Dallas Cowboys: Cody Mandell

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
11:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

The Kyle Orton watch is over now that the Cowboys released the veteran backup. The timing of it is a surprise, and Jason Garrett spoke optimistically all offseason about Orton’s return. Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Weeden as Romo’s backup. Weeden had a productive spring, running the first-team offense as Romo recovered from back surgery. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback since 2011, and Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan will have work to do to crack the 53-man roster

RUNNING BACKS (4)


The last two spots could be up in the air. Randle, a fifth-round choice, will be pushed by free-agent pickup Ryan Williams in the preseason. Williams, a former second-round pick, was not able to stay healthy in Arizona. The Cowboys have given him a chance to win a backup job. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup in 2013. He is more versatile than undrafted rookie J.C. Copeland, but I don’t think having a fullback on the 53-man roster is set in stone.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


I debated whether to go with a sixth, but later on you will see why I stuck with five. It is possible the Cowboys will look for a veteran in the final cuts if they feel limited by their depth because of injury, but I think they like the overall group. They will work their No. 3 receiver role on a rotation basis, but Beasley could emerge as a bigger threat on third down. There will be a lot of eyes on Williams, who takes over the No. 2 role on a full-time basis. Bryant is set for another Pro Bowl-type season.

TIGHT ENDS (3)


Witten remains near the top of the game at his position. His total catches were down last year, but his touchdowns were up. Escobar’s role figures to expand, especially as a No. 3-type receiver. Hanna has the inside track on the third spot, but I have a feeling the Cowboys will be looking for more of a traditional blocker, especially if they want to get away from the fullback spot to open up a role elsewhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

The top six are set, with Bernadeau or Leary fighting it out for the left guard position and the loser becoming the top backup on the interior. Parnell is in the final year of his deal, and if Weems develops, I wonder if the Cowboys would look for a trading partner. They have invested a lot in Parnell in time and money for him to be a backup, so it would be a risk, but perhaps one worth taking. Weems had a decent offseason. Clarke gets the nod as the No. 9 guy right now, but veteran Uche Nwaneri could work his way into the mix.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

I think the Cowboys will go heavy here, especially considering what happened last year and the numbers they have thrown at the position this year. Four of them are rookies -- Lawrence, Gardner, Bishop and Coleman. I believe Anthony Spencer and possibly Amobi Okoye will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, so they don’t make this 53-man roster with the idea that they join the team after the sixth game of the season. Wilson garnered the last spot over a 2013 starter, Nick Hayden, but there will be a few players in the mix for the final few spots, including Ben Bass.

LINEBACKER (7)

Carrying seven linebackers might be a little heavy, but I have special teams in mind when it comes to Will Smith. He benefits from having only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys spent the offseason telling us games are won and lost up front, so carrying an extra offensive or defensive linemen could get in this mix as well. McClain gets a spot only because of his experience. Backups of Holloman, Hitchens and Smith would be tough considering their youth, and I can see the Cowboys looking for veteran backup help around the final cut dates.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr and Claiborne have to play exceptionally well for this defense to have a chance, and they might have to do it without much help from a consistent pass rush. Scandrick is coming off his best season, and Claiborne will have to beat him out to reclaim the starting spot. Moore can play inside and out. Mitchell showed in his limited offseason work that he can make plays. Last year’s fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb, will have to fight for a spot. Based on his offseason work, he did not make the cut for this roster.

SAFETY (5)

Church is the only player without questions. The Cowboys are projecting the other four with their biggest bet on Wilcox. He enters camp as the starter, but he could be pushed by Heath and Hamilton. Dixon will be more of a special-teams threat if he is to make the roster. Hamilton showed some playmaking in the offseason. No Matt Johnson? Not right now, especially after he couldn’t practice -- again -- for most of the offseason.

SPECIALISTS (3)


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.
Constructing a 53-man roster is a difficult process, piecing together 10 positions groups and matching up present needs with future production of older and younger players. This week we take a look at constructing the Dallas Cowboys' roster.

Specialists

On the roster: Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur, Cody Mandell, Casey Kreiter

Locks: Bailey, Jones, Ladouceur

Needs help: Mandell

How many fit? There was a time the Cowboys kept two kickers, one for field goals and the other for kickoffs. Bailey, however, does not need kickoff help. He is more than fine in that department. Three is the magic number for this group.

