Cowboys Depth Chart is a Mess

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Looking at the Cowboys depth chart is the best way to determine whether or not they are prepared to enter the 2016 NFL draft. They are not. Unfortunately, the team we love is in dire straights. Again!

Cowboys depth chart is a mess: Cowboys War Room

The average fan never looks at the Cowboys depth chart: I get it. They don’t watch the combine, study game film, draw up scouting reports or put together mock drafts. They rely on the Dallas Cowboys scouts and the Jones family to put together a winning team and they rely on the media to keep them informed.

Unfortunately, as a draft analyst, I not only have to keep tabs on the Cowboys depth chart, but try and figure out how to improve it. The reality of it is: most fans just want to watch the games on Sunday and cheer for their favorite players. They put on their Cowboys gear and either crowd around the TV, or spend a kings ransom to take their family to the game.

The Dallas Cowboys not only have the largest fan base of any NFL team, they generate the most revenue. According to Forbes, the Dallas Cowboys are valued at $3.2 billion. Three point two billion dollars! Did you know if you started counting the moment you were born, counted non stop 24 hours a day and lived to be 100, you couldn’t count to a billion? That’s a lot of dough. By golly, if the fans are spending that much of their hard earned money: don’t ya think we deserve a better product Mr. Jones?

Apparently you are measuring the success of our beloved Cowboys by the bottom line with no regard for the fans who are putting that money in your pocket! You have made a huge return on your investment. What am I getting for mine? Two playoff wins in twenty years and by looking at the current Cowboys depth chart, no improvement in sight. While you are counting your money, I am stuck telling the fans what they DON’T want to hear. My job sucks.

jerry jones family

With all of that being said, let’s take a look at the Cowboys depth chart entering the 2016 NFL draft. The first thing you need to determine is what the needs are entering the draft. Per an article by Mickey Spagnola on the Cowboys official website:

“Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey and Jack Crawford are free agents; Randy Gregory is suspended for the first four games of the season; and last year’s team sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence is coming off microdiscectomy surgery to repair a herniated back disk.”

“Nick Hayden is a free agent and who knows what they might get out of Terrell McClain, after he spent all but two weeks last season on injured reserve. Probably need at least two, and while they wasted no time in signing Thursday’s visiting free agent Cedric Thornton, who had started the past 45 consecutive games for the Eagles. He’s been a 3-4 defensive end, 6-4, 309, but showed up closer to like 299. He will be a 4-3 1-technique tackle who has some versatility to play the 3, too.”

The Cowboys pass rush ranked at the bottom of the league last year. The one thing all of the playoff teams had in common was a solid defense.

Obviously the weakest part of the Cowboys depth chart entering the 2016 draft is the defensive line and it was bad last year. How bad? The Cowboys were tied for 25th in the league with a meager 31 sacks as compared to 52 by the World Champion Broncos. They allowed 120.9 rushing yards per game (10th in the NFL), 113 rushing 1st downs (2nd most in the NFL) and 16 rushing TDs (4th most in the NFL). OUCH!

doomsday defense 1
(The front 4 of Tom Landry’s Doomsday Defense)

 

If you think it was bad last year, how will it be in 2016 when currently they have no starting RDE, (Hardy is a FA) a LDE (DeMarcus Lawrence) who is coming off of back surgery with no proven depth behind him (Mincey is a free agent), and a 3-4 DE (Thornton) that they hope can convert to the 1 tech DT, (being undersized for the position) with no solid depth behind him? He is a career 2 down run defender, not a pass rusher.

It gets worse: there is only one proven 3-tech DT (Tyrone Crawford) and no proven depth behind him. That means at the very least, the Cowboys need to be able to draft 3 defensive linemen who are capable of being day one starters. Not going to happen sports fans; because that is just the needs along the defensive line. Back to Mickey’s story.

“Cornerback, since Morris Claiborne is a free agent, Orlando Scandrick is coming back off his torn ACL, leaving the Cowboys with only Brandon Carr in the final year of his deal, the just re-signed Josh Thomas, young Terrance Mitchell and the highly-inexperienced Deji Olatoya, that is if Byron Jones is considered a safety, and he should be. All reason why free-agent corner Nolan Carroll was visiting on Thursday. Can’t have enough corners.”

