As camp heats up, all eyes will be on the Dallas Cowboys defense. But what about the offensive side of the ball? Here are three interesting stories to keep your eye on before the season begins.
Who will be the odd man out on the line?
It is almost guaranteed that first-round draft pick Zach Martin will begin the season starting at the Guard position. While he’s been taking reps thus far at the RG position, this does not necessarily mean he’ll be taking the place of Brian Waters / Mackenzy Bernadeau. Although Waters is almost definitely not returning to the team at this point, it is still possible that Bernadeau beats out Ronald Leary for a starting job. Furthermore, if Martin eventually takes over at Right Tackle, does Doug Free automatically move inside, or might he lose a place on the line altogether? What’s clear: Martin will start. What’s not: who won’t.
How will the RB and WR depth charts be filled out?
These position battles are often the most fun to watch. The Cowboys have their top guys penciled in at either position, but beyond that is really a mystery. For Running Back, it is clear only that DeMarco Murray is the go-to guy, but a primed backup is necessary for the oft-injured star. Joseph Randle was drafted in 2013 to be that player, but he did little with his opportunities last year. Lance Dunbar, meanwhile, exploded onto the scene, but was forced out by injury as fast as he was brought in. Phillip Tanner is gone, and so we’re left with Ryan Williams who once had a great deal of promise, but is only 5’9 and injured even more than Murray. Also on the horizon is 5’9 Ben Malena, the Texas A&M standout who is tougher than most. Things are further complicated by the fact that undated free agent FB J.C. Copeland stands a good chance of making the team, leaving one less sport for a ball carrier.
The order of the chart matters far less at the WR spot than simply the names on it. In reality, Dez Bryant – the unseatable #1 WR – will occasionally line up in the slot, and other guys will be moved around too. Still, who starts “opposite” Dez is very much a mystery. Terrance Williams did well last year, but there’s a feeling he might be best suited for situational plays, while Devin Street, arguably the better route runner, should get the nod on first and second down possessions. Now with these two big bodies battling for reps, where does that leave 5’8 Cole Beasley who Tony Romo often went to on third down last season. Finally, who will win the fifth spot is crucial, as the Cowboys commitment to carrying multiple tight ends may leave them without a place for a sixth WR. So, does it go to return specialist Dwayne Harris? What about top UFA signers L’Damian Washington and Chris Boyd? Or will it be a dark horse like practice squad star Tim Benford or former Arizona Cardinal LaRon Byrd. The options are plentiful, but the spots are slim. The decision is very important because whoever does not make the final cut will almost surely be picked up by another team and there could be another Danny Amendola situation.
What will Kyle Orton do and what does it mean for the QB position’s future in Dallas?
This Kyle Orton situation is actually very important for a few reasons. First, a solid backup is most essential for a quarterback who has – as has been said time and time again – had two back surgeries in two years. If Orton leaves, is Dallas fine with Brandon Weeden / Caleb Hannie in that position, or do they search for more proven options? Then, if he does leave, what might the Cowboys do with that extra money? Could it be used to find his replacement or address needs at other positions (like MLB). If he does not leave, what then are the chances of the Cowboys carrying a young QB to develop this year? Weeden will definitely be around, but can intriguing prospect Dustin Vaughan beat out Caleb Hannie for a #3 spot? It’s rather surprising that this drama has lasted as long as it has; how it finishes will tell a lot of the team’s future.
How do you see these storylines playing out? What are some other offensive stories you’ll be keeping an eye on? Sound off in the comments below!