Dallas Cowboys' Top Positional Battles Heading into 2013 Season
The Dallas Cowboys have several key positional battles heading into the 2013 NFL season. Although these competitions might not receive much attention from the media, they are each key factors in the Cowboys’ future success.
Every NFL franchise that’s won a Super Bowl will tell you they accomplished it by winning as a team. In order for teams to be successful, they must have plenty of depth that creates positional battles every year.
The Dallas Cowboys' change to the 4-3 defensive scheme means some movement involving the line. Defensive tackles Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher are projected to start in the middle of the front four, but the end spots are questionable.
There’s no doubt that DeMarcus Ware will be able to make an easy transition from outside linebacker to defensive end (Ware played DE in college), but the same can’t be said for linebacker Anthony Spencer.
The Cowboys showed their uncertainty regarding Spencer this offseason when they didn’t sign him to a long-term extension. Despite having his best year yet, Dallas used the franchise tag on him for the second straight season because they didn’t know how his move to the line would affect his production.
Spencer is definitely the favorite to start, but there is some competition. Players also vying for the spot will be Sean Lissemore, Rob Callaway and Tyrone Crawford. It will be interesting to see how new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin shuffles his linemen around.
The biggest strength on the Cowboys’ 2013 roster is their linebackers. Even though the group is technically losing Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware to the line, they are still very strong in the middle of the defense.
Sean Lee will anchor the unit in the middle and should be poised for a great year after 2012 ended with a toe injury. The other solidified starter will be Bruce Carter. Carter showed that he was a fantastic leader for the defense after Lee went down.
The positional battle will occur on the strong side of the defense, where several players will fight to start this summer. Ernie Sims and Alex Albright saw significant playing time last year and they’ll both compete for the spot.
They’re not alone. Dallas signed free agent Justin Durant from Detroit this offseason and still has Kyle Wilber, who they drafted in the fourth round in 2012.
No. 3 Wide Receiver
Dallas is pretty set at all of the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball, with familiar faces Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
The one place there is some debate is at the third wide receiver spot. Last year Kevin Ogletree often started there, with Dwayne Harris slowly taking over by year’s end.
Ogletree left in free agency, leaving Harris as the favorite for now. However in 2013, there’s much more competition.
In the draft’s third round, the Cowboys selected Baylor’s Terrance Williams to add to the picture. Although he’s only regarded as an outside option, there has been discussion that Miles Austin could move to slot receiver when Williams is on the field.
The other competitors for the third receiver position are Cole Beasley, Anthony Armstrong and Danny Coale. Of the three, Beasley could surprise people and have an immediate impact on the offense.
Bolstering the offensive line was one of the biggest needs Dallas had heading into this year’s draft. With the No. 31 choice in the first round, they chose Wisconsin center Travis Frederick to do just that.
The only other person on the line that is a lock to start is left tackle Tyron Smith. Everywhere else is a toss-up among a few players.
The right tackle spot is between Doug Free and Jermey Parnell. Free started most of last year but had a very poor season, which led to splitting time with Parnell.
This leaves the two guard spots remaining. Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings will be the favorites when minicamps begin, but David Arkin, Phil Costa and Ryan Cook will have a good chance to rise up the depth charts.
The safety position has been one of the weaker points in Dallas the past few years. Veteran Gerald Sensabaugh moved on in the offseason, leaving a few question marks at the spot.
Barry Church returns to his starting role at strong safety after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury early last year. The other safety position is up for grabs, and will be determined between several unproven players.
The Cowboys signed Will Allen in March to add depth and as a potential starter for the free safety role.
The other guys competing will be rookie J.J. Wilcox and second-year player Matt Johnson. Johnson has a lot of upside and will also be returning from an injury-plagued 2012.
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