Despite costing the Cowboys a 1st and a 2nd round draft pick, not one NFL team thought Morris Claiborne was worth any more than the 1 year deal the Cowboys gave him. The worst part is, he was average at best “When Healthy”, and has only started 35 of a possible 64 games: producing a meager 125 tackles and 3 interceptions. QBs were going after him too. You can’t say his lack of production was because they didn’t throw to his side of the field. Orlando Scandrick is not guaranteed to return to form immediately. He is not only the best slot CB on the team, one of the best in the league.

BrandonCarr 5Incidentally, Brandon Carr is the best CB the Cowboys have to play on the outside and he is in the last year of his contract. In my opinion, he is getting a bad rap from fans. Brandon Marshal is a top 5 WR in the NFL (109 receptions, 1,524 YDS and 14 TDs in 2015) and despite the lack of a pass rush, Carr held him to only 4 receptions and no TDs, which was the 2nd least of any CB he faced. He only had 3 RECs vs Buf week 10, but one was for a TD. Keep in mind, Buffalo had a secondary that was ranked at the top of the league with 17 interceptions and 105 pass defenses. Carr fell victim to a weak pass rush, and poor safety play.

A lot of people want to cut him right now. Who are you going to replace him with? So basically: the Cowboys need to draft at least one CB who is capable of being a day one starter, just to be on the safe side this year. Back to Mickey’s story.

“Safety, since, look, even if we count Jones here, Barry Church is returning from a broken arm in the final year of his contract, J.J. Wilcox still hasn’t arrived entering the final year of his contract, Danny McCray, even if re-signed as a free agent, is mostly a special teams player, and Jeff Heath is a minimum-tendered restricted free agent.”

We have all seen the piss-poor safety play in Dallas. Jones is an immediate upgrade at FS, so check that off the list. To be on the safe side, the Cowboys need to draft a decent strong safety.

What about the Mike LB position? Rolando McClain is the only true MLB on the Cowboys depth chart. Hitchens can fill in with a significant drop off vs the run, but what about the future? McClain is on a 1 year deal. The harrowing fact of the matter is, the only Pro Bowl player on the Cowboys defense is Sean Lee, and he has settled in as the Will LB.

“Can you believe I didn’t even get to the offensive side of the ball yet? OUCH!”

the cowboys depth chart is lacking ol depth

The Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, but almost no one stops to think what will happen if one of them gets injured. Mackenzy Bernadeu moved on to the Jaguars, which means the Cowboys don’t have a backup center. Ronald Leary is a restricted free agent.  If no one signs the restricted free agent to an offer sheet the Cowboys choose not to match, at least they have a backup guard. If someone does sign him, they don’t have a solid guard to plug in if the rookie La’el Collins or Zack Martin get injured.

What happens if Tyron Smith goes down? We all experienced what happens to this team without Tony Romo. I strongly believe Kellen Moore is a capable backup QB, but in the event Romo goes down because he has a sub-par swing tackle protecting his blind side, Moore will be without good protection too.

Do you really trust Charles Brown to protect Tony Romo’s blind side? What about the 2nd year player, Chaz Green, who has never even suited up in the preseason?

Kellen Moore has a little bit better chance of surviving being left handed. But then again, does he? That means Doug Free is protecting his blind side. See what I mean? At the very least, the Cowboys need a plug and play center in this draft too. I’m serious: What if Travis Frederick gets injured week one?

tony romoSo, before you start screaming for the Cowboys to draft a QB (remember we have a Pro Bowl starter). An injured Will LB like Myles Jack (When they have a pro bowl player at that position: Sean Lee). A RB, when at least they have a starter there (Darren McFadden), with the 4th overall pick in the draft, or even with the 2nd round pick. You better stop and think about the positions where the Cowboys not only don’t have a starter (RDE), but don’t even have a solid #2 at the same position. You better also consider the importance of protecting Tony Romo.

