Organized team activities has not even started yet and people already coming out with their 53 man rosters. admittedly this can be fun and excitement of the Cowboys is officially back. We just witnessed the rookies getting their first taste of the NFL and go through practices and film/ training sessions with the coaching staff. There is not a Cowboys fan anywhere that is not in anticipation of September 13th, the Cowboys first regular season game. wow this is understandable, we still have a ton of work to do. For starters, the inside competition will start first. In what ways? Position battles.
The main competition will be who will get the majority of the snaps at running back. Will it be Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams or Darren McFadden? At the current time, Cowboys are electing to keep the competition in-house. Has Ryan Williams improved his pass protection over the last year? Many are high on Williams because of the player he was coming out of Virginia Tech. He has the talent needed to be a featured running back but health has derailed his career. Williams has not played a game since week 5 of the 2012 NFL season. Is this the year he gets on track and run away with the job of Cowboys main threat? Some point to the contract details and signing bonuses between Williams and McFadden as an indicator to who has the upper hand. All that says is that Williams has the better agent. The rest will be handled on the field.
The position battle at left guard is sure to be a nice one. The Cowboys already had, with little debate, the best offensive line in the NFL. It only got stronger through the draft process. La’el Collins went undrafted due to a murder investigation that he wasn’t involved in. This Top 15 Talent decided to come to Dallas to be a part of something legendary. Now his task is to supersede the last player that the Cowboys signed undrafted at guard, Ronald Leary. Leary has shown heart and character battling veterans like Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernardeau and his own injuries. He earned his spot and has had a huge role in the success of this team.
The Cowboys also drafted tackles Chaz Green and Laurence Gibson. Green could very well be the heir apparent at RT. He needs to improve his strength, but has the skill set and athleticism to be a solid starter in this league. He is also versatile which comes in handy when picking which lineman can contribute to your team. Gibson is the player that worked out for Mark Columbo, offensive line assistant and former Cowboy. Even after taking a tackle early in draft, the impression Gibson left on the staff merited a selection. Players like Ryan Miller, Darion Weems and John Wetzel will need to continue to improve, both physically and mentally or they could be left behind.
Tyler Clutts was released so the Cowboys need to find another Fullback. The two that they have on their roster now are Ray Agnew and Jed Collins. Agnew is a strong down hill blocker while Collins is the more dimensional zone blocker. He can block from the I- formation or the off set. Having a solid lead blocker is important to a running game. They must act with power and precision. They need to quickly identify their assigned man and work in unison with the line and the runner to accomplish goal of a successful play call. Expectations for the fullback is not just run block but to perform effectively on passing downs as well, be it staying in to protect Romo or running a route for a short gain. Whoever can have the most impact on this team as a football player will get the job.
The Cowboys spent not just one draft pick, but one next year as well to grab Geoff Swain, Tight End from the University of Texas. This is yet another example of where the Cowboys are thinking smart. Two things they know for certain. Jason Witten isn’t getting younger and James Hanna is in his contract year. Has he proved that he can be the player that the Cowboys need? If not, the Cowboys will not think twice about letting him in go. If this is the case, I am sure he will go on to bigger things like former backups Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett. What about Gavin Escobar? He is a great target and a huge receiving threat (9 catches, 105 yards and 4 Touchdowns), but are the Cowboys using him enough? Is his lack of blocking ability hurting his opportunity? He is one of the players that I want to see more of. Rookie Ray Hamilton will also be in camp trying to earn a spot on this team.
Not to be lost in the shuffle is the replacing of Dwayne Harris. Harris left via free agency to the New York Giants. He was more than just our fourth receiver. He was a gunner on the return team and returned both kicks and punts. He was a versatile player that will be missed. He didn’t have that many touches at receiver, especially with Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams and Cole Beasely ahead of him, but the team trusted him if his number was called. A handful of undrafted rookies and a few second year guys will be looking to step up. Devin Street doesn’t offer too much from a special teams perspective, but he runs great routes and has solid hands. He didn’t get to see much action, but was on the active roster each game. Chris Boyd will be looking to make the transition from practice squad to the 53 man roster. Boyd is a big receiver. With improved route running, he could be a dangerous weapon. Rookies like Antwan Goodley, Ronald Lucky Whitehead, George Farmer and Deontay Greenbury will try to earn their keep by winning the return job. Farmer is a physical and athletically gifted wideout. Goodley played at Baylor University and can be a solid weapon. Lucky might have the advantage in the return game, but he will have to show he can compete on a far greater level then what he was accustomed to. This will be the fastest way to make the team. During all drills, they will need to maintain their focus and rise to the occasion. They are competing against other players for the position they play and opposing corners trying to earn a spot as well.
The health of Tony Romo is a huge concern. The hopes of a franchise lay with his arm and on his surgically repaired back. He has stated that he is feeling as good as he has felt in years. Just thinking about this offensive line must do wonders to his mental health, but we know that it only takes one hit to change the outlook. So with that in mind, the back up quarterback position will be one of emphasis. Dustin Vaughn or Brandon Weeden? Weeden failed to capitalize on all the preparation he received filling in for an injured Romo. He had the majority of reps in training, and then the starters reps each Wednesday. Given the opportunity to reveal his grasp of this offense and confidently lead this team to a victory, he failed. Weeden threw for 183 yards, 1 TD, with 2 interceptions and a passer rating of 55.5 on the way to a 28-17 loss. The most prepared backup in the league couldn’t get the job done. Dustin Vaughn will get his chance this year. Vaughn made the roster and spent every game learning and soaking up any information that would help him become a better player. He saw the good decisions and bad decisions and got schooled on how to handle certain situations. Learning from the sideline is a helpful thing, but come OTAs and Training Camp, he will be tested to see if he can become a player the Cowboys can count on in the worst case scenario. He has all the tools that you need: strong arm, accurate, poised, ample mobility and toughness. This battle means more to Vaughn as he is trying to show the Cowboys that he can be the guy once Romo hangs up his holsters.
OTAs begin May 26. The coaches can finally get to see the picture they have been working on since that loss in Green Bay. Cowboy fans are ready. After a long off-season, the Cowboys should be ready as well.