The sports world remains in turmoil due to COVID-19, with the coronavirus threatening to delay the NFL season in 2020, if not see it canceled altogether. The latter is a shrinking possibility, however, as states begin to slowly reopen and major sports leagues join them in doing so. The NFL hasn't been completely untouched though, seeing as both the draft and teams' offseason programs were forced to begin virtually, which puts the Dallas Cowboys in a bit of a conundrum.
Like some others who hired new head coaches in 2020, they were initially set to open their offseason program on April 6 -- two weeks earlier than clubs who retained their leadership -- but are now in the same boat as all the others.
Mike McCarthy, a Super Bowl-winning coach who looks to usher in a new era following an unsuccessful decade under Jason Garrett, and his influence was again . The selection of CeeDee Lamb with the 17th-overall pick sent , as his addition . Defensively, the signing of Dontari Poe -- and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to a lesser but still important degree -- bolstered a needy-defense, and goes one step further to seeing the Cowboys potentially upgrade their pass rush after losing Robert Quinn in free agency.
A proven head coach, strong free agency, heralded draft class and several cornerstone players combine to form a Cowboys team that could dominate this coming season. All the team has to do now is piece it all together, and that starts with a depth chart that will begin to show itself when training camp fires up in July. For now, we'll take a shot at projecting what it'll look like, which should be an interesting ride in-and-of-itself.
What position will they go heavy/thin at? Will Chidobe Awuzie be moved? And what of Antwaun Woods?
Well, let's talk about it.
|QB||Dak Prescott||Andy Dalton|
|RB||Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Pollard||Jordan Chunn|
|LWR||Michael Gallup||Devin Smith|
|SWR||CeeDee Lamb||Cedrick Wilson|
|TE||Blake Jarwin||Blake Bell||Dalton Schultz|
|LT||Tyron Smith||Cameron Erving|
|LG||Connor Williams||Connor McGovern|| |
|C||Joe Looney||Tyler Biadasz||Adam Redmond|| |
|RG||Zack Martin|| |
|RT||La'El Collins||Brandon Knight|| |
One heir revealed, another sought
The team struggled with the decision during the Jason Garrett era, but McCarthy made quick work of it. The club has officially moved on from resident legend and future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten, and name the more athletic . Witten was hoping to return in 2020 but did not receive an offer to do so, but Jarwin found himself signing a three-year, $24.25 million extension this offseason, and Witten found himself heading to Las Vegas to join the Raiders. Heading to Dallas to join Jarwin is Blake Bell -- aptly nicknamed "The Belldozer" for his blocking prowess -- to create a one-two punch that allows Jarwin to do what he does best, which is make plays. Schultz still has much to prove as he heads into Year 3, but he'll be looked upon for depth at the position behind the law firm of Blake & Blake.
With the TE position figured out, the team is currently taking in-house applications to determine who'll be the future at center following the retirement of perennial All-Pro Travis Frederick. as it did in 2018 when he proved himself a starter at the NFL level, but keep an eye on Biadasz. The Cowboys love what he brings to the table -- much in the same mold as his fellow Wisconsin legend -- but both Williams and McGovern will get a test drive at the position in camp likely before one or both of them settle back into the role at left guard.
Everything else should shake out as expected offensively,to . The the arsenal they have in the WR room, they won't need to go heavy with six bodies on the 55-man roster, instead saving a seat for an extra defensive lineman. That said, Devin Smith and Cedrick Wilson should watch their back, because this projection by no means hints at them not being on the bubble -- considering who else is fighting for the nod as WR5.
|LDE||DeMarcus Lawrence||Bradley Anae||Dorance Armstrong|
|DL (1-tech)||Dontari Poe||Neville Gallimore|
|DL (3-tech)||Gerald McCoy||Trysten Hill|
|RDE||Tyrone Crawford||Aldon Smith||Randy Gregory**||Ron'Dell Carter|
|SAM (SLB)||Sean Lee||Joe Thomas|
|MIKE (MLB)||Leighton Vander Esch||Luke Gifford|
|WILL (WLB)||Jaylon Smith||Justin March|
|LCB||Trevon Diggs||Maurice Canady|
|RCB||Daryl Worley||Reggie Robinson, II|
|NCB||Jourdan Lewis||Anthony Brown|
|FS||Xavier Woods (flex)||Chidobe Awuzie||Darian Thompson|
|SS||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix|
(** - Pending reinstatement)
The Woods decision, Awuzie migration
For the record, I'd most certainly keep Antwaun Woods over Hill, but I doubt the Cowboys are prepared to give up on a former second-round pick after only one season -- even if the reason he's here is now in Las Vegas (i.e., Rod Marinelli). For me, that leaves his roster spot tied to that of Gregory,and again make an impact for the team. Although the two play two separate positions, Gregory is more needed at the edge than Woods is at 1-tech, thanks to the signing of Poe and the drafting of Gallimore. In a perfect world, the Cowboys would keep all three to rotate in at nose tackle, especially with Gallimore being a rookie, but defensive line coach Jim Tomsula knows a little something about how to quickly ramp up a young lineman's potential.
In the end, Woods will have to prove heand , while also knowing there's little to no chance the team would ditch the Hill experiment to make room for him.
Woods has a very real chance of making the roster, but first he has to sign his ERFA (Exclusive Rights Free Agent) tender, and a source tells CBS Sports that has not happened as of yet. Considering the added contractual curve and the fact Woods may feel undervalued by the club, there's no guarantee Woods chooses to remain with the team, although he won't be allowed to play anywhere else if he doesn't put pen to paper. All things considered, there are too many variables present to project Woods onto the final roster right now, unless the team goes anchor-heavy on the defensive line and carries 12 players.
As fiery as the defensive line battle will be, it might actually be exceeded by what's to come in the secondary, as defensive coordinator Mike Nolan tries to figure out who belongs where. Signing Worley and Canady combine with the additions of Diggs and Robinson, where he might be able to improve upon his regression from 2019. Awuzie has a ton of talent but struggled to get his head around consistently, and has experience at safety from his collegiate days, so it seems a no-brainer to try him at the position heading into a contract year.
He'll have to battle with newly-signed Clinton-Dix and an incumbent Thompson for snaps, but he might surprise in how quickly he re-adapts to playing over the top.
|K||Greg Zuerlein||Kai Forbath|
The Two-Kicker Experiment
Oh, did I include two kickers in this projection? That must be a mistake, right? Wrong.
Given the importance of the position along with the Cowboys continued shunning of it in the post-Dan Bailey era, it bears mentioning there should be no reservations in carrying both Zuerlein and Forbath on a roster that's been expanded by two seats for 2020. It's past time they created a H2H competition as McCarthy and special teams coordinator John Fassel have now done, but while the financial edge goes to Zuerlein, . That said, considering his trend downward in recent seasons and the fact Forbath was literally flawless in field goal attempts after taking over for Brett Maher in 2019, there's no reason to rush to cut one or the other.
It would be more beneficial to carry both at the outset of the season and let things flesh themselves out as the weeks roll along, as opposed to firing one only to find out later you might need him, at which point he may not be available. Neither veteran qualifies for the practice squad, and it's not like the Cowboys haven't carried two kickers before, so throw caution to the wind and do it again in 2020. If you're pressed to free up a spot for injury at another position, then do it.
Otherwise, what do you have to lose? I mean, besides football games thanks to a bad boot.