Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday Quick Hits - Building That Roster

Here are a few related items that we must all fit on to a Wednesday or we won't get to everything this week.

#1 - Getting Down to 53

On Tuesday, the Cowboys made some procedural moves to help get down to 75 after these initial cuts:
WR Jared Green WR Eric Rodgers WR Anthony Amos QB Nick Stephens P Brett Maher OG Dennis Godfrey LB Deon Lacey TE Colin Cochart CB Brandon Underwood
Then, Tyrone Crawford and Ryan Cook went to the IR and the final move - one that we all saw coming but hoped against was Jay Ratliff being pushed to the PUP list, taking him out for 6 weeks.

Before we cover the Ratliff issue, here is something we do every August - it is cataloguing the final cut-downs of the Cowboys' roster for the last 6 seasons.  This should be useful because it does show us what the guys in this particular personnel war-room believe about building a roster.

Now, of course, we must factor in the scheme change and how moving from the 3-4 to the 4-3 will clearly and obviously reduce your need for linebackers and increase your need for defensive linemen.  So the number will still be likely 14, but now instead of 8 linebackers, they will need 6.  And we expect instead of 6-7 defensive linemen, they will keep 8 - and possibly 9 if the concern about Ratliff makes them hoard backups that might have to start.

Below is the list:


2007: 26 Offense/24 Defense/3 Specialist
2008: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist
2009: 25 Offense/24 Defense/4 Specialist
2010: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist
2011: 26 Offense/23 Defense/4 Specialist
2012: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist

Sources: Archer 2008 , Archer 2007 , MacMahon 2009, Archer 2010, and Watkins 2011.

Now you can grab the latest 75 man roster found here at the Cowboys website and begin your own chop down, being mindful of position groupings.

We will do the same after Thursday Night's game on the blog here for Friday.

It is time.

#2 - Ratliff and the Defensive Line

One of the issues with the partnership of Jerry and Stephen Jones is that they repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  It usually involves a veteran player with a healthy dose of optimism about how "things will work out."  Those who dig deep into his mind speculate that this can all be traced back to Jerry's days wildcatting, but I won't bore you with that rerun.

What this boils down to is that the Cowboys were switching schemes on their defensive line (Will Need More DL), while losing one of your promising young DL players to jail (Will Need More DL), and another of your key players - Ratliff - only played 6 games in 2012 and looks like he may not be in perfect health in 2013 (Will Need More DL).

And yet, despite knowing all of this, they told the media that they were fine back on draft weekend:
“We feel like defensive line is a position of strength for us,” Jones responded when asked about Floyd. “In our system, we would probably put a premium on a quick-twitch potential three-technique. We [graded] him as not that, but that he certainly may be capable of getting there. That’s a case where are switch from a 3-4, he was obviously a nose tackle that had a lot of promise there at nose tackle. He’s an outstanding football player. … Again, I think you got to put our decision-making with a real focus on doing something with the interior of our offensive line.”
Now, nobody would argue that the Offensive Line might have been in an a worse overall position.  In fact, I believe I made that exact point a number of times.  But, that doesn't mean that you take one center and call it a draft on both lines of scrimmage.  Having said this a dozen times for what seems like 5 years in a row, I know it must be a broken record by now, but why they had the advantageous position of 4 picks in the Top 80 and after taking Travis Frederick decided to go TE, WR, Safety is a very sore topic for me.

They knew that Josh Brent was gone.  They knew that Jay Ratliff has not played at an elite level since 2009.  They knew that they were asking a lot of Jason Hatcher to replicate Warren Sapp or John Randle in this scheme and that says nothing about asking Anthony Spencer to be a defensive end.   And yet, when it was time to find a defensive lineman in the draft or free agency, they waltzed right by like they were totally set.

I know, I know.  They have lots of other needs that also needed to be addressed.  I would never argue that point.

But on May 6 we talked about all of the realities - even before they lost Tyrone Crawford:

Is it as big a mess as the offensive line was?  Not really, unless you are concerned with what is around the next corner.  The offensive line is present tense, but the defensive line is more of a future tense issue.  However, what has killed the Cowboys?  Lack of depth to deal with an injury.  And if Ratliff pulls up lame in training camp, what is the plan?  Full-time Lissemore at the 1-tech?  It looks like it would have to be.

I have no issue with trading back to get 2 starters for pick #18 because actually that makes sound common sense.  The issue is then spending your top 3 picks and really your entire draft without doing anything to help this group at all.  I find that flirting with disaster and don't forget what we talked about last fall after the Offensive Line situation reared its head against Cleveland again:

It isn't coaching.  It isn't effort. 

It is, however, another indictment on the continuing failures of this current front office.  I am sure when the 2012 season ends, like the secondary last spring, we will hear how fixing the offensive line in 2013 is the top priority.  And they will use many of their resources to attempt to do just that.  But, why it takes years for them to see things that are obvious to those watching their games remains a mystery. 

Then, if it is fixed, the shell game of personnel fixes will move to another department of the squad that will be overdue for renovations, too.  These are the effects of too many mistakes over the years in the personnel department.  The holes out-number the plugs, and before long, you have issues that cannot be addressed because you are out of picks and cap space.

Once you leave the port each August for another season at sea, you cannot replenish your supplies until the season voyage is over.  Meanwhile, in the middle of it, you are stuck with whatever you took with you.  From week to week, as people complain about the coaching and the players, those who remain on the voyage do the best with what they have.  But, clearly, what they have is not good enough, and no amount of effort is going to fix the issues for the long-term.
In 2013, they will leave port with a defensive line that might work but the best case/worst case scenarios are wildly problematic if there is one false step this year.
So, who replaces Jay Ratliff?  Would you believe Nick Hayden?  Hayden is one of the cool stories of camp and a guy who when I was watching him play in July seemed like a candidate to really fight for one of those final spots.  That is all you can expect of a guy who is 27 years old and has kicked around a few organizations before finding his way here, right?.  He played 33 snaps of NFL football in 2011, which is 33 more than his 0 in 2012 when he was healthy after an ankle sprain and his phone never rang after training camp.

But now, after one predictable situation with Jay Ratliff is finally revealed, the Cowboys are seemingly planning on him lining up against the Giants in Week 1 to unveil the all new Monte Kiffin defense.

Nick Hayden and George Selvie are both solid finds in the scrap heap of vagabonds.  Selvie is 26 and this will be his 4th chance to catch on and appears to have promise.   And maybe I am too gun-shy about using retread defenders after last season where they are looking on couches to fill out Rob Ryan's lineup in November and find Brady Poppinga and Charlie Peprah.  Sometimes, these reclamation projects work, but when you have a chance to fix this with typical moves to fill holes (you know, the draft!) the Cowboys are telling us everything is fine.  Now, with 11 days to go, Selvie, Hayden, and undrafted 2nd year pro Ben Bass are all going to need to play rather substantial roles it would appear.

They are also going to hope that Anthony Spencer is ready with no camp, Sean Lissemore is ready with very little camp, and Jason Hatcher heals.

Optimism never works in the NFL.  But, it appears to be a key strategy again for the Jones war-room.

1 comment:

Justin said...

The next 2 DT taken after Frederick were not fits for kiffin. Is it likely that a DT taken even later would have that much more impact than players already adjusted to the mark this year?