The cavalry is coming.
After several long weeks, help will finally be on its way. The Dallas Cowboys defense has been far from elite, but over the first three weeks of the season it has been better than expected. Two of the top players on defense have been unable to practice with the team or join in Sunday Funday for the entire season, thanks to their respective suspensions. Now, both Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain are eligible to rejoin the active roster for Dallas. The question is, who will be let go to make room for the defensive studs?
Hardy has been out for four games due to his suspension for conduct detrimental to the league, stemming from him being charged with domestic violence. He was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list last year and missed the last 14 games of the season (the Panthers made him inactive Week 2). Even though charges were dismissed, the NFL originally suspended him 10 games, then his appeal knocked that down to 4. Hardy and the NFLPA chose not to challenge the ruling in court so he sat the first month.
After being fined four game checks in January for his third violatation of the league’s substance abuse policy, Rolando McClain violated again and was hit with a four-game suspension.
Although both were suspended, the league handles the two incidents differently. McClain has been allowed contact with the team and has been able to attend meetings and workout. Hardy has not been allowed any contact with the club outside of the trainers checking on him. Now both are back and room needs to be made. How will Dallas make this room?
The easiest answer might not be the correct one. Here’s a look at the various candidates who might be waived to create two seats at the table.
Smith seems like the most obvious candidate to create room for McClain. The linebacker was somewhat of a surprise to make the original 53 for some (CHQ did have him in our projections over the last several weeks of camp), but he has yet to log a single snap on defense through three games. Of greater import is the fact that he didn’t log a single special teams snap against Atlanta last week. A Smith-for-McClain swap would make perfect sense. (Problem here is, Smith is on all the special teams. Value there.)
The fifth round pick was forced into action against the Falcons due to attrition, and didn’t fair very well. DC Rod Marinelli basically said he’s a rookie doing rookie things. Seeing how the Cowboys don’t ever keep more than four defensive ends active and have chosen to go with three due to injury, Russell could be in the cross hairs. The obvious caveat here is that exposing Russell to the practice squad could signal the end of his career In Dallas due to another team placing him on their 53 man roster.
This might be a little far-fetched, but should it be? We’ve all seen the limitations Weeden showed last week, or at the very least, the coahing staffs limitations on what they are going to ask him to do. Should things go South for Weeden in Louisiana tonight, could the Cowboys see themselves rolling with the two newcomers at the position until Romo comes back? Were Weeden to lose his 10th straight start, what would be the point of keeping him in the fold?
There’s a lot of talk whether or not Michael’s will make his Cowboys debut tonight. While many are enamored with his plus-athleticism, it’s his mental game that seems to have kept him out of rotation in Seattle and on the practice day scout team since coming over. Dallas only traded a conditional seventh, dependent on him playing three games, so they could cut him and not give up anything. Would the game against the Saints (in which we anticipate he'll be active to play in short-yardage sub-packages) be his one shot at making the team? That would give plenty of Cowboys fans a big saddie.
Whitehead had one of the most interesting training camps, as he appeared to be in position to be the primary kickoff and punt returner. An in-game preseason fumble and a bad practice or two took those roles away, and he’s never gotten them back. He also isn’t getting any snaps as the slot receiver backup, so the question is, why is he still active in lieu of other positions that could’ve helped in-game? Whitehead is the type of player you’d hate to expose to a vulture-like team waiting on someone that could help their return game. ... But if he's not active tonight, is he really helping you?
Moore enters tonight’s game as the number two quarterback, but the team did feel obligated to trade for Matt Cassell and give up a draft pick to secure his services. The Boise State-Dallas pipeline is real, but there are legit questions as to whether Moore has the size and arm strength to be an NFL player. If Cassell has made a lot of progress in the system, it could be Moore on his way out. ... though Scott Linehan will keep fighting for him.
From all reports, Dallas likes the progress he’s made since joining the club two weeks ago. It’d be hard to envision a scenario where Moore gets a chance to show his worth, but it’s Cassell and not Weeden given the boot.