Rounding Up the Latest Dallas Cowboys Offseason Buzz
No matter what time of year it is or what’s going on in Valley Ranch, there’s always a lot of buzz surrounding the Dallas Cowboys. That can lead to writers overanalyzing little pieces of information that are probably meaningless and turning them into “news.”
Especially this time of year, we just need to use common sense when assessing the Cowboys. What has the team done in the past in similar situations? What reasons do we have to expect a different approach moving forward?
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the latest Dallas Cowboys buzz in 2014.
Cowboys Could Use 'Slot-by-Committee' This Year
According to Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas, the Cowboys have been rotating different players in and out of the slot during OTAs. Archer concludes that Dallas might be interested in continuing that rotation during games.
However, wide receiver isn’t like running back—a position at which players need continual breaks. It doesn’t really make sense to force Cole Beasley onto the field, for example, if he’s not the third-best receiver the Cowboys have.
Dallas already has some underrated issues at wide receiver behind Dez Bryant—most notably that it's going to have trouble scoring through the air in the red zone unless it utilizes Gavin Escobar more frequently—so a committee approach doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
It’s worth noting that wide receiver coach Derek Dooley told Archer the Cowboys are just currently experimenting with different combinations.
"It’s still early to really figure out how we’re going to use everybody," he said. "I think the biggest thing is giving them a lot of opportunities in a lot of areas and we’ll figure it out in training camp."
TE Gavin Escobar Is Bulking Up
Speaking of tight end Gavin Escobar, Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News reported that he has worked on adding size and strength in the offseason. It’s reportedly so that Escobar can block better, but the real benefit could come as a scorer.
Weight is the most important predictor of receivers' red-zone success, more so than height. When you think about it, receivers and tight ends generally win in the red zone by blocking out smaller defenders or, like Dez Bryant does so well, running into the defender and shielding him off. That requires size and strength more than length.
Escobar might be adding bulk to be better in the running game, but it’s going to help him in other areas as well. The Cowboys should give him more playing time regardless of his blocking ability.
DT Terrell McClain Is Impressing
David Moore of The Dallas Morning News reported that the Cowboys have liked what they’ve seen out of free-agent defensive tackle Terrell McClain. Head coach Jason Garrett said this about McClain:
He’s one of those guys who doesn’t say anything to anybody. He’s just quiet and goes to work every day.
But he’s absolutely one of the guys who is showing up the most in these first eight OTA practices. He has great intensity in all that he does. He flashes some ability. We really like how he goes about his business.
It’s tough to get an accurate read on linemen, especially during OTAs, because they can’t properly replicate game-specific tasks in the same way as, say, a wide receiver. Nonetheless, it’s a good sign that a player who will probably start for Dallas is impressing early.
Still, the idea of pairing Tyrone Crawford as an extra 3-technique tackle next to Henry Melton would be too appealing to me to pass up. McClain should work as a run-stopping specialist, with Crawford handling the rest of the work, as opposed to McClain being the man and Crawford being a pass-rushing specialist.
The Linebacker Spots Are Wide Open
The Cowboys are giving multiple players an opportunity to win each of the linebacker spots. Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com wrote:
Hearing DeVonte Holloman was back at practice full-time on Wednesday and was getting work with the twos at Will linebacker, while Anthony Hitchens was getting work at the Mike. Sounds like the plan is to have Holloman get some work next week at Mike and Hitchens at Will as these coaches continue to see who might be able to play multiple positions on both sides of the ball.
This is a smart move for Dallas. The Cowboys might have an idea of where all of their young linebackers fit, but there’s no harm in working them out across all three linebacker positions. In addition to seeing them in different roles, it also gets the players comfortable playing across the field in the event that they need to switch positions down the line, whether due to injury or something else.
DE Anthony Spencer Has Started Running
According to Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News, defensive end Anthony Spencer, who had reconstructive knee surgery in 2013, has started running. Spencer told Machota: "Not being able to walk, to being able to walk, to being able to run, I feel good about it. I’m sure other people have their doubts [about me playing this season]. I don’t have any doubts."
Hopefully the doubts that Spencer will play at all this year aren’t strong within the Cowboys organization since they signed him knowing about his health issues. Spencer’s knee injury is a tough one from which to recover, but the Cowboys desperately need his help in rushing the passer this year.