2014 Depth Chart: Dallas Cowboys

A look at the depth and quality of each position on the roster for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys.

| 1 year ago

2014 Depth Chart: Dallas Cowboys

2014 depth update DAL

[Chart last updated: 7/1/14… see update notes from 7/1/14]


•  On the initial draft I had DeMarco Murray down as good starter before Khaled persuaded me that I was letting his injury history negatively affect my judgement (we’d agreed that each player would be graded on their demonstrated ability, not time on the field – unless the two were related). He’s 100% right – when you get Murray in the backfield he usually delivers at a high level. Not only is he an exceptional runner but he’s also a better than average receiver and a good pass blocker. A superb combination I need to appreciate more while moderating my griping about playing time.

•  I was really torn at how best to represent the likely scenario at guard. My view is that Mackenzy Bernadeau is a better player than Ronald Leary and he should retain his starting job with Leary being replaced by Zack Martin (or at least that being the initial plan). However, I get the feeling the Dallas Coaching staff sees it the other way around and it will be Bernadeau seeing second string reps and that’s how I’ve completed the chart. Obviously Leary is the younger player (three years) but the difference in performance levels was so noticeable I don’t think the 28-year-old player should be penalized.
I’ll make one further point – getting a rookie player to switch sides (as well as positions) is never a good idea. I’ve written on the subject before but “muscle memory” is a difficult obstacle to overcome at the best of times never mind while simultaneously taking a step up in class.

•  What to make of Morris Claiborne? In his first season, despite having some real trouble in run support, his coverage improved as the year went on and clearly that is the important part of his role. He ended the year with a positive coverage grade (+2.7) even if his base statistics (e.g. a QB rating of 107.8 when thrown against) belied the truth.
However, last year, while he managed to sort out his issues against the run, his performance against the pass declined markedly, giving up broadly the same amount of yardage in 126 fewer coverage snaps. He’s played a few good games but they are an exception at the moment and need to become at least 50% of his performance canvas.

Roster Battles

Most of the offense seems set and bar Zack Martin (as discussed above) it looks like last year’s O will be this year’s O.

As for defense, as poor as the Cowboys look on paper it doesn’t seem like there will be much up for grabs in terms of starting battles. I never see the D-line in those terms anyway – there may be starters, sure, but the rotational nature of the position group means that everyone will still get a chance to shine.

With the linebackers the only weak link is Bruce Carter but it doesn’t appear he’ll have too much by way of challenge. Not watching any college football, my knowledge on the subject is limited, but it appears Anthony Hitchens is more suited on the inside or strong-side. If he (or indeed any of the other linebackers) has the coverage skills required, they could test him but it’s questionable. Therefore the only obvious competition I see is:

1.  Free Safety

A game of musical chairs ensued at this position in 2013. Will Allen started in possession and did nothing terribly wrong before being replaced in week three by J.J. Wilcox. It seemed like the Cowboys were just returning to their original preseason strategy of starting Wilcox – a plan that was hampered by the tragic death of his mother. Once installed, he too gave a reasonable account of himself before his worst game coincided with an injury that took him out for three weeks. In the interim Dallas turned to Jeff Heath who only looked totally out of his depth once (along with everyone else – in the debacle against the Saints) and Wilcox, on his return, was left to back-up duty. It’s difficult to call a winner here and although it’s possible that someone else may stand up to be counted, the Cowboys believe that one of these two will be their FS of the future.


Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil

  • Jake

    Tony Romo is a “good” starter huh? If you guys have Eli in the “Elite” or even “High Quality” category then you’ve lost all credibility. Cowboys had the 3rd worst defense in the HISTORY of the NFL and still didn’t post a losing record. Wonder why that is? Most be because of their merely “good” QB who also put up dazzling numbers.

    • Name

      U really want to compare Romo and Eli? Romo’s been a starter for 8 seasons with one playoff win. I’m not a big fan of Eli but really?

      • Dr__P

        Wins are TEAM stats not individual stats

        • BillReal

          Rodgers went 15-1 with the worst defense in the league.
          Brady and Peyton take garbage teams to the playoffs every year.
          Romo can’t even win the NFC East.

          • Daniel Lawson

            Even Jay Cutler took an offense with no talent outside of Forte to NFCC and the D was only decent that year

          • Calvin

            That same defense was the best in the league the year before when they won the super bowl. Well either way, Rodgers is one of this league’s best qbs. Last year there were maybe 2 qbs in this league that could have done better with the Cowboys than Romo did.

          • http://www.intelligentatheism.blogspot.com Eric Valero

            Peyton Manning threw 7 interceptions and only 3 touchdowns in the post season when his team carried him to a ring, calm down with the team stats and the Manning worship

    • KB13

      Look at the defensive depth chart. Arguing whether Romo is Good/High is kinda irrelevant don’t ya think?

  • Fintasy

    It’s a shame Morris Claiborne hasn’t panned out better. The Cowboys made what seemed like a fantastic move on draft day to move and snatch him, but have gotten little in return for that investment.

    • Calvin Wasdyke

      Jerry Jones fault. Morris is a man to man corner. Not a 2 deep zone corner.

  • ARY

    What about Kyle Wilber? Good chance he wins the SLB starting spot

    • PFF_Neil

      Very good spot. Total brain lock on my part. I’ll get it sorted.

  • Calvin

    Surprised you have Romo as a good starter. I thought he would be high quality.

  • Calvin

    Claiborne is playing out of scheme (thanks to the great Jerry Jones), so I’ll give him a pass. Surprised Justin Durant and Orlando Scandrick are average starters as well, I thought they would both be ranked a lot lower.

    • TMay

      Scandrick is generally pretty well thought of (outside of Fandom). He gets the tough slot assignments.

  • Shawn Preston

    I think you guys are wrong big time on Crawford’s spot. Around here he is getting big buzz.

    • TMay

      Yeah, he’s gonna end up splitting time with Melton and at LE

  • Adam Milsom

    Justin Durant and Nick Hayden most likely won’t make the roster, let alone start. DeVonte Holloman and Terrell McClain will take those jobs. Cowboys coaches have also said that Tyrone Crawford will play 3 Tech DT and will most likely get almost as many reps there as Henry Melton (making him 2nd string over Okoye). Spencer will most likely start the season on the PUP list and anything the Cowboys get from him in a situational rusher role is gravy.

  • Jay

    How do you guys at PFF think the running game will do behind that average O line?

  • van

    Dez Bryant, not elite? I stopped looking right then. This “opinion” chart of yours is pure BS

  • BradAustin

    Williams…just your ‘average’ rookie WR season with 74 catches for 736 yards and 5 TD’s. Not even given starter reps the whole time at #2 and forfeiting 24 catches to incumbent vet starter Miles Austin when he was healthy at #2. About the same talent level as Bernadeau, Nwaneri, Beasley, Okoye, Durant, and Moore? Really now.

    Scandrick just your average slot corner…no better than half the other slot corners…nothing special there. Hmmmm.

  • polarbearsquares

    Good job on 95% of this depth chart. It was really helpful. Just a few quibbles tho.

    Kyle Orton was released. Weeden is now our backup. Durant has been running with the starters at MLB and Wilber with the starters at SLB. They are the prohibitive favorites to start. Holloman is running with the 2nd team on the outside. Think if you dropped Orton, changed Weeden to our backup, included Caleb Hannie as our 3rd QB, changed Durant from starting Sam to Mike, moved Wilber to starter and put Holloman as a backup on the outside it would be more accurate.

    The links are below.




  • Ole Einar Bjørndalen

    That is a very bad defense, taking Martin in the first didn’t make much sense to me.