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Mailbag, 8/28/10: Carrying Just Four Wide Receivers?

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Today’s mailbag is a quick one-hitter.  I liked this question and wanted to address it before the Cowboys make their upcoming roster cuts.

Q:  What are the chances that we go with only four wide receivers on the roster (Austin/Williams/Bryant/Crayton) to free up one or two roster spots for other, less secure roster positions?  For example, we could keep nine linebackers (Ware/Brookings/James/Spencer/BWilliams/JWilliams/Lee/VButler/LWilliams) and six safeties (Ball/Sensabaugh/AOA/Hamlin/McCray/Church).

I think we’d have a better return on our investment if we kept more special team players and backups for injuries than we would having a wide receiver who never sees the field because we’re always running two tight-end sets.

What are your thoughts?

Dusty McGuire via Facebook

A: I like the idea of having depth at the “weaker” positions, but there’s no way Dallas will carry less than five wide receivers.  The offense did employ more two-tight end sets than anyone in the NFL last season, but that will change this year.  Dez Bryant and Patrick Crayton are too talented to be left off of the field in favor of Martellus Bennett or Deon Anderson.

Further, the injury to John Phillips is actually more debilitating than a lot of people realize.  His presence on the field was counted in the team’s total of two-tight end sets last year, but he frequently lined up as a fullback or F-Back (fullback/tight end hybrid).  Without him, the Cowboys don’t really have a true motion tight end.  Jason Witten is capable of it, but he thrives in his traditional tight end role and in the slot.  Martellus Bennett rarely motions and is not at all an F-Back.

Also, an injury to one of the four receivers would cripple the Cowboys.  What would the offense do if a receiver (or even two) got injured during a game in which the team was losing?  There are times when four-receiver sets are superior to two-tight end sets, but those would be an impossibility with any injury.

Dallas would also have to cut (or trade) two very good players in Kevin Ogletree and Sam Hurd.  Ogletree has struggled in the preseason and Hurd may very well end up getting dealt, but is either player truly less valuable than the “extra” player the Cowboys could retain, such as Leon Williams or Danny McCray?  No way.  You’d be adding depth to one position by stealing it from another.

On a side note, I can’t see the Cowboys keeping six safeties.  I have seen a lot of projections with just that scenario, but the ‘Boys would be leaving themselves awfully thin at another spot.  I think five is a possibility, particularly because Alan Ball and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah can be considered safeties/cornerbacks.  That means the final roster spot at safety is probably up for grabs between Barry Church and Danny McCray.  I personally like Church to win that battle.

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