Breaking Down Dallas Cowboys' Roster After the 2014 NFL Draft
The 2014 NFL draft has concluded and the Dallas Cowboys are in much better shape than they were before it began. After making some savvy moves and selections at Radio City Music Hall, Dallas must now focus on the work ahead before training camp begins.
There are several positions that look poised to bring some interesting camp battles, with the prize being a starting job. Head coach Jason Garrett will be making his final 53-man depth chart before he knows it, though.
Based on the returning players from last season and this draft class, here is a look at what the Cowboys' roster will likely look like.
Starter: Tony Romo
Backups: Kyle Orton, Brandon Weeden
Unlike other teams, Dallas doesn't have to fret about its starting quarterback situation. The Cowboys do have reason to worry if Kyle Orton will be returning, however, as he has missed all voluntary workouts so far this offseason.
That being said, the veteran would lose out on a ton of money if he skips any mandatory ones. Orton will return to Valley Ranch sometime soon, even if that doesn't look like the case right now.
Brandon Weeden was brought in through free agency and it would make sense for the team to keep him on the final roster. Romo has suffered two back injuries in as many seasons and Orton's actions this offseason have to concern both the coaching staff and front office.
Weeden is a necessary insurance policy that Garrett and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson might be viewing as a project kind of player as well. The two former quarterbacks might be able to help the former first-rounder fix some of the mechanical issues that plagued him in Cleveland.
Starter: DeMarco Murray
Change of Pace: Lance Dunbar
Reserves: Joseph Randle, Glasco Martin
The Cowboys decided to let former backup Phillip Tanner walk this past free agency. In recent years, the team has been known to carry four running backs on its roster. That fourth spot this season will belong to undrafted free agent Glasco Martin.
Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle will battle it out to see who backs up starter DeMarco Murray in camp. Despite Randle being a 2013 draft pick, Dunbar showed more potential in limited action last season.
Martin and Randle will more than likely round out the last two spots on the depth chart.
Starters: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams
Slot Receiver: Devin Street
Reserves: Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, L'Damian Washington
The draft really changed things up depth chart-wise at wide receiver. Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams are still the obvious starters. That being said, taking Devin Street in the fifth round adds some competition for the No. 3 job.
Ultimately, it's more than likely that Dallas decides to plug Street in at the slot position. Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley will challenge the rookie but Street was drafted for a reason. The Cowboys will probably bring him along the same way they did Williams just a season ago.
Harris and Beasley are fine options to have for plays out of the shotgun. The former has also developed into quite the kick and punt returner.
Undrafted free-agent signing L'Damian Washington should be able to grab the final receiver job from the likes of LaRon Byrd and other rookies. His height at 6'4" and soft hands alone give him a leg up on most battling for a wide out job.
Starter: Jason Witten
Backup: Gavin Escobar
Reserve: James Hanna
There's no reason to suspect any changes to happen in regards to the tight end depth chart. Longtime starter and future Hall of Famer Jason Witten will start, with Gavin Escobar and James Hanna backing him up.
This year it will be interesting to see if the Cowboys use more two tight end packages and try to get their former second-round pick more involved. Escobar posted just nine receptions for 134 yards in his rookie year.
Because of the big investment that the team made in Escobar in the 2013 draft, Hanna will likely miss out on the No. 2 job even if he impresses in camp.
Left Tackle: Tyron Smith
Left Guard: Zack Martin
Center: Travis Frederick
Right Guard: Mackenzy Bernadeau
Right Tackle: Doug Free
Reserves: Ronald Leary, Darrion Weems, Jermey Parnell
With one first-round pick, the Cowboys all of a sudden have a young and talented offensive line. Zack Martin can play pretty much any position on the line and Dallas will likely use him as a guard.
The Cowboys could put him at either guard position but Mackenzy Bernadeau has the best chance of keeping his starting job from last season.
