Dec, 24, 2011; Charlotte, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow (82) fumbles the ball as Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Dan Connor (55) and free safety Sherrod Martin (23) and cornerback Chris Gamble (20) and defensive tackle Andre Neblett (68) defend in the third quarter. The Panthers defeated the Buccaneers 48-16 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Dallas Cowboys' Offseason Position Battles.


Every offseason, rookies and new veteran acquisitions go to the Dallas Cowboys’ OTA’s and training camp to battle for one of the 53 roster spaces available. Given that about 35 spots are locked up before any given season, that means the 50 or so other players are fighting for 23 slots.  In addition to these guys competing just to make the team and earn a paycheck, the 35 players who have guaranteed jobs are still fighting to mainatin their position (or move up) on the depth chart.

Let’s break down some of the players involved in the important position battles on the Dallas Cowboys:

Sep 25, 2010; Piscataway, NJ, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Bruce Carter (54) blocks the punt of Rutgers Scarlet Knights punter Teddy Dellaganna (93) during the second half at Rutgers Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

Bruce Carter

If ESPNDallas or the Cowboys’ own website represent Cowboy Nation’s mindset (and typically it does to an extent), then the largest, most important, seemingly most covered position battle of the century is between Bruce Carter and Dan Connor at linebacker. While this is a bit of a hyperbole, it truly is the most covered position battle in recent memory.  Most of the Cowboys’ starting positions (at least until Jason Garrett arrived) have been locked up before any practices or drills took place each season, so this is the first true position battle for an every-down position (kickers don’t count) since Tony Romo vs. Drew Bledsoe in 2006.  So obviously this story will get over-saturated (along with the battle for slot receiver) with coverage, but that doesn’t make the story any less important.

This battle could have a make or break impact on the Cowboys’ run defense given the severe struggles at the position opposite Sean Lee in 2011.  Bruce Carter has a slight advantage because Connor underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and the Cowboys have a second round pick invested in Carter, so he has to be considered the early favorite. The Cowboys don’t want a repeat of the Jacob Rodgers situation where a second round pick coming off of an injury never got to see the field.  You should see Bruce Carter lead throughout training camp and ultimately win the job in the most tightly contested of the Cowboys’ offseason position battles.

Dan Connor

Connor may actually be the better player, but for the reasons listed above, he will probably be the number three option for the Cowboys at linebacker. Considering Sean Lee’s long-term injury history and Bruce Carter’s short-term one, it wouldn’t be surprising if Connor started  five or six games this year.  Rob Ryan will be sure to get him on the field in some crazy packages regardless of whether or not Connor wins the starting job.

Raymond Radway

Slot Receiver Raymond Radway had a gut-wrenching injury in the last three seconds of the final game of the 2011 preseason when he went for a jump ball against the Dolphins and ended up breaking his leg.  The Cowboys immediately placed him on IR and his season was finished, but the Cowboys saw enough from Radway to keep him on the team, and they couldn’t have been more right.

Slot receiver, another significant area of need for the Cowboys, has been covered almost as much as linebacker. Laurent Robinson, who was a godsend for the Cowboys last year, left a gigantic hole at slot receiver when the Jaguars grossly overpaid him in free agency. Many people consider Radway the favorite to win the job based on his performance in the preseason last year, but rehabbing a catastrophic injury like he suffered might set him back some.

Dwayne Harris

The Cowboys thought they got a steal when they drafted Harris in 2011 two to three rounds after his pre-draft projection, and most draft analysts agreed.  Harris was active for the the first 5 games of the 2011 season before being placed on the practice squad.  He was then activated for the last three games of the season and was used as a punt and kickoff return man. This is his last real chance to make an impact, as slot receiver seems like a distinct possibility for the the top four rounds of the 2013 draft if he and Danny Coale don’t get their act together. Operating under the assumption that Danny Coale will make the squad as a fourth or fifth receiver and Raymond Radway will too, that leaves Dwayne Harris against Kevin Ogletree, so it seems that Harris will again ride the practice squad bench.

Kevin Ogletree

Kevin Ogletree has had an infuriating existence as a Dallas Cowboy.  It seems like he has made key mistakes at every key moment that a fourth receiver possibly could. And despite this, Ogletree will be on the roster this season and has about a million dollars coming his way. Considering he is a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ slot receiver, you’d think that the Cowboys brass would have given up on him by now, but by some miracle he’s still there. Unfair as it is, and despite his mind-numbing ineptitude (he is a jack of below average trades) he has about the same chance of being slot receiver by the time all is said and done as Raymond Radway.

