Cox will be entering his third year in Dallas and should find himself in a competition for a job if the Cowboys draft another young linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch could walk away to another team, opening the door for Damone Clark and Cox. If he wants to secure a roster spot, No. 14 will need to step up.

Mike: Three immediately spring to mind. First is Jalen Tolbert. He hasn’t got much to beat in terms of team contribution since he spent a year basically inactive. But with the team looking to be a west coast offense that means it needs pass catchers. How much of a contribution depends on his offseason development, but let’s hope that’s significant to take a healthy number of snaps. Next is Kelvin Joseph, and I know that’s almost swearing when using his name among Cowboys fans. The cornerback position is maybe the hardest position to master and some players just need time to figure it out. Joseph has the athletic ability and physical profile to play the position, it’s just figuring out the defensive alignment and concepts Dan Quinn is trying to coach into him. Three years is always the benchmark to use and that’s this season for Joseph. I foresee him taking the steps necessary to be a contributor on defense rather than a special teams ace. The third is Matt Waletzko who spent last season on injured reserve. He has a had a season to not just recover, but also learn the finer points to be a successful tackle in the NFL.

@DavidHayes: Dak needs more protection up front, and he needs more receivers. Which is more important?

Brandon: It’s more important to have the receivers. My intelligent colleague Mike disagrees, but that’s a good thing. 2022 proved that Prescott could play behind an offensive line that consists of a projected first-round rookie, a left guard playing his first entire season as a starter, an above-average center, a future Hall of Fame right guard, and a rotation of three players at right tackle. The Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers because Prescott had no one to go to outside of CeeDee Lamb. The offensive line was able to hold up pretty well. The front office thought No. 4 could make his wide receivers better in 2018, and then they traded for Amari Cooper. Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me. There can’t be a third season where Prescott has no help, or the Cowboys will officially close their championship window themselves.

Mike: Easy answer here, offensive line. If Dak’s eyes are at the line to watch for incoming pressure then it doesn’t matter who you have out there running routes. The offensive line is like the foundation of a house, and if that’s unstable, the structure collapses. What are the Cowboys doing about Connor McGovern? Where is Tyler Smith playing next year? How much time will Terence Steele miss at the start of the season? Right now this team needs offensive line first, but right behind that need is wide receiver as Brandon has pointed out.

@AllanTwiname: Hypothetically, if Dak was to go elsewhere, should the Cowboys go with Rush or Grier? Asking as a long-time fan who gets frustrated at the backup QB position.

Brandon: If Prescott is no longer in Dallas and those two are left to play quarterback, I might go dark for the season. That is not a wonderful world to live in. In the spirit of the question, Rush has proven to work well with the Cowboys and McCarthy. Kellen Moore played to Rush’s strengths and elevated his play, but it took McCarthy sitting down with Moore before the Week 2 matchup with the Bengals to ensure Rush was in the best position for success. Grier was reportedly looking great in training camp before getting hurt, but Rush showed he could win four games in the NFL. That is more valuable than hoping a player develops. Rush is a free agent the Cowboys should want to bring back, but if they can’t, Grier should be battling for the job with another veteran in 2023.

Mike: Think I just broke into a cold sweat with that hypothetical. If that was to pan out the Cowboys would most certainly have to go and find a veteran quarterback to come in and help out. Sure, Rush showcased he could take the team and win games, but for an entire season that would spell a bad finish to the season. As with nearly every NFL team apart from one or two, if the starting QB is out for the year or a long period of time, then the season is a write-off. Most teams want their backup to hold the fort for a couple of games or finish off a game if the starter comes up lame, and that’s enough value. Anything more is a case of hanging on as best as possible. What happens this offseason, however, will be interesting to watch as Grier has a lot more work to do. And Rush is officially an unrestricted free agent, so the backup QB position has an even bigger question mark than last year.

@LeoTan: If Dallas struggles and the LA Chargers go deep in the playoffs, will that make Jerry look bad?

Brandon: Moving on from Kellen Moore didn’t seem like a Jerry Jones decision. When the Joneses’ were in Mobile, AL, for the Senior Bowl, Stephen Jones talked about how McCarthy and Moore saw differently on philosophy and offensive scheme. McCarthy wanted to keep Moore around when he first came to Dallas and maintain continuity on offense and the language for Prescott’s development. Three years into the system, McCarthy should feel comfortable enough to run pieces of Moore’s scheme along with the input of his offense and from Brian Schottenheimer. If the Cowboys aren’t successful, it’ll be 100 percent on McCarthy, and Dallas will hit the reset button on their coaching staff.

Mike: The move of Kellen Moore to L.A. is actually quite a good move for him. How much of the offense the team will give him I’m not sure, but looking at the offensive pieces and how they operate is right in Kellen’s wheel house. I don’t think because they have the ex-Cowboys offensive coordinator is an indictment of the Cowboys system or can be used as a measuring stick against the team. There’s too many moving parts to a team’s season to do that. We can also reverse the situation and say that if Kellen or the Chargers offense doesn’t become a top five offense next season that’s not a reflection on Kellen either.

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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