this roster for a whole bunch of new guys - young guys - and the guy who wrote in his Cowboys draft analysis that they "accumulated few players who will actually make the opening-day roster" probably ought to rethink that statement.
Because to me, if these guys the Cowboys drafted can play, I see a whole lot of room for them on this roster. Maybe not as immediate starters as I've previously said, but definitely future starters while becoming today's contributors, either on special teams, in a rotation or on nickel subpackages.
So get ready. There will be a completely different feel to the off-season practices out here, and for sure training camp. Coming off a 13-3 season, there was little wiggle room on the Cowboys' roster heading into the 2008 season, which can cause a lot of brother-in-lawing going on out there in practice.
Because look, the Cowboys had two first-round picks and a second last year, all guaranteed because of the contracts they signed of making the team. There was little doubt over veteran free agents signed such as Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones and Zach Thomas making this team, and obviously no doubt about Ken Hamlin, their franchised player who ended up signing a long-term deal before the start of camp.
And it still was too early to give up on a number of second- and third-year players, guys such as OL James Marten (we thought), Stanback, Watkins, McQuistan, Free, Hurd, Carpenter, Brown, Bowen, Ball and Hatcher. Competition back in those days was not at a premium, maybe just five or seven spots really wide open.
Not so this summer. Competition will be - already is I'm told - at a premium, and that is a darn good thing. Any coach will tell you that - or in this case, owner.
"We went into this draft with a lot of picks and had the mindset to get even more picks if the opportunity of increasing the value of a few of our positions presented itself," Jones said while explaining how not having a first-round pick affected their draft philosophy. "We felt to stockpile draft picks this year in this particular draft was very important for several reasons. No. 1, the larger number of picks allows us to take shots in the draft at specific areas you'd like to create some serious competition for roster spots and play time, and you'll see that in particular at linebacker and secondary."
There's that word, competition.
Then there was executive vice president Stephen Jones speaking later about just what 12 picks does for a team.
"And I'd add to that not to mention the fact the pressure that it puts on the back end of our roster in terms of the other players that we have, which ultimately relieves the pressure on our salary cap," he said of the benefits of trying to upgrade the bottom of the roster - at least. "So if these guys step up and do what we think they can do, we obviously think they can compete with and in a lot of cases beat out some of those guys on those teams last year and hopefully in several of those cases move up further and compete to start and ultimately be starters in some of the other cases."
There it is again, compete.
And that's exactly what you should want to hear. No sacred cows on this team, and I say that within reason because, you know, with the money you've paid some guys and their status, guys such as Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff and Roy Williams and Bradie James and Terence Newman, they aren't competing with anyone but themselves to improve.
But for a lot of the rest, watch out. There will be competition at right cornerback and safety. There will be competition at defensive end and wide receiver and running back and third tight end. There will be competition for the nickel linebacker spot vacated by Kevin Burnett. There will be competition for backup offensive line spots, and who knows, maybe even for the starting guard spot on the left side. And there will be a lot of competition for backup linebacker spots, inside and out.
That's what I'm talking about.
See, at least a dozen more chances to get younger will heat up the competition, and sizzling competition gives you a chance to improve from