Monday, May 11, 2015

Cowboys Mailbag - 5/11/15

Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle (21) attempts to stiff arm Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) during the first half of play at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, December 21, 2014. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle (21) attempts to stiff arm Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) during the first half of play at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, December 21, 2014. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
Another Monday, another look into the email bag.  Real emails, real responses...
Bob -

Please feel free to share this email Gosselin, Machota and whoever covers the Cowboys at DMN.

I can't keep up with who said what but essentially all you guys talked about before the draft was which running back the Cowboys could/would draft. And about all you talked about the day or two after the draft is how they passed on this or that running back. Now you write about now is there's no way the Cowboys start the season without adding a running back. Seriously???

Have you the checked roster lately (I'm sure you did)? There are 4 capable running backs on the roster. One could argue it's the deepest position on the roster. Williams (the one you guys rarely mention) was an early 2nd rounder if I recall and looked very impressive in preseason. He's had injury problems (prior to Dallas) and he doesn't play special teams like Randle and Dunbar (combined with Murray staying healthy which kept him off the active roster in 2014).

How many corners are on the roster? Is Carr worth $12+M? No way (he could easily be cut). Claiborne couldn't cover anyone when he was healthy - how's he going to do it with a busted kneecap?. Scandrick will not play for $1.5M (can you blame him?). Patman is an undrafted free agent pick up - not really who you want as a starter but I like him. Corey White was released by the Saints - are you expecting him to be a starter? Talk about a dicey situation....

Do you really think RB was more pressing than CB? Oh btw, how are we looking at safety? Looks pretty thin to me (remember Byron Jones can potentially play corner or safety). Do you play an NFL game with 2 corners on the active roster? Pretty sure not. Can you play an NFL game with 2 RBs on the active roster? Pretty sure you can.

Overall, I think you guys were way off with your pre-draft analysis.

The whole time I’m thinking please don't draft a running back. Our defensive desperately needs help. I have no clue where you guys were coming from? You're not going to replace what Murray did in 2014 with Gurley and Gordon combined. Move on please!!!

Thankfully, Jerry did not listen to the DMN sports writers (although most of the time I wish he would)!

