Who doesn't like a good game of cards?
When I penned the first Last Four In, Last Four Out, we were not even two weeks into training camp and still yet to play a preseason game. Now, we have concluded the dress rehearsals and the team has a little over 24 hours to get down to the 53 man roster limit. Once roster cuts are made on Saturday, the roster shuffling is far from over. Most of the 32 NFL teams are heavy in some positions and light in others, thereby allowing some movement for players between teams after the cuts. The Cowboys could very well cut 27 players over the next two days to get down to the limit, then cut additional players in order to sign deals with players released from other franchises.
I think this is where the value of looking at things from the Last Four In perspective lies. The LFI would technically be the first names on the chopping block should the Cowboys have interest in bringing in players from outside their current fold. In the first LFI/LFO iteration, I predicted Bruce Carter (PUP), Brandon Williams, Mario Butler and Tashard Chocie as not making the club. Carter's already NFI'd, Brandon Williams hasn't seperated himself and Mario Butler still seems destined for the practice squad. Tashard Choice mysteriously was left home with an undisclosed knee injury, but after waffling (and a Jerry Jones interview) I think he makes the squad. The LFI included Orie Lemon and Jesse Holley, both who I think are now secure on the roster. Lonyae Miller has been passed by Phillip Tanner, emphasing Miller's tenous position and I really haven't followed OLB Alex Albright, but haven't noticed him making any plays or getting pressure.
Following the Turk Rounds that happen on Saturday, the team will be able to sign eight players to their practice squad come Sunday. You can jump to the eligibility requirements at the bottom of this article.
Make the jump for my projected roster, tiered by a deck of playing cards.
53 Man Projected Roster + 8 Man Practice Squad
QB (3): Tony Romo, Jon Kitna, Stephen McGee
RB (4): Felix Jones, DeMarco Murray, Tashard Choice, Phillip Tanner
WR (5): Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree, Jesse Holley, Dwayne Harris
TE: (3) Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, John Phillips
OL (9): Doug Free, Bill Nagy, Phil Costa, Kyle Kosier, Tyron Smith, Montrae Holland, David Arkin, Kevin Kowalski, Jeremy Parnell
DL (7): Marcus Spears, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Kenyon Coleman, Josh Brent, Sean Lissemore, Clifton Geathers*
OLB (4): DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Victor Butler, Brandon Williams*
ILB (4): Bradie James, Sean Lee, Keith Brooking, Orie Lemon*
CB (6): Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick, Alan Ball, Bryan McCann, Josh Thomas*
S (5): Abe Elam, Gerald Sensabaugh, Barry Church, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Danny McCray
ST (3): Mat McBriar, L.P. Ladoucer, David Buehler
PS Pool: Shaun Chapas, Mario Butler, Martin Rucker, Letui, Jimmy Saddler, Kenwin Cummings (if he meets eligibility) Andrew Sendejo, Alex Albright, Manny Johnson
* = Last Four In, Most Unsure Of
I'm worried about a couple spots, especially our linebacker depth until Bruce Carter comes off the PUP. I think he will be the 9th linebacker for the year, moving all over the field in unique formations. I expect his arrival to be a boost to the flexibility of the Rob Ryan system, just as the other defenders have a firm grasp on their responsibilities.
Kenwin Cummings had a spot until the fourth preseason game, where he continuously looked hesitant and unable to wrap up on tackles. I'm not impressed by any of the outside linebackers after the first three, but someone has to make the team out the gate.
I'm rolling the dice and saying no fullback, based on seeing maybe one punishing block by the position in four preseason games. OK, maybe two. Expect John Phillips to get a lot of snaps if this occurs.
The team will most likely shuffle some of these players with practice squaders cut from other teams.
Playing The Cards You're Dealt
The Joker is the one player that no matter what game you're in, is a rules changer. Aces are the players that could have top status in almost everyone's hands. Kings have to be acounted for and Queens are the structure behind the upper echelon. Jacks are dangerous and have great potential, while 10's are always solid contributors. You get the idea as you run down the rest of the tiered rankings. I did this exercise to see if the Cowboys were any less top heavy than they've been in recent years. I like the team through the "8s", but beyond that there is still plenty of room for improvement. Some of those lower numbers could eventually climb up the ranks like Romo, Austin and Ratliff did in their early years. Also, can you tell how I feel about the David Buehler era?
|5s||4s||3s||2s||Last four out|
|McCray||AOA||Harris||B Williams||Martin Rucker
I considered bringing Rucker until Bennett returns from his injury, but decided against it. Other LFO candidates included Mario Butler (PS) Shaun Chapas (PS), Chris Gronkowski, Raymond Radway (who I believe gets IR'd) and Dan Bailey (who I believe would make this squad as the 2nd kicker if we weren't going 7 D Linemen).
What are your thoughts, BTB?
Section 4. Eligibility:
(a) The Practice Squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad: (i) players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience; and (ii) free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Ac-crued Season(s). An otherwise eligible player may be a Practice Squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment.
(b) A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club's physical and been a member of the club's Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season. (For purposes of this Section, a bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in ques-tion.)
(From the 2011 NFL - NFLPA CBA)