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Tags: Bruce Carter Dan Connor Dwayne Harris Kevin Ogletree Raymond Radway

  • Dallas3026

    I think Dwayne Harris will make the team because he can return punts and kickoffs.  You don’t think the huge WR Holmes has a shot at making the 53?

    • Californy

      Holmes look solid too but my question on him is the level of competiton he face in college.  A tall fast WR is need here in Dallas.  I wish him well in the camp battle for the roster spot. Raymond Radway look good in camp last year until he broke his leg in the last minute of the last game in the preseason.  It going to be a battle for these roster spots.

    • jbbravo

      @Dallas3026 Harris has not really taken the punt and kickoff returns from anyone yet. He is close to being cut to me also. He could also be kept because he is more experienced but I say take the best guys to play.

  • Californy

    I expect A lot from Dan Connor  this year, I just hope Bruce comes ready to battle, we may need him to step up especially if this team goes to a 4-3 defense where Carter, Connor and Lee become our LB .

  • Californy

    I have a dark Horse for 3rd Cole Beasley 172 catches in the last two years say he find the soft zone and has hand.  But it will be Dwayne Harris stepping up and becoming this team Slot reciever.  He had a nice college career as a special team player and has the ability to become a solid reciever.  Harris has the best stats from most of these player challenginging for the 3rd spot.

    • Dallas3026

       @Californy Some of the reports out of the OTA said that Beasley was already a better route runner than all the WR’s except Austin.

  • Californy

    I rather develope our own WR vs picking up a veteran WR.  It time to see Jimmy Robinson skills as this team WR coach.  He a good coach, last year we had 8-9 receiver with more than 150 yards in receiving.

  • Californy

    I want to carry less dl this year. We need our lb to be able to play DE also. I want all of our wr to be able to play kr or PR. Those who can’t shouldn’t be on this team . I would like some of our dl to be able to be use as extra blocker in goal situation whether it on the line or FB.

  • Californy

    It hard to picture 35 player have a spot just about guarantee with this team.. We are a average team at best.  It time to update the talent on this team or we will have to settle for finishing at the bottem of the division again.  Every job on this team should be up for bid.

  • jbbravo

    The 3rd receiver spot is the one to watch. I like how all these young guys are fighting for the same spot. We will get a chance to see their potential. The Cowboys have a lot if guys to choose from I see no reason to go out a grab a free agent. I hope they choose to keep 6 receivers. Ogletree got a raise but I think he has a chance to be cut still. He is just insurance if they can’t find a better option and as of right now I can see Holmes, Beasley, Radway and Coale making the team instead of him. Harris might even loose his spot if he don’t step up.

  • Californy

    I like to think the best player are the player who will make the Cowboys this year.  I couldnt help but notice the absence of Matt Mcbriar from this team.  Matt is a solid player for us, he averages over 45 yards per punt.  Those fan who believe Chris Jones is a better player than Matt are only fooling themselves.  Matt has only average bellow his career average 3 times in his career.  Last year was one of those years.  Even in his worst year Matt has average more than Chris Jones did last year,  You have to keep this in mind Matt can average more yards than he does, but he is angling his punts with the 20 yard line to pin their opponet within ther 20 yard line.  he is one of the better punter at doing this.  In fact over 35 % of his punt are punted inside the 20 yard line.

  • Californy

    There a way to avoid this Jacob Rodger incident, dont draft injured players so high in the draft.  If Jacob was a good player he would of caught on with another team.Jacob  played two season and never started a game.  It has more to do with a player talent more than the injury.  A motivated player would make a better effort of recovering from Surgery.  Jacob just didnt have the drive to be that player for us.  The boys left so much talent out there when they drafted Carter.  I hope he can come back, but the Connor signing is a insurance policy for him not making it back.

  • ctcowboysince1968

    Greyson, I disagree with your article.  The biggest position battle is not ILB.  And KO should never make the 53 man roster.  Anyone is better than KO.  KO will earn the minimum this year and it is no where near $1 million.  Get your facts right before you write.
    Having Lee, Carter and Connor is excellent for the Boys.  Finally, we have young, fast, athletic ILBs again.  This will make a huge difference in our d.

