Claiborne, Free and Spencer: Three Dallas Cowboys Not Worthy of a Starting Job
It's football as normal in Dallas. With a couple of preseason games in the books and a couple left, the Cowboys are returning to Valley Ranch after spending all of camp in Oxnard, California. The next time they go on the road they'll be bound for East Rutherford, NJ to take on the New York Giants for their highly anticipated 2012 opening game.
Between now and then, the Cowboys will host the Rams and the Dolphins and will have a full 14 days to prepare for Week 1, which gives us plenty of time to overreact to every preseason story and practice report that shows up in our Twitter feeds.
Staying on point, here are three players that have proven unworthy of a starting roster spot thus far.
1) Morris Claiborne
In most situations you wouldn't trade up in the first round of the draft to snag the best defensive player available and not start him immediately. The hype in and of itself has basically secured Morris Claiborne the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
A clearer head realizes that he's still adjusting to NFL speed, as rookies usually need to do. The question is, would the starting spot be his if not for injuries to other players in the Cowboys' secondary?
It's obvious that Mike Jenkins needs to get healthy before we can truly analyze what his role will be. Thus far he has been nothing more than a sideline figure while he recovers from shoulder surgery.
But the truth is, a healthy Jenkins playing opposite Brandon Carr is a better combination than Claiborne and Carr. Jenkins is a good cornerback who can play either left or right. His experience alone would win him the job, or at least keep the seat warm as Claiborne gets his feet wet. Unfortunately, Jenkins could be a ways off before being cleared to practice. The job is the rookie's for now but with Rob Ryan, nothing is guaranteed.
2) Doug Free
The 2012 trend is to pick on the Cowboys' offensive line. It's certainly been interesting and terrifying to watch as they juggle injuries and swap spots, with guards taking turns at playing center. The glaring lack of depth has made this the biggest question mark facing the Cowboys as the regular season approaches.
There are a number of players I could name here that aren't qualified to earn a starting role. Doug Free jumps to the top of the list. He wasn't good at left tackle last year so he's been moved to right tackle. So far, he's been barely mediocre there.
After all, it was Free who got beat on the play that resulted in a ruptured spleen for Jason Witten. If Free does his job, Romo doesn't get chased down in the backfield, Witten doesn't have his back to the defense, and the Cowboys don't have to worry about losing one of the most important players of their offense.
It's not quite fair to blame Free for Witten's injury. Those things happen. But this group needs to improve quickly. If the Cowboys had some depth at offensive tackle worth noting, Free would be replaced tomorrow.
3) Anthony Spencer
Spencer has become the player that Cowboys fans love to hate.
It's the same old story. A player is drafted in the first round and immediately awarded Texas sized hype. Over five years, he struggles to deliver any eye-popping numbers, despite playing opposite DeMarcus Ware (because it's a well known fact that sharing the field with one of the best in the league automatically makes you a better player). Management decides they need to replace him, but quickly learns that there are no better linebackers available and has no choice but to franchise tag him.
And just like that, the Cowboys are paying $8.8 million to one player for one season to be a run stopper. That seems like a lot of money considering the NFL is a pass-first league. Plus, there's the whole injury thing that's kept Spencer inactive for most of the preseason.
It's time to give Victor Butler a shot. And not just while Spencer heals. Rob Ryan needs to start Butler against the Giants on September 5th. We need to see how he does against a good passing attack and a balanced run game.
He's looked good in the first two preseason games and he's put in the reps at practice. It should be his job to lose.
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