Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Depth Chart Is Changing Day to Day

With the surprising news that Shane Graham was signed to battle for the kicking job a loud message was sent to David Buehler and Dan Bailey. It is pretty clear that the coaches aren't comfortable with what they have at kicker right now. And with Graham the team would have a proven kicker with over 10 years of NFL experience. Bringing in veteran kickers hasn't worked out very well for the Cowboys in recent years but I have to admit that I like the idea of Graham right now if he can out kick the other two guys over the next couple of weeks. I'm tired of wondering whether every extra point and field goal is going to go through the uprights. Maybe Graham can change that.

The depth chart at running back changed dramatically today with the return of Tashard Choice and DeMarco Murray to practice. It will be very interesting to see how things play out at running back over the next two weeks. Murray has a great chance to make the final roster purely based on the fact that the Cowboys drafted him this season. As long as he can stay healthy heading into the season he'll make the final roster. Tashard Choice is going to have to battle with Lonyae Miller and Phillip Tanner for the third spot. Choice's lack of special teams value is going to work against him. It is possible that the Cowboys will keep 4 running backs but unlikely. Choice has his work cut out for him.

Igor Olshansky has lost his starting spot and is now battling to make the final roster. If Olshansky isn't going to start it is hard to justify his $3.34 million cap hit. Working in Olshansky's favor is the groin strain that Marcus Spears suffered in the last preseason game. But the coaches seem pretty comfortable with Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore providing depth at defensive end. I'll be surprised if Olshansky isn't cut or traded in the next week or two.

Wide receiver depth remains an issue. While the top three seem set at this point there is a lot of uncertainty behind Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree. Dwayne Harris played great in the first preseason game but was invisible in the second game. Jesse Holley is almost exclusively a special teams player and the Cowboys might not have the luxury of roster space to keep a specialist. Raymond Radway has great speed but is very raw and inexperienced. And Manny Johnson hasn't shown much to prove that he deserves to stick around. I still think the Cowboys might look at a bargain free agent to help provide depth.

On the offensive line the left guard spot is still up for grabs. David Arkin and Bill Nagy are locked in a battle for the starting spot while Montrae Holland recovers from a lower back strain. Nagy seems to have surged ahead in the fight but the next two preseason games will determine the winner. Either way the offensive line has become much younger and more agile heading into the season. You can see the difference when the Cowboys run screen plays because the lineman are doing a great job getting out in front of the ball carrier.

I'm very interested to see how things play out at inside linebacker now that Keith Brooking is finally practicing again. Lee looked good in the preseason game but was invisible in the second game. With the complex defense that Rob Ryan is calling I have to believe that Brooking has a lot to learn. I'd like to see Lee win the battle because he is much more athletic at this point in his career than Brooking will ever be again.

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