The Cowboys could look to bring a kicker into camp just so they don't overwork Bailey, who signed a seven-year extension this offseason.

Jones had a solid first full season as the Cowboys' punter. Mandell has a good leg, but he will have to clearly be better than Jones to win the job this summer. Jones has a strong leg but has done a better job on his directional kicking. Mandell showed he has a strong leg in the spring, but he was not consistent.

Do not overlook the fact Jones is a good holder too. That goes a long way to a kicker's confidence even if Bailey does not seem to be bothered by anything.

Ladouceur is a mainstay. It seemed in a few years ago the Cowboys were searching for Ladouceur's replacement, but nobody has been able to handle the duties. Plus, Ladouceur is just too good to go with an unknown snapper. Kreiter will get a chance to show what he can do in the preseason but it might be for another team or a return with the Cowboys in the future.

Minicamp observations: Hamilton shines

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
5:00
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys concluded their final minicamp practice Thursday at AT&T Stadium with a lunch for the players and coaches’ families, but the 90-minute session had some highlights worth noting.
  • Safety Jakar Hamilton came up with a nice interception after linebacker Anthony Hitchens deflected a Dustin Vaughan throw down the seam to wide receiver Devin Street. Hamilton instinctively stuck one hand in the air and then corralled the ball as he turned up field. Hamilton later did a nice job being in position to force an off-target throw to Dez Bryant in the slot.
  • Bryant
    Bryant
    From our vantage point it was hard to tell if Bryant was able to get his feet down for a touchdown catch on a fade pass from Brandon Weeden over Morris Claiborne, but it was an impressive athletic feat. Jason Witten might have had a TD catch from Weeden in seven-on-seven drills over safety J.J. Wilcox, but the replay officials might have overturned it with one foot appearing out of bounds.
  • Left tackle Tyron Smith sealed off the edge to allow running back Lance Dunbar to scamper in for a touchdown run in the red zone. Dunbar had a touchdown run with the second-team offense in a two-minute situation.
  • Rookie punter Cody Mandell scraped the center-hung digital board three times during special teams’ drills. He did the same when he played in Arlington while at Alabama. On Thursday, however, Jason Garrett said the board was lower than its normal 90 feet. The board was lowered for a recent George Strait concert.
  • Quarterback Caleb Hanie was sharp in his situational work, completing four of his five passes, including a nice corner route to Street for a decent gain. One of Dunbar’s touchdowns was set up by a pass interference penalty on Terrance Mitchell, who was covering Street.
  • Linebacker Orie Lemon did a nice job breaking up a goal-line throw to tight end Gavin Escobar in seven-on-seven work with the second team. Weeden was able to complete the same route to James Hanna in the first-team work with a nice fastball.

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:

• When the Cowboys might draft a successor to Tony Romo
• Dead money in 2015
• Special teams' job opportunities
• Can the Cowboys be the Mavericks?
Brandon Carr's contract

If you want to see Part 1, click here.

Away we go:
@toddarcher: If Romo remains healthy and plays well, then I think you'll see it happen in 2016. The Cowboys are all-in on Romo. They said as much when they skipped on taking Johnny Manziel. They don't believe in drafting a developmental quarterback, in part because you might be developing him for another team and, truthfully, quarterbacks taken in Rounds 3-7 hardly ever pan out. For every Russell Wilson or Tom Brady, there is a ton more guys like Mike Teel and Stephen McGee. Now, if Romo cannot make it through the season healthy, then I can see the Cowboys going after a quarterback early in 2015. Kyle Orton may or may not play here in 2014, but he is out of a contract in 2015. Brandon Weeden is doing some nice things right now, but I don't think they view him as a potential starter down the road. If you're looking for a franchise quarterback, the odds say take him early. I believe when the Cowboys are ready to move on from Romo, that's when they start to look.

