Cowboys 1st and 10: Questions at QB And D-Line

In this edition of First and 10 I examine my trepidation at two positions that could be huge parts of whether the Cowboys are successful in 2016

Each Sunday I provide 10 quick hits on the Dallas Cowboys. I explain why I'm a little worried about backup quarterback — and provide a potential solution. We're going deep with the Cowboys' defensive line this weekend and I find a fun fact about brothers in the NFL in this edition of First and 10.

1. We haven't talked much about backup quarterback lately. Right now the backup is Kellen Moore and, frankly, I'm a little uncomfortable with that. No, Dak Prescott is not going to be the No. 2 quarterback in 2016. Too much of a learning curve for Prescott. No, Jameil Showers isn't going to be the backup quarterback, either. Right now Moore is one heartbeat away. Talented? Sure. Has a good handle on what offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wants to do, given their past relationship in Detroit? Yep. Trust him to make the right pass when it counts? Ehhh….

Let's be honest — Moore is quite a bit like Brandon Weeden, the backup last year. The only difference is that Moore doesn't have the negative track record Weeden had in Cleveland, which makes you a little more hopeful that he can get it done if Romo gets hurt. The Cowboys have made plenty of improvements the past couple of years. But if you lose Romo for an extended period and you don't have a quarterback you can trust, that can give you reasonable production and can avoid mistakes, then those improvements don't matter.

That's why I'm keeping my eye on Josh McCown, the theoretical backup in Cleveland to Robert Griffin III. That situation still must play out, but I feel fairly confident that Cleveland is going to give RGIII the job and that means McCown's days in Cleveland could be numbered, if the Browns decide to keep two quarterbacks (my thought is they'll hang onto Cody Kessler in that scenario). McCown will cost Cleveland nearly $5 million in 2016. Sure, there's security in that. But depending on how the Browns make up their team, there may not be room for a third quarterback and in that situation McCown gets squeezed out.

Now, McCown has debits like everyone else and has a losing record just like Weeden did. But if you need reminding of what he can do with a good team around him, check out his numbers in his final season in Chicago in 2013 — 13 touchdowns, one interception, 63.6 completion percentage, a 3-2 record as a starter. It was probably the only time in McCown's career that he actually had a solid team around him, and he did what you would hope a backup would do — he had the trust of his teammates, gave the Bears reasonable production and avoided mistakes. You might remember that he destroyed the Cowboys on a brutally cold night in December, throwing four touchdown passes.

Now, this is all dependent on the Browns releasing or trading McCown at some point and, frankly, I think they'd be foolish to do that given RGIII's issues the past couple of years. But finances might force their hand. The backup quarterback market, frankly, is barren. If McCown were to hit the market I think there would actually be a frenzy for his services, even as a backup.

Would the Cowboys bite? I don't know but I would encourage them to do so, if I were in a position to give advice. Yes, McCown has a losing record, just like Weeden did. But you're paying for the guy that's been around the block a few times and knows the road as opposed to handing the keys to the kid who is still figuring out the fastest way to work.

As the Cowboys learned last season keeping the window open when Romo is out is easier said than done. Best to have as many assets as possible, I say.

2. Here's my post-rookie camp radio appearance with Wess Moore on Fox Sports Radio Arkansas. If you're in Arkansas and you have an FSR affiliate you can catch Wess from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays. If you're not, find the audio on the Internet at foxsportsarkansas.com or through many of the live streaming apps out there. I'll always post my appearances with Wess in advance and the link afterward on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard if you want to listen.

3. Jerry Jones, power broker, is at it again. Jones sounded off on the issue of placing a NFL team in Las Vegas earlier this week. In case you haven't heard the NFL and Sin City don't get along. Well, Jones is talking like it wouldn't be such a bad thing to have a NFL team on the Strip.

"As you well know, you have to have the right situation," Jones told reporters at the Cowboys' annual golf outing at Cowboys Golf Club. "You have to have the right ownership, want to and then a lot of other considerations that have to come into play. For me, I think that certainly the fact that Las Vegas has a gambling aspect to it is far overshadowed by the entertainment value, if you will, family appeal, that you have, the convention appeal. So it does not have disfavor with me, in my opinion, relative to being an NFL city."

So Los Angeles is finally back in the NFL game and ultimately that's great for business in the NFL. That's going to drive more revenue to the league and increase the valuation of every franchise, including the Cowboys (which are already worth more than $2 billion, according to Forbes). While the league is seeking to tap revenues overseas they would be wise not to ignore potential streams of revenue in their backyard. And no city in the U.S. drives revenue on a daily basis like Las Vegas.

