Roster Churn: Did Dallas Upgrade With Replacements On Offense?

The Cowboys made several moves in the off season. Some were for salary cap savings but all were for players that weren't pulling their weight. We take a look at whether the team did a good job replacing them.

Former Cowboys guard Leonard Davis agreed to a deal with the Detroit Lions yesterday, ending a 10 week exile from the league since being released by Dallas. The three-time Pro Bowler was one of several notable salary purges at Valley Ranch this summer and part of the agism offensive line purge conducted by new head coach Jason Garrett. Davis, Marc Colombo and Andre Gurode all started the majority of games for the Cowboys last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that. The Cowboys were making a transition to younger, leaner, cheaper players and all three were jettisoned to save cash and provide roster flexibility.

It was originally thought that despite diminishing returns, the three were still better solutions than what they were being replaced with, and as such the team would endure growing pains along the line without them. While it's true that the Cowboys line is an improving work in progress, the performance of this trio and other removed stars shows that the right personnel moves may have been made on all of them.

The timing of this analysis is enhanced by last night's rousing Chicago victory over the now 3-5 Philadelphia Eagles. After the game concluded, I tweeting the following from the BTB account:

Been a pleasure spending this #Cowboys victory with you tonight folks- Dallas North 30, Philadelphia 24.
Nov 08 via TweetDeckFavoriteRetweetReply

 

BTB has taken to calling Chicago, Dallas North, an ode to the Bears interest in bringing in Cowboys castoffs. Roy Williams, Marion Barber and Sam Hurd all made huge plays for Chicago in last night's victory; leading me to joke that Hurd and Barber were still loyal to Jerry Jones' money and helping the playoff push.

Circling back around to the point, did Dallas make the right moves in releasing the slew of players? The Cowboys are averaging 400 yards of offense per game in 2011, good for 7th in the league. Their scoring average is only 22.4 though, good for 18th and down from 24.6 last year (7th). They were also 7th in yards per game in 2010 at 364 per contest.

Under the umbrella that the younger players are learning due to real-life game reps while the older players had probably reached their ceilings, was the roster purge a good move?

Here's a look at the athletes in question, and their respective individual grades courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com.

Player 2010 grade 2011 grade 2011 replacement grade Replacement Player
Roy Williams -2.5 +2.8 +2.0 Laurent Robinson
Marion Barber -3.8 -1.2 +5.4 DeMarco Murray
Marc Colombo -34.1 -16.1 +8.7 Tyron Smith
Andre Gurode +13.2 -14.7 -10.0 Phil Costa
Leonard Davis +6.7 n/a -11.3 Nagy/Dockery/Holland

When you include cost in the equation, the team clearly made the correct moves. Production-wise, there remains a bit of question marks. Robinson for Williams is a win, regardless of the grades. I'm sure Roy Willy's tremendous blocking acumen is much appreciated in Chicago however.

Murray is running like one of the best backs in the league in limited action, so this appears to be a huge upgrade. Along the line, though, we aren't so sure.

Colombo was being replaced by Smith per the draft, so that's a no-brainer backed up by the grades and the eye test. Colombo has struggled in Miami just as much as he did in Dallas last season. Gurode is not playing well in Baltimore, but he has been dropped in at left guard; a position Bill Parcells painfully learned he was ill-equipped to play. Phil Costa is struggling mightily, often times being bowled over by defensive lineman and shoved into the backfield.

The left guard rotation hasn't been stellar, though Montrae Holland has a positive grade since he was resigned a few weeks back. Combined with no one having interest in Davis until Week 10, we'll call this one a wash.

Overall, it looks like Garrett knew what he was doing once he seized control of the roster make-up in addition to play calling duties. Cowboys fans hope that the trend continues and the youngsters keep improving. The late release of an injured Andre Gurode might be the one move Garrett would consider taking a mulligan on. Unless of course that was a move mandated by owner/GM Jerry Jones. He wouldn't meddle like that, now would he?

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