Inside the Dallas Cowboys
By BRANDON GEORGE
Dallas Morning News
Poor drafts have taken toll on quality of Cowboys’ depth
IRVING – Scratching your head trying to figure out why the Cowboys lack quality depth? Look no further than the team’s recent cuts.
Over the last week, the Cowboys have cut 28 players to get down to their 53-man roster for this season and six of those released were former draft picks: fullback Shaun Chapas (2011 seventh round), wide receiver Manuel Johnson (2009 seventh round), safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (2010 fourth round), cornerback Josh Thomas (2011 fifth round), linebacker Brandon Williams (2009 fourth round) and offensive tackle Sam Young (2010 sixth round).
Chapas and Owusu-Ansah ended up on the Cowboys’ practice squad.
Seventh-round draft picks being cut is one thing, but when a team starts cutting fifth-round picks and earlier it’s eye-opening.
That’s especially true when looking at what the Cowboys received in production from the draft picks they cut: Chapas and Thomas didn’t make the team out of training camp, Owusu-Ansah has one career tackle for the Cowboys, Williams had four career tackles, Johnson had one catch for six yards and Young appeared in two games for the Cowboys last season (but both were on special teams).
Poor drafts continue to plague the Cowboys. It’s been an issue for several years now, but a glaring problem from 2009.
With Johnson and Williams now gone, the Cowboys now have only four of their 12 2009 draft picks still on the roster: quarterback Stephen McGee, linebacker Victor Butler, kicker David Buehler and tight end John Phillips. That’s two third-stringers (McGee and Phillips), a backup (Butler) and a kicker who has lost his field goal job.
The Cowboys remain a top-heavy organization. They have five or six of the best players at their position in the NFL, but after that the talent drops off dramatically.
Compare that to last year’s Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and it’s quite obvious how the Cowboys don’t stack up depth-wise with NFL playoff teams during the salary-cap era.
Q: Why did the Cowboys cut cornerback Josh Thomas from Cedar Hill? He really looked like he was the real deal.
Kerry Garner, Beaumont, Texas
GEORGE: The fifth-round pick from April’s draft injured his hamstring and couldn’t play in the last preseason game at Miami. That hurt his chances of making the team. Thomas was up and down during training camp. He had his moments, but he was often beat on deep passes. That said, the Cowboys really wanted to get him on their practice squad after he was cut and were very discouraged when Carolina claimed Thomas off the waiver wire.
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Q: Are they expecting second-round draft pick linebacker Bruce Carter (North Carolina) to start when he returns after six games?
Gary Clark, Roseburg, Oregon
GEORGE: No, definitely not. Carter will be worked into the Cowboys’ defense slowly. Fans likely won’t see Carter’s full potential until the 2012 season. Carter had said a few weeks ago that he expected to be released for full contact this week, but he told me Monday he’s still about three weeks away from full contact. Carter said he’s not feeling any pain and should be ready to play by Week 7.
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Q: I thought linebacker Kenwin Cummings was really active and a good hitter, always around the ball. With Keith Brooking’s age, it’s curious why they didn’t keep him?
Chris Kline, West Jefferson, N.C.
GEORGE: I, too, thought Cummings would make the final 53-man roster, but in the end it came down to a numbers crunch. The Cowboys kept four running backs, four tight ends and two kickers, so they had to trim somewhere and it cost Cummings a job. Cummings was active during the preseason but didn’t have any impact plays and hurt his thumb late in training camp. In the end, it was too much for him to overcome.
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Q: Can you clarify the reasoning to justify roster spots being taken up with a third quarterback and a second kicker when we are short on linebackers?
Laurie Ryan, Willard, Mo.
GEORGE: This seems to be a popular topic, Laurie. First off, every NFL team keeps three quarterbacks. As physical as the league is and how quality quarterbacks are few and far between, it’s a must to keep three. And the Cowboys really like how Stephen McGee played in the preseason. As far as the two kickers, it came down to a want for Jerry Jones and Co. Jones wanted a kicker who had a chance to get a touchback every kickoff and a kicker who was accurate on field goals. They couldn’t find one kicker who was good at both, so in the end they went with two. The Cowboys are thin at inside linebacker and it’s a concern, especially considering Keith Brooking’s age.
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Q: I’m all in favor of the youth movement across the offensive line. However, does going with smaller, quicker linemen (for screens, draws, zone blocking, etc.) leave us vulnerable to pass rush on 5-7 step drops (downfield passing)?
Brant L. Abbitt, Newport News , Virginia
GEORGE: I don’t think it leaves the Cowboys vulnerable to the pass rush on deep throws. The Cowboys like the fact that these younger linemen get off the ball quicker and can slow defensive ends and/or outside linebackers on the pass rush from around the end. If the Cowboys had a power running game, it would hurt them to get rid of the big, physical players up front for younger, quicker linemen. But the Cowboys rely on speedy backs and younger, quicker linemen seem to be a better fit for their offense and – certainly – the team’s future.