  • Californy

    I hate to admit this but I tend to agree with your assesment about their only being a couple of position up for grab, it shouldnt be like this but its it.  There is a Guard position up for grab but without any true candidiate, the player who not even practicing may get the nod.  What are we even doing making a third wr position into a big deal.  It is not a big deal.  The third WR became special last year because of number 1 receiver went down.  The 3rd Wr should get somewhere between 350 -600 yards only, our first & second Wr should be over 1000 yrds each.  The only thing at stake is all back up positions, back RB, WR, Swing Tackle, CB, Center. Guards, TE, QB. FB & placement on the 53 man squad.

  • Californy

    I dont see player like Akwasi, Ogletree, Parnell, Chapas, Mario Butler, Spears, Mana Silva & Coleman making this team

  • CowgirlCas22

    I totally agree. I was infuriated when they resigned KO.  Cole Beasley is in that Rec battle too. He is already turning a lot of heads. There is definitely  no counting him out yet.  In fact, he is the subject of my next story.

  • Californy

    I have been looking for a trading partner for Michael Jenkins, I mention Aqib Talib, who was drafted in the same drafting class but got no response to it>  I am at it again, I may have a player who can help us, The only bad thing he was one of the worst CB in the league last year.  There a reason for his bad play it was a shoulder injury, Will NE let go one of the shining bright start for Jenkins.  Just keep this in mind, NE drafted a CB in the 7th rd who had 1-2 rd grade on his play.  This is why i see this as a possibility.  
    In 2011, the New England Patriots managed to make a Super Bowl run in despite one of the worst culprits to take the field in CB, Devin McCourty,who was a one-hit wonder during his rookie year in 2010, when he intercepted 7 passes and made it to the Pro Bowl. He failed to match his breakout rookie season , settling for just two interceptions and allowing 1,115 receiving yards—at the bottom of the league. The Patriots will give McCourty another chance, probably because some of his poor play can be attributed to a separated shoulder. 

  • Californy

    I love competition, it can only bring out the best in people.  But do we really have it on the Cowboys.  Who is Costa Competiton? Nagy, Why not Kolwaski or even a veteran Like Guroda.  Yes, real competition can only make this team better.  What about Chris Jones? Does he have competition? Jones can’t even beat out our emergency Punter average last year in college in Danny Coale. Why not bring back McBriar and let the real competion continue.  How can a player like Bernardeue even be in the mix, He has been injured and hasnt even really practice.  Why not bring in a veteran to see if we can’t get better in that position.  I know it slim picking at this moment.  But why not brink back Holland, he played well down the stretch when he got into shape.  Do you really want to count on a Guard with a hip injury and another with bad knee condition, or another who really had no starting position in College (Nagy) as a player you want protecting the most valuable player on this team.  Real competiton can only bring real depth.  Since we really dont have real competion then we have no real depth.  If you consider a player like Parnell as real depth, a player who never started in the NFL or even in college, we are in trouble. Yeah this team is in trouble this year, but if you people have a blind faith in JJ, just keep believing.  I can convince you that what I see many fans see as well.  I know my words put me in a catagory as a hater, but the real fact are I care for this team more than you realise.  Our history show us being average for 17 years, despite the optomism on the defensive side of the ball, I just dont see us making the stride in this division most fans see us making. Just dont hate on my boys when things are not going well in the season, because their answer to this team sucess can be found now, in the present.  In order for this team to have a good future we must deal with the present condition and make them better.

  • Californy

    My question to the boys is,Do the best player make the team of do we try to protect people base on their potential verse their health and ability to contibute right away.  Will the the boys having injuries at many position which of these injured player makes the team and which one get bump because of potential The Boys have Crawford, lissemore, Ratliff, Connor,Jenkins, Bernardeau, Kolwalski, Coale missing because of injuries. Is it fair to the player here in camp to lose their spot because someone has a bigger contract than theirs.  Where it fair or not you are going to see just that.  My concern about bringing this up is we may lose some of these player because they will not make the practice squad.  I believe a person Like Harris, Radway. Hamilton, Madison, Bryan & Beasley will be lost if they are put on the practice squad.  The player who are on the bubble may be lost to other team looking to improve their depth.  The boys will lose some of these player guarantee.  My question is who and why expose thse player if they are winning the battle just to protect player of interest the draft picks, or players with larger contract.