Since the 2010 draft, the Dallas Cowboys have had 45 draft picks. The current Cowboys depth chart has nine starters on it as a result of those 6 drafts. 10 if you want to consider Claiborne a starter, and he cost a 1st and a 2nd round pick. Of those 10 starters, six of them were first round picks. Two were 2nd round picks, Sean Lee and DeMarcus Lawrence. (The Cowboys actually gave up their 3rd round pick to trade up and get Lawrence that year.) Two were third round picks, Tyrone Crawford and Terrance Williams. Of those 45 draft picks, 20 of them are no longer on the team.

What does that mean? Not one starter has been produced after the 3rd round in 6 drafts. Sorry sports fans, with a track record like that, you have no choice but to be active in free agency. Jerry Jones did absolutely nothing to prepare for the 2016 draft other than sign an average defensive lineman (a former undrafted player) and hang on to failed draft picks no one else wanted in free agency, or resign free agents he could keep on the cheap. The Jones media machine spins it as good business. My question for the Cowboys brain trust is:

“How can you be ranked 28th in the NFL for available cap space and not even have 22 starters, let alone solid backups?”

I hate to be the barer of bad news, but by looking at the Cowboys depth chart, based on Jerry Jones track record in the draft, they need at least 3 first round picks, and several 2nd and 3rd round picks just to fill the glaring needs in this years draft. “Defense Wins Championships”, and the Cowboys’ defense looks like Swiss Cheese. Cap or no cap, without signing some proven starters in free agency, the message is clear. As long as the Jones’ are making millions, 4-12 meant nothing to them. I like Dez Bryant as much as the next fan, but believe it or not, it takes more than a $70 million wide receiver to win a championship Mr. Jones. That contract crippled this team moving forward.

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  • Johnathan Nguyen

    Well, at least my Scotch tastes really good when i’m depressed lol. This draft better be defense and more defense. The only offensive players i’d take is a RB. Lawson, Rankins, Scooby, Judon, don’t wake me up please.

    • we don’t have a backup center and what if Leary gets signed by another team? Then we don’t have a backup guard either.

  • californy

    I dont understand the Cowboys move this off season with their own player, Why would you pay Wilbert 4 times what out back up Qb makes when it obvious the importance of a good back up Qb

    Wilbert is not worth the 1.625 Million he would make this year. I would of used that money on other player still out there a player like Zack Brown who averages 90 tackles base on a 16 game season

    • BigDIndiana

      They signed Wilber because he plays every special teams unit and can provide depth at 2 spots on defense. While these guys aren’t “sexy” signs you need guys like this to fill out a roster.

    • BigDIndiana

      They signed Wilber because he plays every special teams unit and can provide depth at 2 spots on defense. While these guys aren’t “sexy” signs you need guys like this to fill out a roster.

      • Al

        I think Cam Lawrence is a better player than Wilber and he is also a ST ace. It’s shame he he got injured last year I hope he gets a fair chance to compete. The Wilber signing wouldn’t bother me at league minimum. Mo got too much money. That should have been league minimum as well. Jerry tends to settle for what he has rather than trying to upgrade. He hangs on to draft picks too long that never developed.

        • BigDIndiana

          He isn’t nearly as strong as Wilbur and 15-20 lbs lighter. He got pushed around quite a bit when he filled in for injuries. I’d take either for ST. Wilbur can play SLB or RDE if needed, were playing Cam at ILB and he got washed by guards at times.

        • BigDIndiana

          He isn’t nearly as strong as Wilbur and 15-20 lbs lighter. He got pushed around quite a bit when he filled in for injuries. I’d take either for ST. Wilbur can play SLB or RDE if needed, were playing Cam at ILB and he got washed by guards at times.

      • Al

        I think Cam Lawrence is a better player than Wilber and he is also a ST ace. It’s shame he he got injured last year I hope he gets a fair chance to compete. The Wilber signing wouldn’t bother me at league minimum. Mo got too much money. That should have been league minimum as well. Jerry tends to settle for what he has rather than trying to upgrade. He hangs on to draft picks too long that never developed.

