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Cowboys Template is Possibly Evolving – Into What?

Jason Garrett

The Dallas Cowboys template for team construction is possibly evolving. Most teams have them in one form or another. Winning teams have a fairly detailed template while other teams will have a smaller slate of predictable player types the team will pursue in the offseason and the NFL Draft. Teams either have their-template players on the team already or are considered to be in hot pursuit of them.

Those that follow the Cowboys from afar are aware of a few elements of the team template, those that follow closer, of course, are aware of the not so obvious items as well as a few more nuanced ones. Let’s combine them all.


  • Top tier QB
  • Top Tier RB
  • Top Tier WR1
  • Top Tier TE1
  • TE1 of the future on the bench
  • Great OLine
  • So-So defense
  • 1 War-Daddy on DLine
  • Solid special teams
  • One problem player a year (injury, off-field, etc.)

No So Obvious

  • Best K/P tandem in the league on special teams
  • Best long snapper in the league on special teams
  • WLB is the glue that holds this D together


  • Glaring need for WR2 that can catch as well as block
  • Safety unit production is sub-standard on a consistent basis
  • Lack of depth on OLine and LB is CRITICAL
  • 1-Tech position can be filled late in the draft or UDFA (cheap)
  • Talented defense has “availability” issues on every unit
  • MLB is the key to getting the defense to the next level

Using the above template and considering the recent release of Dez Bryant many continue to pencil in a WR as the teams first round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft and I certainly don’t blame them. However, I also don’t agree with them.

“when you are going to potentially have a first round pick at every offensive line position the money to sign these guys is going to have to come from somewhere.” – Steven Van Over

Jason Garrett has shown a consistent ability to evolve over time. Not so much during that critical juncture between the first and second half of the weekly contest mind you, but during the offseason, he continually addresses items his self-assessment process identifies. This was the man instrumental in getting the OLine to its current state. He’s the guy onboard with burning a first-round pick on a stud RB that can dominate games at a time when most teams were relegating this type of selection to a much later round. Agree with it or not, the Cowboys took Elliott with a top-five pick and never looked back.

The man has and will implement major changes.

With that in mind, the Cowboys “absolute” need for a dominating (expensive) WR1 may have passed. More clearly with Dez Bryant, his ego, and the huge cap hit gone has the club focused on the incredible production their young QB has had when Dez Bryant was NOT in the game? Did they look at the winning percentage, time of possession, completion percentage, third down conversion percentage and realize having all of those stats improve when a demanding, diva WR1 was NOT on the field won games?


The club did “go after” free agent Sammy Watkins and it wasn’t for a small salary. However, Watkins isn’t a ‘diva’ WR in anyone’s book. He is more of a chess piece you move around the board who is a team-first guy as well as an incredibly hard worker. So was Dez Bryant, but he also was much more expensive against the cap and on game-day, he was often of late, either injured or a distraction to the club. When the OLine was clicking a dominant WR1 wasn’t needed. What was needed was a WR1 who could block and make an occasional play as the QB expertly disseminated the ball to a gaggle of offensive weapons all who could hurt a defense if left in single coverage. Bill Belichick has been employing this type of attack for quite a few years and not only does it work, the Cowboys have already successfully deployed it!

As an aside, when you are going to potentially have a first round pick at every offensive line position the money to sign these guys is going to have to come from somewhere. WR1 could well be it.

Another position the team is perhaps looking to spend significant money and draft currency on is one that it traditionally has not.  The team has manned the 1-Tech position for many years via late round picks and UDFA’s. Now, however, Vita Vea has been confirmed to be in the club’s crosshairs during the NFL Draft.

It’s a bit misleading. Manchild Vita Vea is a unique talent that is most often described as a 1-Tech because he is 347 lbs, However, Vea can literally play any position along the defensive line reminding me a LOT of Haloti Ngata who did just that with the Ravens in the early 2000’s. So while it is true Dallas is looking at a player that can perform quite well at the position you have to believe Rod Marinelli is absolutely salivating at a player who can actually be played like a piano which is Rod’s holy grail for players on his line. Much like LeBron James can play any position on the court, Via can man any spot on the DLine and do so at an elite level. They both do it by being a physical-freak mismatch that can ball. Dallas would move their mismatch around disrupting blocking schemes in order to wreak havoc on the other side of the line. He would do so from many positions.

These are two template icons that have been ingrained in Cowboys lore for many, many years. Are one or both about to change?

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Analyst, Editor, Photographer, Writer at SportsTalkLine
Editor, Writer, Podcaster & Photographer for @SportsTalkLine Network. I watch sports, I talk about sports then I write about sports. Catch me on Twitter @StevenVanOver
Steven Van Over