@toddarcher: I wrote about this a few months ago. In Miles Austin, Orton and possibly Doug Free, you're looking at about $11.3 million in dead money in 2015. Austin was a June 1 cut this year, which pushed money into next year's cap. Orton has two voidable years left on his deal that will come forward. Free also has two voidable years left, but the Cowboys might try to extend his deal, which would take away that dead money. The Cowboys have done a good job of cleaning up their cap the past couple of years and will be in good shape in 2015 and excellent shape in 2016. But that doesn't mean they will go crazy in free agency spending money on players they don't know. I really think they have learned their lesson that they don't get their money's worth.

@toddarcher: Cody Mandell will have a chance, but I think he'll clearly have to beat out Chris Jones over the summer. He didn't do it in the organized team activities. For some reason it takes young punters time to get accustomed to the NFL game. Maybe it's the directional kicking that is more prevalent. Jones has a strong leg. Left-footed punters can be tricky for returners because of the spin on the ball. He's also a good holder, and that's important for Dan Bailey. The Cowboys' special teams were good last year. I don't see any changeover from the specialists unless Mandell knocks out the champ, so to speak.

@toddarcher: I'm not sure which way I should take this. If you mean the Cowboys will be the last wild-card team, then I can see that happening, but until I see more visual evidence in training camp, I'm sticking with 8-8 and missing the playoffs. If you mean, the Cowboys' offense will have to carry the day, then, yes, I'd say true. There are just too many questions on defense to expect anything great. The offense, however, has the tools necessary to be one of the best in the league. Maybe I'm too optimistic on this, but I think Scott Linehan will be really good. I think he'll be more aggressive than Jason Garrett or Bill Callahan. I think he will devise ways for Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to beat double teams. All that being said, if the defense can't be at least a little better and get into the low 20s in rankings, then I don't think the Cowboys will make the playoffs.

@toddarcher: He is guaranteed $1 million this year now that he has been on the roster the first day of the league year. That's the last of the guaranteed money. Yes, he will be gone if he doesn't play well this season. If the Cowboys were to cut him in 2015, they would save only roughly $550,000. If they made him a June 1 cut, then it would free up $8 million in space in 2015, but Carr would count $7.4 million against the cap in 2016. To me, it would be better to not spread the hit over two years even though there wouldn't be much savings. I'll give Carr credit for how he has approached this offseason. He knows it is a big one for him. He has changed his approach to the offseason and dropped some weight in hopes of being faster. If he plays solidly, like he did in 2012, then maybe the Cowboys approach him with a pay cut. If he plays great, then I think you might see them restructure the deal potentially to open up cap room. 

Five Wonders: Don't say bye to Free yet

May, 21, 2014
May 21
9:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- With a rookie minicamp out of the way and the organized team activities starting next week, it's time for the award-winning Five Wonders.

Away we go:
  1. Free
    When the Cowboys picked Zack Martin in the first round, the assumption was that he would (or could) move to right tackle in 2015 with Doug Free in the final year of his contract. I wonder if the Cowboys look to extend Free's contract this offseason. Free is set to make $3.5 million in 2014 as part of a re-worked deal he signed last year. The final two years of his contract void after this season, which means he will count $3.98 million against the cap if he's not a Cowboy in 2015. That's not a reason to keep him. He rebounded with a decent 2013 season and he just turned 30. The Cowboys need to be sensible with a new deal and we've spent the offseason talking about not paying age, which was part of the reason why they said goodbye to DeMarcus Ware and never really tried to keep Jason Hatcher. But tackles tend to play longer. Flozell Adams played his best after he turned 30. This isn't to predict Pro Bowl success for Free; just an example. As for Martin, it was interesting to hear Jerry Jones reference multiple times the importance of being stout in the middle of the line. Keeping Martin at guard might make sense.

    SportsNation

    Who's the Cowboys' best draft pick in the Jerry Jones era?

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      15%
    •  
      33%
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      47%
    •  
      4%
    •  
      1%

    Discuss (Total votes: 14,799)

  2. By signing Ryan Williams to a one-year deal with no guaranteed money this week, the Cowboys have opened up the competition behind DeMarco Murray. I wonder if they can keep four tailbacks. They did the last couple of years because Phillip Tanner was able to play on most of the special teams' units. Williams' injury history would seem to keep him away from special teams. Lance Dunbar covered some kicks and punts last year, but he had a difficult time staying healthy. Joseph Randle will have to work to be a special teamer. If the Cowboys don't keep a fourth tailback it would allow them to go heavier at tight end or offensive line or even carry a third quarterback, depending on what Kyle Orton decides to do this year. It would also open up a potential spot on the practice squad for a tailback as well.