The same backups from last season will help the starters. Several undrafted free agents have been brought in to compete for backup roles on the line, though. Chris DeGeare and Darrion Weems are the two names who could lose out to hungry rookies with bad showings in August.
Left Defensive End: George Selvie
Left Defensive Tackle: Terrell McClain
Right Defensive Tackle: Henry Melton
Right Defensive End: Anthony Spencer
Reserves: Jeremy Mincey, Tyrone Crawford, Demarcus Lawrence, Ken Bishop, Ben Gardner
The depth chart that has seen the most turnover since the end of the 2013 season is the defensive line.
Dallas' free-agent acquisitions Henry Melton and Terrell McClain, along with returning Anthony Spencer, will have to anchor this new-look line. Fellow new addition Jeremy Mincey will serve as a backup.
The biggest storyline up front is whether or not rookie Demarcus Lawrence will win one of the starting defensive end jobs. Spencer is still rehabbing after the injury that cost him almost all of last year but he's the longest tenured Cowboy on the line.
George Selvie impressed last season but Lawrence wasn't taken in the second round to serve as a backup for long, one would imagine. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out in August.
Selvie has the best chance to win the starting gig but it wouldn't be surprising to see Lawrence start later on in the season.
Weakside Linebacker: Bruce Carter
Middle Linebacker: Sean Lee
Strongside Linebacker: Justin Durant
Reserves: DeVonte Holloman, Anthony Hitchens, Will Smith, Kyle Wilber
The Cowboys drafted two linebackers this draft in Anthony Hitchens and Will Smith to help add depth to the position. Expect the usual suspects to start at the beginning of next season but not without a fight.
Sean Lee can be penciled in to start but Bruce Carter and Justin Durant will have to perform well to earn their spots. The three rookies will be gunning to begin their NFL careers as starters.
DeVonte Holloman will also be in the mix. He's as big a threat to start as any of the rookies, if not more so. Ultimately, the veterans Carter and Durant should win out but they won't be able to do so without having a solid camp performance.
Starters: Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick
Nickel Corner: Morris Claiborne
Reserves: Sterling Moore, B.W. Webb, Terrance Mitchell
He might eventually regain the starting spot but after a disappointing 2013, Claiborne shouldn't start at cornerback right away. Orlando Scandrick put together a heck of a campaign and simply produced more than his younger teammate last season.
Claiborne will at least start out as the nickel corner, with draft pick Terrance Mitchell and B.W. Webb serving as backups. Veteran Sterling Moore will make the final cut not only for depth purposes but also because he has the most NFL experience next to Brandon Carr.
Free Safety: Bary Church
Strong Safety: Matt Johnson
Reserves: J.J. Wilcox, Ahmad Dixon
If fans want a training camp battle to get excited about, it's the starting strong safety job. It might be a bit of a bold prediction but Matt Johnson will emerge with the gig.
J.J. Wilcox, rookie Ahmad Dixon and Jeff Heath will all be in the running as well but if he can stay healthy, Johnson could be the talk of camp. He is admittedly injury prone but Dallas hasn't cut ties with him over the past two seasons because he has potential.
Johnson is not the likely starter as of now, but he has all the tools to put together a fine case for the role in the months to come.
Make no mistake, though, the strong safety position will be the most contested of all the camp battles.
Kicker: Dan Bailey
Punter: Chris Jones
Long Snapper: L.P. LaDouceur
Punt/Kick Returner: Dwayne Harris
The Cowboys have quietly put together a stable and effective special teams unit. Harris provided a spark as a returner in 2013, when he posted more than 850 yards and a touchdown.
Dan Bailey has been about as dependable as a team could ask for in a kicker in recent years. Last season, he made 28 of his 30 field goal attempts, including six that were 50 yards or more.
L.P. LaDoucer has been the team's long snapper for quite some time and there's no reason to believe that will change in 2014.
Chris Jones performed well in his first full season as starting punter in 2013 and will almost certainly have the same role this year.