Go Cowboys!
This is a great place to start.  I am not sure it is fair to Mr. Gosselin or Mr Machota, but it is fair to accuse me of spending a lot of time on the RB conundrum and to have expected a pick in that general direction somewhere on Day 1 or 2, but certainly by Day 3.
So, what happened?  Your choices are either that A) I have no idea what I am talking about and they never considered a RB or B) the situation was fluid and it just never fell right for the Cowboys.
I am sure it will not surprise you that I am going to go with "B".
In doing so, I want to credit this team for not getting too antsy and having the self control to understand that a proper front office plays the hand of poker with patience and a global view of a roster with many needs, not just the one.
That said, they did have the one major need at RB.  I take exception to anyone who suggests this team is happy with its RB situation.  They certainly are not.  That is different from saying they aren't intrigued by their current stable, because they all have invested plenty of time and effort into Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, and Ryan Williams.  They also chose to bring in Darren McFadden to help the cause.  If worse comes to worse, they will proceed with what they have and keep a brave face while saying all of the right things.  But, I will submit that this is a far cry from the bold claim that they are "fine with their RB situation", because trust me, they are not based on the people I visit with on the inside.
The draft has many purposes and to suggest that they should have abandoned the top goal when better options were available is not sensible and it is what losing teams do.  The silliest example ever is when Mike Ditka had to have Ricky Williams and gave the entire Saints draft away to do so.  A wise front office - and the Cowboys seem to have a wiser one than at anytime in their recent past - would never go into a draft with a concrete objective at the expense of all else.
So, here is how it all played at the RB position:
Round 1) - As you know, Gurley and Gordon were long gone.  No other RB was in the mix that high.  Corner and DE were there.  They took the Corner.
Round 2) - TJ Yeldon and Ameer Abdullah were gone.  Here is where Duke Johnson or Tevin Coleman were theirs if they wanted.  But, I think they wisely punted for Randy Gregory on the basis of having given him a 1st round grade and the RBs were 2nd rounders based on their own evaluations.  Take the BPA.  They did.  Plaudits are given.
Round 3) - Coleman, Duke Johnson, and David Johnson have now all disappeared.  Here, they had the option to take Jay Ajayi (a player I have been told they did value, but not until the 5th due to the knee) or Buck Allen (they saw him as a 4th).  Instead, they took Chaz Green.  This is one I might have gone the other direction and grabbed Allen, but they again listened to their board.  Only time will tell if they knew what they were doing and keep in mind they had no dream of adding La'el Collins a week later.
Round 4) - Jeremy Langford, Buck Allen, and Mike Davis are all scrubbed off the board by the time pick #127 arrived.  In fact, Allen went at 125 and Davis at 126.  I think they thought they would have a solid RB fall to them in their desired round in either Rounds 3 or 4, but it just didn't fall right.  Would they have taken Allen over Damien Wilson, the LB from Minnesota that they did take?  I am told that it would have been a great debate in the war-room, but that they did have Wilson rated higher than Allen.
Round 5) - The last chance to take a RB was here.  They seemed to suggest that this is where they would have justified a Jay Ajayi investment if he was there at #163, but they weren't going to trade up and he went to Miami at pick #149.  Now, they had Ryan Russell, the DE from Purdue here or they could look at Auburn's RB Cameron Artis-Payne.  They took Russell and decided that was the last consideration for RB in the draft.
So, does that mean they didn't want one?  No.  It means they let the draft come to them, and in doing so, they found that the right pick never emerged at that spot.  Nevertheless, they were pretty delighted with their haul (as any team that gets 3 1st rounders with 1 pick generally does) and realize that there are many ways to find talent.  If they need to do a trade, they now have a full allotment of 2016 picks as well as 3 compensatory picks in that same draft with which to withdraw surplus if they wish.  Or, they go to camp as they are presently constituted and see how they feel.
The best part of this situation is that RB is one of the few spots on the field where you could reasonably have a player ready in the shortest amount of time imaginable.  That means, within reason, that they can add to this stable at anytime between now and Labor Day and have the player ready for Week 1 on September 13th against the Giants.
So, in short, I will not concede that our pre-draft claims that they were targeting a RB high were wrong.  Because, they were targeting a RB.  But, it had to be the right one at the right price and that situation never presented itself.
I agree with the folks who say we can win with a committee of RBs, as many teams have lately been doing successfully with O-lines inferior to Dallas'. I am more worried about QB. Romo is fragile. Can Weeden step in on an otherwise strong team and give us a chance? What prospects for the boys trading for or otherwise finding a vet QB to compete with Weeden? - Adrian Bardon
Thanks, Adrian for your question.
This is a spot where you can absolutely make the case that the Cowboys commitment to Brandon Weeden is curious for sure.  After his disappointing effort against the Cardinals, we will never know what was going to happen next because Tony Romo hurried back to play in London against the Jaguars.
I would take exception to the idea that Romo is fragile, but with his back condition, it is silly to assume he will play 16 games as routine for the next few years.  So, counting on Weeden is an interesting decision and you do wonder if Dustin Vaughan has a chance to overtake Weeden, but that appears to be their decision.  I hate to shrug my shoulders at this situation because nobody believes Weeden can replicate Tony Romo over the course of a month in a hypothetical medium-size Romo injury catastrophe, but I just don't know what alternatives are there if they still believe in Weeden.  For the record, I thought that Weeden was going to bounce back against Jacksonville and that Arizona was an elite defense when they met, but I would not have disputed the desire to upgrade that spot this spring if they selected that option.
They have not.  Full steam ahead with the Oklahoma State/New York Yankees prospect.
At the tight end position besides Witten who can pick up the pass catching production if he goes out for any length of time? your thoughts to one excited fan south of the border! - Jorge Cossio
Jorge, it is always good to hear from one of the multitude of fans the Cowboys have south of the border.  No team comes close to the fan base down there.
As for a Witten replacement, I think they still hope that Gavin Escobar improves in Year 3.  In a perfect world, he would be ready to start when Witten is done, but nobody knows for sure if Witten has a year or 4 years to go.  And, in the meantime, will the contract of Escobar expire at a point where the Cowboys are ready to re-invest, and maybe more importantly, would they want to?
As it stands, it appears James Hanna will have his work cut out to make the team in his "walk year" and they just traded up to get Texas' Geoff Swaim in Round 7.  Unfortunately, Swaim was never a pass catcher and will not come close to filling a Witten-sized void.
So, I guess the bottom line is this: soak in the final years of Jason Witten, because when he is done, it will likely be a long time before you see anything quite like him.  He will go straight to Canton, I assume and Escobar and everyone else will have one heck of a time trying to fill his space.  Good luck with all of that.

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