  3. The Cowboys have made adding defensive linemen to the mix an offseason priority. They want to throw numbers at the position. The Cowboys want to mix the snaps around to keep players fresh. I wonder if Henry Melton or Anthony Spencer can come even close to cashing in on their playing time incentives. Both players have to get healthy first, but Melton is further along in his rehab from a torn anterior cruciate ligament than Spencer is in his return from microfracture surgery. Melton and Spencer can earn up to $1.5 million apiece depending on certain play-time percentages. Melton can earn $250,000 for 50 percent play time and up to $750,000 if he reaches 70 percent. He has never played more than 60 percent in a season. Spencer' play-time incentive levels are 65 percent ($250,000), 75 percent ($500,000) and 85 percent ($750,000). If he starts the year on the physically unable to perform list, then he would be lucky to hit on the lowest threshold.

  4. I wonder if Jason Garrett's decision to scale back one day of the rookie minicamp because of the number of players who were hurt or were slowed by dehydration is a sign that he will be more compromising in his practice schedule throughout the year. The Cowboys have studied how other teams go about their practices and have dealt with injuries, but the general conclusion is they are doing the right things. Too many players suffered hamstring injuries the last few years. The Cowboys installed ballet bars outside the locker room to help with stretching pre- and post-practice, but I've maintained Garrett needs to cut back on his practice time. You don't want to leave your best work at Valley Ranch during the season. The Cowboys are one of the teams that use GPS devices on players to measure how much they practice, distances traveled and other pieces of information. If the numbers indicate a player has reached a threshold, then they need to rest that guy so as to not risk it. He can call it an adjustment to the new collective bargaining agreement that has shortened the offseason conditioning program. Who knows, it might just work. And it beats the alternative.

  5. On the list of position battles, punter will rank low on the list, but I wonder if undrafted Cody Mandell can push Chris Jones this summer. Mandell averaged 47.1 yards per punt last season at Alabama with a 42.1-yard net average. He had 14 punts of more than 50 yards and 15 ended up inside the 20. He had six touchbacks. Jones will go to camp as the leader without question. He averaged 45 yards per punt and had a 39-yard net average. He had 30 punts inside the 20 and just six touchbacks. He also developed into a reliable holder for Dan Bailey, which cannot be overlooked. And another aspect gives Jones an edge: he's left-footed.

CB gets Cowboys' top undrafted bonus

May, 15, 2014
May 15
9:30
AM ET
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have not been shy in giving larger than normal signing bonuses or guaranteed money to undrafted free agents, but their 24 signings totaled $66,500 and no guaranteed money in base salaries.

Tarleton State cornerback Dashaun Phillips, a Duncanville, Texas, native, received the largest signing bonus at $7,500. Missouri wide receiver L’Damian Washington received $7,000 to sign. Running back Glasco Martin did not receive a signing bonus.

In 2012, the Cowboys guaranteed guard Ronald Leary $214,000. Last year, the Cowboys guaranteed linebacker Brandon Magee $70,000 and paid out a $10,000 signing bonus to Jakar Hamilton.

Here is the remaining breakdown of signing bonuses:

$5,000
QB Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M
DT Chris Whaley, Texas
OL Jarrod Pughsley, Akron
OL Josh Aladenoye, Illinois State

$3,500
WR Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt

$3,000
OL Andre Cureton, Cincinnati

$2,500
TE Evan Wilson, Illinois

$2,000
FB J.C. Copeland, LSU
RB Ben Malena, Texas A&M
S Marvin Robinson, Ferris State
P Cody Mandell, Alabama
LB Keith Smith, San Jose State

$1,500
S Ryan Smith, Auburn
OG Ronald Patrick, South Carolina
OG Brian Clarke, Bloomsburg
TE Jordan Najvar, Baylor
LS Casey Kreiter, Iowa
CB Jocquel Skinner, Bethel
DE Joe Windsor, Northern Illinois
DT Davin Coleman, Arizona State

$1,000
LB Dontavis Sapp, Tennessee

Five Wonders: Cowboys moves that weren't

May, 13, 2014
May 13
10:15
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- There are lots of things to wonder about after the NFL draft, but we're just wondering about five things right now.