It's not even necessary to add a team to the league. Both the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders are potential new residents. Imagine a glistening new 65,000-seat stadium near the strip that can sell out every home game — because everyone comes to Vegas — and can host a Super Bowl.

Jones sees it. There isn't a better businessman in American pro sports than Jones. And that's why he's talking it up now. He knows a team in Vegas helps his — and NFL's — bottom line. 

4. If there's a single, biggest gamble on this Cowboys team in 2016 it's the defensive line. Our Jordan Ross examined the roll of the dice earlier this week. You see there are a dozen players listed at defensive end and defensive tackle that have two years or less in the league. In fact, the dean of the group is sixth-year defensive tackle Terrell McClain.

The Cowboys are betting that sheer numbers and the expertise of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli — who built his reputation as a defensive line coach in the 1990s and 2000s — can turn this group into a unit that will exceed last year's meager sack output and put more pressure on the opposing quarterback.

I'm on the fence. I'm not a fan of not having at least some experience, especially on the edge. Plus, with Randy Gregory set for suspension — and the potential for Demarcus Lawrence to end up with his own four-game suspension — it's a lot to ask for this young group. At the same time, I'm not in favor of bringing Greg Hardy back. (And as Fish has been reporting starting with his "We Are Done'' exclusive back on Feb. 22, the Cowboys were never in favor of it, either.) So this was the plan, as far as the Cowboys were concerned. Now we'll see if Marinelli and his staff can spin straw into gold.

5. It's CowboysCast time, and Bobby Belt has a fresh roster of guests this weekend. First, our Mike Fisher talks about the power of a young defensive end (in this case Randy Gregory) showing up to play a simple round of golf with his teammates. Next, Belt entertains Andy Alberth, an important name this offseason. He's the co-founder and the executive director of the National Fantasy Football Convention this July in Pasadena. You may remember that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is heavily involved and that the NFL put the kibosh on last year's event in Las Vegas. Finally, Belt examines the Cowboys' young pass rush and how it's consistency, or potential lack thereof, could define the team's Super Bowl hopes.

Check out CowboysCast today and download the Cowboys Sports Radio app today for IOS and Google. That way you can listen to CowboysCast whenever you want.

6. I'm still working through my deep dives on the Cowboys' draft picks that I saw in person last year. This week I break down film from Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper's game against Baylor and Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott's game against Notre Dame at the Fiesta Bowl. The links are embedded here, so give them a look. It's a great reason to get a premium subscription to CowboysHQ.com. It's the cost of a cup of coffee.

Plus, I filed my reports on Central Michigan safety Kavon Frazier and Eastern Michigan running back Darius Jackson.

7. It's our inaugural Tweet of the Week, mostly because I finally figured out how to embed a tweet in the text editor (I'm getting there, people). Courtesy of Ezekiel Elliott:

https://twitter.com/EzekielElliott/status/730584918317654016

What followed? An assortment of "fans'' harassing Zeke (not aware that he's from a suburb of St. Louis) and wishing he "blow out both knees'' and such.

Ah, Twitter.

I don't subscribe to the idea that if you're drafted by a certain team that you suddenly have to become fans of all of the teams in that market. If you want to, fine. But if Zeke is from St. Louis and he's a Blues fan and he wants to wave that flag, even if they're playing for the Stars, go for it. You wanna shout back at him for that, well, that's your prerogative. That's what Twitter is for I suppose. But let's leave his knees alone, OK?

By the way, Zeke, watch out for those Rangers fans. They're not exactly Cardinals fans (see World Series, 2011).

8. This week's Great Moments in Headline Porn? "Major Key: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones greets 'buddy' DJ Khaled at Beyonce's AT&T Stadium tour stop" from dallasnews.com. Perks. That's all that is. Perks.

9. Here's a fun fact. Rod Smith, whom the Cowboys are converting to fullback, is the older brother of Jaylon Smith, who is rehabbing his knee injury. There is no guarantee Rod makes the team, but moving to fullback gives him a better chance.

Did you know that according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame there are 335 sets of brothers that have played in the NFL? The Cowboys have had a set of brothers play together at the same time just once — linebacker Darren Hambrick and running back Troy Hambrick in 2000-01.

10. One last thing. The Cowboys are becoming a trendy pick to win the NFC East. CBS Sports has them winning 9.5 games and taking the division. Football Outsiders has the Cowboys at 10-6 and winning the division. Predicting the division winner in May is like trying to find a chair in the dark — you're gonna stub your toe no matter where you step.

Want to talk more about the Cowboys? Hit the CowboysHQ.com Boards or hit Postins up on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard and Mike Fisher at @FishSports.


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