    • Al

      Jerry doesn’t understand this after all these years in the nfl

  • californy

    Why would use even tag Heath, it not like the NFL GM would be knocking on his door for a job promotion. These cost of these two player alone we could of had really depth but JJ is so much in love with his GM abilities he even convince himself we are on the right course

  • californy

    You notice that Claiborne was on the market for several day an no team was willing to offer him more than Jerry did. I saw a list which showed the 100 best FA in the Market place and I think Rolando McClain came in at 95, Hardy had a low number too, and Maurice Claiborne was no where to be found

    • Al

      Jerry hangs on to bad picks all the time.

  • californy

    Zack Brown played for about 1.5 Million dollar last year vs 1.625 Million Wilbert make in 2016. JJ must think Wilbert is better than Zack Brown. lol.

  • californy

    Zack Brown played for about 1.5 Million dollar last year vs 1.625 Million Wilbert make in 2016. JJ must think Wilbert is better than Zack Brown. lol.

  • Lionone1

    Carr got a bad rap. The entire defense got a bad rap. lol That’s why I want to bring most of the players back. Including Hardy. No doubt they missed turnover opportunities and lacked qb pressure. But, even with the offense passing game almost at a stand still the Defense played well. Heck they were even in the top five at times during the season. Running back ranked 4th. When teams knew they they couldn’t throw. lol I think the Cowboys did all they could last year to help the defense. It’s unfortunate, Romo, Dez, Scandrick and Dunbar went down. I think it would have been a good year. Thats why I always asked the question last year, “are we over analyzing the team?” No doubt this year depth is the problem with all the FA’s

    • Did you read those defensive numbers? Horrible against the run and couldn’t get to the QB. Hardy is a cancer. This team needs serious upgrades. The Giants had worse sack numbers than the Cowboys, but they did something about it. This is common: Jerry never has a plan. He knows ahead of time when guys will be free agents, yet is never prepared. Poor drafting results in poor depth. It is what it is. Khalil Mack had 15 sacks as a rookie. Hardy is supposed to be great. Not worth the money and not a good guy either.

      • Al

        Everyone thinks of the Patriots as an offensive team, but they were 2nd in the NFL last year with 49 sacks. Belechick wins because they have balance. They don’t hand out extravagant contracts to skill positions like WR which allows them to maintain balance on both sides of the ball. The teams that win, win in the trenches. The lack of ability to coach up players kills the Cowboys.

      • Al

        Everyone thinks of the Patriots as an offensive team, but they were 2nd in the NFL last year with 49 sacks. Belechick wins because they have balance. They don’t hand out extravagant contracts to skill positions like WR which allows them to maintain balance on both sides of the ball. The teams that win, win in the trenches. The lack of ability to coach up players kills the Cowboys.

    • Al

      You young bucks don’t comprehend how Landry built a team. It started in the trenches and every starter he put there ended up a HOF caliber player. These crazy sack numbers give no justice without the numbers for hurries, knockdowns etc. They didn’t keep sacks as an official stat so no one knows how many they didn’t get credit for.

      Landry would have 3-4 elite pass rushers on the same DL. That’s how you string together 20 consecutive winning seasons and he got every one of them through the draft. Hell, Harvey Martin played in a two gap system and his job was to play the run first. Teams ran the ball more back then too.

      Make him an every down pass rusher like they have today and no one would touch his sack numbers. They only played 14 game seasons back in the day and Martin had 23.5 in one season, but Strahan gets credit for the single season sack record in 16 games because sacks weren’t an official stat back then. Jerry can’t find 1 elite pass rusher. He takes credit for Ware, but it seems odd he hasn’t matched that defense without Parcells in the room. Landry had 3-4 all pros on his DL at one time. This team has zero! I didn’t even touch on how many all pros he had at other positions on the defense.