It's always a good time for Five Wonders.

Away we go:
    SportsNation

    Which 7th-round pick has the best chance to make an impact for the Cowboys this season?

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      10%
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      48%
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      21%
    •  
      10%
    •  
      11%

    Discuss (Total votes: 7,574)

  • I wonder how active the Cowboys could have been in making trades during the draft. Stephen Jones referenced a potential move back into the third round that would have cost the Cowboys a 2015 pick (probably their second rounder). The target was LSU guard Trai Turner. I wonder if the Cowboys almost moved back into the first round, which could have been why Jones abruptly left the press conference. Once the Seattle Seahawks saw the New England Patriots draft Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley in the first round, the Seahawks called everybody about a trade, including the Cowboys. The Seahawks eventually swung a deal with the Minnesota Vikings, who took Teddy Bridgewater. If the Cowboys were willing to part with their second- and third-round picks to move to No. 34 with the Washington Redskins, you don't think they contemplated taking Demarcus Lawrence at No. 32?
  • I wonder what direction the Cowboys would have gone had they not traded up to take Demarcus Lawrence with the 34th pick in the draft. The easy thing to do is look at the players the Washington Redskins took at picks Nos. 47 and 78 (Trent Murphy, Spencer Long) and grade the Cowboys that way. The need for a right defensive end was too great and Lawrence would have gone quickly in the second round. But would a combination of Scott Crichton and Josh Huff been better? Would a combination of Cody Latimer and Will Sutton have been better? Would they have taken a safety in the third round? Giving up two players for one is always risky (see Morris Claiborne) but it can also work out (see Tyron Smith). The Cowboys passed on a chance to trade down from the No. 9 pick with Jacksonville in 2011 but stood firm and took Smith, who the look of a dominant left tackle for years to come. The Cowboys used a similar strategy in the fifth round to take wide receiver Devin Street. They viewed Street as the last receiver ready to make an impact in 2014, so they gave up their fifth- and seventh-rounders to get him.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys start to look for another tight end. They didn't draft one and added two in college free agency in Baylor's Jordan Najvar and Illinois' Evan Wilson. They liked Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz, just not at the top of the third round where the Houston Texans grabbed him. The Cowboys need more of a blocking tight end to a degree with Gavin Escobar and James Hanna backing up Jason Witten. Escobar's role figures to increase greatly in 2014 but they need to use him at what he does best, which is working the seams and being a mismatch outside. Hanna was OK as a blocker but he is better in space too. Of course, this could all mean the Cowboys will be a fullback team again. They liked what Tyler Clutts brought to the running game after joining the team late last season, and they signed LSU's J.C. Copeland as a college free agent.
  • Is it too early to wonder about the 2015 draft? I wonder if the Cowboys look for Tony Romo's successor in 2015. The way Jason Garrett explained it, the Cowboys will not be in the business of developing a mid- to late-round quarterback to be the starter in the future. If the offensive line plays out the way the Cowboys hope, they won't need to look for early help there. The defensive line could be the top option again with Anthony Spencer, Henry Melton, George Selvie and Nick Hayden playing on one year deals. The Cowboys hold an option on Melton for three years, but won't exercise it if he is not close to Pro Bowl form. So for all of the defensive line work this offseason, they could be back in the mix to upgrade in 2015. Cornerback could also be a position of need if Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne do not bounce back.
  • I wonder how many of the undrafted rookie free agents can make the 53-man roster. There will be some, which happens every year. On the spots in which the Cowboys are thin, Missouri wide receiver L'Damian Washington offers size and speed. He caught 50 passes for 893 yards and 10 passes last season. His story is uplifting, too. Click this Grantland video to see. Najvar has a chance at the moment. Punter Cody Mandell could push Chris Jones and has already hit the digital board at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys have kept four tailbacks in the past, so Glasco Martin and Ben Malena have opportunities. Defensive tackle Davon Coleman faces an uphill climb, but he was among the Cowboys' national visitors, so that gives him a leg up. It will be nice to get a look at these guys at the rookie mini-camp.

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