Dallas Cowboys Report Cards: Complete Grades for Every Projected Starter
The Cowboys have until September 3rd to make a final decision on who to keep and who to cut. The infamous NFL cut-down day is on Saturday and there will be plenty of sweaty palms and nervous players come Friday night.
Dallas cut their roster size down to 80 on Tuesday by releasing center Andre Gurode and placing two players on the reserve/non-football injury list. That just prolonged the inevitable for many players, but it at least gives them a chance to make a last minute impression.
There may be a few surprises come Saturday but the Cowboys core group of players should remain in tact, like quarterback Tony Romo and linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
Since the guts of the team should stay the same what will the extremities look like? How will special teams perform and will the Cowboys defensive line play better than it did last season now that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is leading the way?
Well, for Cowboy nation I sure hope so.
Lets take a look at how every projected starter has graded before the 2011 NFL regular season kicks off.
Quarterback: Tony Romo, A-
I give Tony a solid A-. He’s returning from a broken collarbone and he’s looked sharp. In the team’s third preseason game against the Vikings he was efficient and decisive.
This is a make or break type of year for Romo and from what I’ve seen so far I think he’s well on his way to leading Dallas deep down in the playoffs.
Runningback: Felix Jones, A+
If I could use the S&P’s rating system of triple and double A’s, I would give the triple to brother Jones. Felix has looked beastacular this preseason and if he carries that play over to the regular season he’s going to take off.
Jones is out to prove that he can handle a heavy workload for the Cowboys and from what he’s shown thus far he’s proving himself right.
Wide Receivers: Miles Austin, B+, Dez Bryant, A
Austin receives a B+ based off of what we’ve seen from him in the past. He’s seen limited action this preseason due to injury but there is no doubt that Austin will do his thing when the season starts.
Bryant has grown this preseason to a beastacular player. He looks stronger, still has his speed and is growing in the Cowboys offense. Once he masters Jason Garrett’s offense the sky is the limit for this kid.
Tight End: Jason Witten, A
Witten is Witten and fans know that he’s going to produce. He’s not falling off and he’s still the team’s best receiver and first option. He’s Romo’s fail-safe and when a play breaks down he’s there to bail Romo out of a tight jam.
Nothing less than an A for Witten.
Offensive Line: C+
As a unit I think there is still a lot of growth that needs to happen but because the Cowboys are rebuilding the unit up front that will happen soon. They have looked great at times and sad at times as well.
That’s okay because I believe that this group of players has more upside than the unit that was on the field in 2010. There's still a lot of work to do but they’ll be okay.
Left Tackle: Doug Free, B-
Free should pick up right where he left off last season. He played well protecting Romo and back-up Jon Kitna’s blind side. He’s still growing and learning. He should continue to progress
Left Guard: Bill Nagy, C-
Nagy has impressed in camp to the point of earning a starting job on the offensive line. He’s a rookie and my initial thought was that he would need some time to develop. But head coach Jason Garrett has seen enough of him to start him.
Center: Phil Costa, B
Well, the fact that Andre Gurode is no longer on the team should be evidence enough. Costa outplayed Gurode for the starting spot and he’s still here and Gurode isn’t.
Right Guard: Kyle Kosier, A
Here’s why I give Kosier an A. This offseason there was speculation that the Cowboys would let Kosier go and start from scratch.
But he stayed and he’s helping rookie Tyron Smith mature and develop just as he did with Doug Free last year with his transition to left tackle.
I think he’s an intricate part of the Cowboys offensive line and team owner Jerry Jones was smart for keeping him.
Right Tackle: Tyron Smith, B+
Left Defensive End: Marcus Spears, C+
What a difference a year makes, eh? Spears was on the outs with Dallas after the 2010 season ended and Jerry basically told him to hit the bricks.
But when Jones noticed how shallow the pool of available defensive ends was he changed his tune. Spears was resigned and the ‘Boys kept it moving.
Nose Tackle: Jay Ratliff, B
Ratliff, like Witten, is Ratliff. After a bit of a down year last season he’s looking to wreck shop like he did in 2009.
He’s dependable and Cowboys fans have nothing to worry about when it comes to his production.
Right Defensive End: Kenyon Coleman, C
Igor Olshansky will probably be released on Saturday and Coleman will ascend to the starting role then. Well, he’ll officially get there as he’s ahead of Igor on the depth chart right now.
Olshanskly has been a disappointment and should be relieved of his duties. Coleman has played better and deserves his shot to start.
Right Outside Linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, A+
Ware led the league in sacks last season and he’ll probably do the same this year. He’s one of the best defensive players in the league and with him continuing to anchor the Cowboys defense, he should serve as a guiding light for a young group of players.
Right Inside Linebacker: Sean Lee, C+
Lee finally has the starting job over Keith Brooking. I think they’ll rotate as Brooking has been hurt and Lee’s still learning. Once Sean has a firm grasp on the playbook the job will be his to lose.
Left Inside Linebacker: Bradie James, C
James is keeping this seat warm for rookie Bruce Carter. But due to Carter’s knee injury, James' job is safe for now. He’ll be reliable and dependable and make plenty of tackles.
But James is aging and he’s not as nimble and apt in pass coverage as in previous seasons.
He’ll start 2011 but his job will go to Carter next season.
Left Outside Linebacker: Anthony Spencer, C
This is it for Spencer. If he doesn’t show and prove his worth in 2011 then he’ll be released and Dallas will look elsewhere for a player to pair with Ware.
I haven’t seen much from the former Purdue Boilermaker. If he doesn’t raise his game this season then its curtains in 2012 ya see.
Cornerback: Terrance Newman, C Mike Jenkins, C
I give them both C’s as they are coming off of disappointing 2010 campaigns and haven’t shown much this preseason as they have both suffered injuries.
They’ll need to prove that they can handle their jobs in 2011 as the Cowboys secondary will be key to the team’s overall success.
Safety: Abe Elam, B Gerald Sensabaugh, B
I like the Cowboys safeties because they both seem to know what their doing. I think Church will eventually take over for Abe but for the time being he’s a good player over what the Cowboys had.
Sensabaugh has grown and while he didn’t get the long term deal he wanted he’s still a valuable part of the team.
Kicker, To Be Determined
I have no clue who will kick for the Cowboys because as of right now they have five on the roster. I think that incumbent David Buehler will be released and who knows what will happen when that goes down.