      This defense has one 1st round pick on it, Mo. How many did Jerry invest on offense? Over $270 million of the salary cap goes to 3 contracts on offense. 5 of the last 6 first round picks went on offense. You will never win in the NFL with a lopsided roster.

      randy white 111
      Ed Jones 106
      Harvey Martin 114
      Jethro Pugh 95.5
      Bob Lily 94.5

      • BigDIndiana

        another great balance team was I think the 93 boys. Ranked number one in defense and none of them made the pro bowl. So much depth the stats were spread around well.

        • Jerral fired the guy who put that team together. Parcells took over a team that went 5-11 3 years in a row and his 1st year in Dallas they had the #1 ranked defense and went to the playoffs. With Quincy Carter at the helm lol. Coaching matters a lot! How long did it take for Jerral to dismantle the team Bill put together? Wade was set up to fail. Now Ginger has 1 winning seasons in 5 years and still has a job. The difference is, Bill stood up to Jerral and Ginger is a yes man. Jimmy stood up to Jerral and got fired. The 1 common denominator in 20 years of mediocrity is the GM. Lot’s of coaches came and went. Bill almost had his mess cleaned up and I believe if Parcells stayed we would have a ring.

      • BigDIndiana

        another great balance team was I think the 93 boys. Ranked number one in defense and none of them made the pro bowl. So much depth the stats were spread around well.

      • Lionone1

        I dont like the comparison to a Landry era. This is a differernt era salary cap era. Scouting matters and they have addressed the trenches for years now with 1st round draft picks. They’ll do it again this year. Bottom line, no Romo, franchise qb, no superbowl. They went 13-4 with an average defense. Then addressed pass rush in the off season. They will get better on defense through the draft.

        • They haven’t used a 1st round pick on the DL since Parcells left.
          Gregory was a bad pick who hasn’t produced and now he is suspended. You
          talk about the salary cap? I see a lot of teams with excellent front 7’s
          year after year. The Patriots have 16 consecutive winning seasons in
          the salary cap era. THEY WERE 2ND IN THE NFL WITH 49 SACKS AND HAD JUST
          LET WILFORK WALK RATHER THAN PAY HIM.

          The scouting in Dallas
          stinks. Our prospects outperform the Cowboys picks year after year. We
          are tortured by watching them thrive on other teams while the Cowboys
          are clinging to underachievers rather than trying to improve the team.
          They release good players and try to replace them with bums. Hayden for
          Rat,Mincey for Ware. Then sign an under achieving, disrespectful to
          coaches, late for meetings woman beater. Ware is laughing his ass of at
          Jerral so is Wade. If I was Romo, I would ask to be traded. He will
          never get a ring in Jerral’s traveling circus. Two playoff wins in 20
          years and no cap money. That is piss-poor management period. You can drink his Kool Aid if you want to. You are what your record says you are.

          The
          Patriots are smart. ChandlerJones is about due for a new contract. DEs
          are commanding big salaries so they traded him for a 2nd round pick and a
          guard. This year they will draft his replacement and let the other team
          worry about his new and large contract that will happen next year. This
          team never gets anything out of players and repeatedly hands out large
          contracts to players like Dez which causes them to skimp at other
          positions. The cap isn’t the problem, it’s the people managing it. I am a
          nobody and can draft better than this team does. They paid Dez Bryant
          over $400,000 per catch last year. SMDH

          Brady has new receivers
          all the time because the Pats wont overpay skill positions. WRs are a
          dime a dozen and Dez disappears when doubled. He is a possession
          receiver not a complete receiver like Antonio Brown.
          The Pats just traded a 4th round pick for Martellus Bennet and a 6th
          round pick. Watch him thrive in that NE offense. He is another player
          Jerral drafted high and didn’t get a dime for.

          Now he is paying
          Hannah too much money to be a complimentary player. Paying anymore than
          league minimum for comp players is foolish. You can draft comp players
          every year in the mid to late rounds for a fraction of the cost. The Pats won a Super Bowl with 18 undrafted guys on the 53 man roster. That is good scouts.

