Now that free agency and the draft are complete, we are slowly getting a better grasp of what this team will look like in 2014. The biggest need heading into this offseason was the defense and depth across the board. The Cowboys have been very calculating in every decision; from releasing DeMarcus Ware; letting Jason Hatcher walk; to going heavy on defense in the draft. So now, its time for the competition to begin. Who’s in and who’s out?
The Cowboys are looking to inject more youth and potential playmakers on both sides of the ball. With that being said, which players that were starters in 2013 could be in jeopardy of losing their starting jobs?
Right Guard: Mackenzy Bernadeau
Bernadeau, had a shaky 2013 campaign, so much so, that the Cowboys signed Brian Waters. Waters took over for Bernadeau, but got injured towards the end of the year and Bernadeau looked like a changed man. He played well, and was slated to be the starting RG. Fast forward to the draft and the Cowboys are now set to make a change at the guard position. Zack Martin was brought in to bolster the offensive line with his power and athleticism. The Cowboys will likely start Martin at RG, and let Leary and Bernadeau battle it out for the LG. However, I feel that Leary will win that battle as well. When the Cowboys brought in Waters it was for Bernadeau’s spot and not Leary, so we’ll see who comes out of the heap. Leary is in a contract year and Bernadeau has another year left on his contract.
Linebacker (Weakside): Bruce Carter
Carter has had a roller-coaster career in Dallas, it started with Carter needing more time to recover from his ACL injury after his senior year at North Carolina, and then the defensive scheme change in 2013 curtailed his emergence in his 2012 season. Carter was then benched during the season by Ernie Sims who was just as dreadful, if not worse. Carter never recovered and the coaching staff has been very blunt where they stand with Carter entering the 2014 season. Whether its Coach Eberflus or Coach Marinelli, comments suggest its time to man up or go to the bench. Carter is in a contract year, so he’ll want to ball-out if he wants any chance at a decent free agency pay day. We saw how the linebacker market took a plunge this past year, so will that be enough motivation to get the fire back for Carter? Who knows. What I do think will happen is that, Carter will be supplanted by DeVonte Holloman or Will Smith . Holloman looked the part in the preseason and was poised to unseat someone until nagging injuries robbed him of a starting position last year. I think Holloman wins this battle.
Linebacker (Strongside): Justin Durant
Durant has been a disappointment in Dallas. Durant was a tackling machine during his stints in Jacksonville and Detroit, but that did not translate in Dallas. Just like Carter, the versatile DeVonte Holloman could nab this job, but Kyle Wilber will have the inside track. Wilber came on strong at the end of the year and may have found himself a starting gig in 2014. This battle will be a good one to watch; but ultimately, Durant is probably out.
Cornerback: Morris Claiborne
Well, we already know Orlando Scandrick unseated Claiborne and did not give up his spot the rest of the season. So, I’m not fully sure this is a job that is actually open, but the Cowboys will say its Claiborne’s job to lose, and he will. I bet Claiborne gets some sort or injury phantom or real, which causes him to miss some preseason action – watch. Claiborne is not confident and we already heard that Marinelli “does not do confidence,” you either man up and play or you don’t. What’s your gut feeling tell you about Claiborner in 2014? I don’t want to see him looking lost and getting burnt again, so give me Scandrick opposite Carr. Let Claiborne battle out for playing time with Terrance Mitchell and BW Webb… sad.
Wide Receiver (#3 WR): Dwayne Harris / Cole Beasley
With Miles Austin injured most of 2013, Harris and Beasley were the de facto #3 WRs, but this offseason, the Cowboys wanted to get bigger at the wideout position and they drafted Devin Street to replace Austin. By most accounts, Street is said to have great hands and runs nice routes, so we will see Street out there with Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Harris and Beasley will still have key roles in the offense, and have packages designed for them, but from here on out, Street is the #3 WR.
The free safety position is open and up for grabs. Jeff Heath manned the position most of 2013 and the results were absolutely atrocious. I’m pulling for J.J. Wilcox to return to his 2013 training camp form and put a stranglehold on the position. The Cowboys were so high on the safety options leading up to the draft that they did not use a high pick on the position. Instead they added Ahmad Dixon in the 7th round who will be McCray’s special teams replacement, and likely knock Matt Johnson or Heath off the roster; one can’t stay healthy worth a lick and the other can’t cover or tackle.