They've all earned it.
This is your 2011 Dallas Cowboys lineup - well, until they make a free agent move or two. My best guesstimate for possible FA acquisition would be OL, and almost any defensive position if a good player shows up on the waiver wire. And they might bring eight or nine kickers through Valley Ranch.
Now that the final cut down is done, let's take a quick look at what we have.
[Projected starters in bold]
QB (3):, ,
If Tony has a great year, the Cowboys will likely have one. Kitna is the backup for at least one more year. Hopefully, we won't need him. McGee gets one last chance to show that he is at least backup material, if not more.
RB (4):, , ,
Top to bottom, this may be the strongest position on the team. Felix and DeMarco can strike from anywhere on the field, whether rushing or receiving.
WR (5):, , , ,
The best one-two punch in football, I think. The dropoff to #3 is pretty significant, but the backups are all pretty capable as a third WR.
TE: (4), , ,
Phillips, and to a letter extent, Rucker get a chance with Bennett out nursing his high ankle booboo. The team seems to be going heavy on offense and a little light on defense.
OL (10):, , , , , , , , Jeremy Parnell,
Cowboys keep 10, which is a bit of a surprise. Here is where it gets interesting. Since Holland seems to have cemented his backup role, the Cowboys now have a greater need for a backup tackle. Parnell has great potential, but can you really put him on the field now? Look to him to be a placeholder while the team searches for a good swing backup tackle as the cut lists come out. The question then becomes what happens to him next. I'm not sure about his practice squad eligibility. KD quoted the rules here, and I don't know where Parnell stands with regards to an accrued season and games on the active roster. If he is not eligible, then the Cowboys might think about keeping Parnell on the active roster and trying to stash Kowalski on the PS or dump Young, although KK's performance in the past two games might make him a tempting target for another team.
Now you know why they pay coaches the big bucks.
DL (7):, , , , , ,
Rob Ryan is expected to do a lot of shuttling in and out with his line, so all these players should get a lot of time on the field. Geathers was one of KD's last guys in, and he might be vulnerable to replacement.
OLB (4):, , ,
As Romo is to the offense, Ware is to the defense. Solid top three players (despite the Anthony hate out there). Fourth guy here will also have to be better than what's available from other teams, or he becomes practice squad material.
ILB (3):, , Keith Brooking
The issue will be whencan play again. This lineup is relying heavily on Keith. I like Brooking and think he has a future in coaching, if he wants it, but can his body still produce? If James or Lee get banged up and Keith has to play more snaps, the team may have a real issue. And when Carter does come back, what position gets cut?
CB (5):, , , ,
I am making a prediction that Alan Ball will be seen as the Cowboys comeback player of the year, at least defensively, since Romo will also be talked about in that conversation (Break a collarbone and everyone is all impressed when you play well the next season). The biggest issue here is not the backups, it is the starters. Jerry was not happy about their injury situation. There might be some pretty good corners that don't make their teams' final rosters, and I think cutting TNew has at least crossed JJ's mind. The question is whether Garrett and Ryan are on the same page with him.
S (4): Abe Elam,, ,
Sensabaugh looked pretty good in the preseason, and I think the safety position will be less of an issue than last year, although that is pretty faint praise. The question is how much improvement there is. AOA is one of those lightning rod players that always draws an argument about whether he is any good. Expect the discussion to continue.
ST (4):, L.P. Ladoucer, ,
Best punter/long snapper combo in the NFL. They didn't have one good kicker, I guess.
There you go. Now start combing the cuts out there and making your case for additional moves, or stand and defend these guys.
Right now, these 53 men wear the Star.