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Friday, August 15, 2014
Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

By Todd Archer

OXNARD, Calif. -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
Away we go:

@toddarcher #cowboysmail How much of a dent does the absence of Scandrick put in the defensive scheme?

— Brandan Vitt (@Vittjuice) August 14, 2014

@toddarcher: It's a huge dent in the defense because the Cowboys felt the strength of their defense was going to be their cornerbacks. They will be undermanned for the first four games with Scandrick's absence. As much as they like Sterling Moore, he's not Scandrick. I say this respectfully but even if Scandrick was available for all 16 games, I think this defense would struggle. He is a good, solid player. He set his career high last year with two interceptions, so he's not Darrelle Revis. But on this defense, which has already lost Sean Lee and DeMarcus Lawrence, he is positively Revis-like because the talent base is so thin. In a perfect world Scandrick is the defense's fifth- or sixth-best player, not its first or second, but this defense will be far from a perfect world.

@toddarcher What are your thoughts on the defensive depth chart as a whole? How does it compare to last year's at this time? #cowboysmail

— p neill (@P_Neill98) August 14, 2014

@toddarcher: It's not as good if we're comparing to what we thought we knew in August 2013. They don't have a DeMarcus Ware. They don't have a Lee. They don't have a Jason Hatcher. They don't have an Anthony Spencer. At least not now. The Cowboys are hoping a lot of guys have career years. Can George Selvie repeat his seven sacks from last year? Can Jeremy Mincey find his eight-sack self from 2011? Can Bruce Carter find his 2011 self? Can Rolando McClain find his Alabama self? Can Morris Claiborne find his LSU self? They just have questions pretty much everywhere. Add in Scandrick's suspension and it is worse. I have not seen a defense beaten up by the Cowboys' offense so routinely in a training camp since I've covered them. Now maybe that means the offense is going to be among the NFL's best, but maybe the defense is what we thought it would be to paraphrase Dennis Green.

Do you think the Cowboys should try to create a faster pace on offense? Not like Chip Kelly's offense but just a little faster? #cowboysmail

— Nolan (@Nolan_Fowler22) August 13, 2014

@toddarcher: That's a tough question because of the defense. What happens if they play so fast and cannot execute on third down and that defense is on a field a ton? That's not good. I think they will play faster, but I don't think you'll see them play like the Denver Nuggets back in the day. They can't. Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett need to be mindful of that defense when they are crafting game plans and when they are in the middle of games. They need to shorten games. To me, however, that does not mean become a ground-and-pound team. They need to attack and use the strengths of the entire offense. To me the key will be fast starts. If the Cowboys can get off to leads of 10-0, 14-0, then it becomes a lot easier to play defense, even one that is not talent-rich. It will be up to the offense to make the other teams' offense predictable because I just don't see the defense being able to do that by itself.

What are your expectations for Mo Claiborne this year? if he is average at best, do the boys move on? @toddarcher #cowboysmail

— JTandJasmine (@Cowboys041012) August 13, 2014

@toddarcher: I expect Claiborne to play better than he did his first two seasons, but I don't know how big of a bar that is to clear. He's not been terrible but the expectations for the No. 6 pick of the draft are greater. Those guys can't really be developmental players. They need to play right away. I do like how Claiborne is competing in training camp better. He is fighting (not literally mostly) better. He is being more physical. But he is also giving up a lot of plays. He's going against some good receivers in practice in either Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams, but he's going to see good receivers every week. Right now I see the Cowboys letting Claiborne's contract play out. He is signed through 2015 and the team has to pick up the fifth-year option for 2016 by next spring. If he is 'average at best,' then I just can't see them committing that money to Claiborne.

@toddarcher #cowboysmail in the 1st game it appears Randle got most of the reps. At this point is he in the lead for the #3 rb spot?

— DMV-Dallas Cowboys (@DMVDallasCowboy) August 13, 2014

@toddarcher: I would say so. He has had a nice camp. He has a good feel as a runner. He's decent out of the backfield. He's improved as a pass protector. He's done some good stuff on special teams. I like what Ryan Williams has done too, but I haven't had him on my 53-man roster projections so far. He's among the best 53 players in camp but he duplicates in many ways what Randle does. Will he get to the games? Probably not, so why have him eating up a roster spot if he won't play? That's my thought. I don't see the Cowboys carrying four tailbacks right now. They have in the past because Philip Tanner was a special-teams contributor. Randle and Williams aren't exactly core guys there yet.