          When
          you overpay comp players you can’t field solid starters. This cap stuff
          is common sense, but Jerral can’t figure it out. I have proven time and
          time again that the prospects I wrote about for the Cowboys were not
          only available when they picked, but ended up much better than the guys
          they drafted. Heck, undrafted guys ended up better than guys they
          dropped high picks on. I am not trying to be vain: this really pisses me
          off. Jerral pays those scouts a ton of money and I scout better
          players. It’s frustration is what it is.

          • Lionone1

            Keep Romo healthy!!

          • The way I see it, the best available pass rusher at 4 not named Bosa. CB in the 2nd and best DT in the 3rd. The more I studied Marshal, if the Dr tells me he is cleared, I shock the world with him at RB. He is a top 5 talent that caught a bad break with a serious injury. I will put myself out there and say Judon will end up the best RDE in this class. The only reason I don’t have him at the top of the 1st round is because he will need to adjust to the jump in talent from a DII school. People can say what they want about Spence, but Judon has the best first step in this class and the power to go with it. Refine his technique and he is a 15 sack per year guy easy. He already has some good pass rush moves, he just needs to learn to use his hands better when engaged. I would sleep well at night with Blythe as a backup center to Freddy and believe he could push him for the job. This team is a solid pass rush away from greatness.

          • I am also convinced if the Cowboys started Moore instead of wasting the season on Weeden and Cassel they would have won the division. The deadskins got in by default.

        • They haven’t used a 1st round pick on the DL since Parcells left.
          Gregory was a bad pick who hasn’t produced and now he is suspended. You
          talk about the salary cap? I see a lot of teams with excellent front 7’s
          year after year. The Patriots have 16 consecutive winning seasons in
          the salary cap era. THEY WERE 2ND IN THE NFL WITH 49 SACKS AND HAD JUST
          LET WILFORK WALK RATHER THAN PAY HIM.

          The scouting in Dallas
          stinks. Our prospects outperform the Cowboys picks year after year. We
          are tortured by watching them thrive on other teams while the Cowboys
          are clinging to underachievers rather than trying to improve the team.
          They release good players and try to replace them with bums. Hayden for
          Rat,Mincey for Ware. Then sign an under achieving, disrespectful to
          coaches, late for meetings woman beater. Ware is laughing his ass of at
          Jerral so is Wade. If I was Romo, I would ask to be traded. He will
          never get a ring in Jerral’s traveling circus. Two playoff wins in 20
          years and no cap money. That is piss-poor management period. You can drink his Kool Aid if you want to. You are what your record says you are.

          The
          Patriots are smart. ChandlerJones is about due for a new contract. DEs
          are commanding big salaries so they traded him for a 2nd round pick and a
          guard. This year they will draft his replacement and let the other team
          worry about his new and large contract that will happen next year. This
          team never gets anything out of players and repeatedly hands out large
          contracts to players like Dez which causes them to skimp at other
          positions. The cap isn’t the problem, it’s the people managing it. I am a
          nobody and can draft better than this team does. They paid Dez Bryant
          over $400,000 per catch last year. SMDH

          Brady has new receivers
          all the time because the Pats wont overpay skill positions. WRs are a
          dime a dozen and Dez disappears when doubled. He is a possession
          receiver not a complete receiver like Antonio Brown.
          The Pats just traded a 4th round pick for Martellus Bennet and a 6th
          round pick. Watch him thrive in that NE offense. He is another player
          Jerral drafted high and didn’t get a dime for.

          Now he is paying
          Hannah too much money to be a complimentary player. Paying anymore than
          league minimum for comp players is foolish. You can draft comp players
          every year in the mid to late rounds for a fraction of the cost. The Pats won a Super Bowl with 18 undrafted guys on the 53 man roster. That is good scouts.

          When
          you overpay comp players you can’t field solid starters. This cap stuff
          is common sense, but Jerral can’t figure it out. I have proven time and
          time again that the prospects I wrote about for the Cowboys were not
          only available when they picked, but ended up much better than the guys
          they drafted. Heck, undrafted guys ended up better than guys they
          dropped high picks on. I am not trying to be vain: this really pisses me
          off. Jerral pays those scouts a ton of money and I scout better
          players. It’s frustration is what it is.