With the OTA's out of the way, and Training Camp looming, I think it is time to try and anticipate what I think the Final Roster will be. To that end I present you my picks for the 53 man roster. I hope to make this a mini series with one now, one after TC, and one prior to the Final Preseason game. Naturally I expect several changes from here to the final prediction, so take this one with a grain of salt.
I will be using the current roster as listed by NFL.com plus salary Info from Spotrac.com in these posts. I will try to explain my reasoning for each position, and this will of course be influenced by my own personal bias'. With that out of the way...Lets jump
Lets start with the Offense:
Primary backup- Kyle Orton
Third string- Stephen McGee
Reasoning: The surprise for most would be Stephen McGee, however there are several Factors in favor of McGee. First off he knows the system. While most would say that if Dallas is down to its 3rd QB we have no chance, I would point to the Houston Texans last year who nearly beat the Baltimore Ravens with their 3rd string QB....who was a 5th round Rookie....
Second thing is that Stephen has going for him is that he is Cheap. His total cap hit is only *698,000 dollars*. For a team that is struggling with cap space, thanks so much John Mara, given his knowledge of the offense, McGee is cheap insurance. Both Tony and Orton have struggled with injuries in their career, and with the uncertainty of the Offensive line, Dallas needs an experienced insurance policy.
Starter: DeMarco Murray
2nd RB: Felix Jones
3rd RB: Lance Dunbar
FB- Lawrence Vickers
I know alot of People are high on Phillip Tanner, but I think Dunbar has the edge here...He seems to be a smaller version of Felix/Murray, and has more speed than Tanner(4.47 to 4.57 40 times). While yes he is very small @ 5-8, his weight of 205 lbs makes him very compact. While not overly strong(benched only 11 reps @ proday) his speed, explosion(35in vert, and agility(4.07 SS time) make him an ideal RB in Garrett's system. I don't think Dallas carries more than 4 RB's including Vickers, so there is no "official" backup at the FB position. I do think they will carry one on the Practice Squad though.
3rd WR: Kevin Olgetree
4th WR: Cole Beasley
5th WR: Andre Holmes
6th WR: Raymond Radaway
Kevin Ogletree? WHAT!? Yes, *right now* I think KO has the inside track on the 3rd WR spot. he is young, talented, and has experience in the offense. Now that being said, I think he will have a tough time holding off the "young guns" behind him. Another surprise, and disappointment for alot of people is the exculsion of Danny "He's always open" Coale. This was a tough call, but given his injury, he could start the season on the PUP, or his injury could prevent him from making the team. With Holmes and Radway being more the "prototypical WR" I think they could make the team over him. The Biggest surprise may be Beasley....@ <5-8, and only 175 lbs, he is easily the smallest player on the roster, and could be the smallest player in the league. However he has been ballin' in the OTA's and if he continues would give KO a serious run @ the 3rd WR spot. It wouldn't surprise me to see him get some burn @ RB in the process.
Starter: Jason Witten
2nd TE: John Phillips
3rd TE: James Hanna
I had George Bryan as the 3rd TE to start with but with his release, that opens the Door for Hanna to take the spot. I am guessing that Dallas is counting on both Tyron and Free to be as good /better than they were last year, as neither Hanna nor Phillips are known for their blocking skills. Witten, of Course is the "ultimate TE", but he is also a key component of the passing game as well. That being said, with Dallas only carrying one "true FB" on the Roster, I imagine we might see some 3 TE sets with Witten lining up as a FB, to take advantage of his blocking skills....
I know that alot of people aren't happy to see Phil Costa back at C, but with KillerK's injury, I think that allows Costa to take the spot from him. Also there may be some consternation on David Arkin being the Inactive again, but I think that He will follow the Doug Free route. Free was inactive for 31 out of 32 games his first two years, and didn't start untill halfway through his third....while he under performed @ LT last year, overall Free has been a very good player for Dallas since moving into the Starting role... also disappointing is "Bernie Mac" getting left off the game day roster, but with Leary taking over the LG spot while he was injured, and having a "cap hit" of 3.25 million if released, I can't see that happening, so right now Mac is simply expensive depth, though I wouldn't be surprised to see him and KIller K swap spots after TC and preseason. But more on that at a later date. If Bernie is on the PUP to start, McQuiston* likely takes his spot on the 53( see PUP list for more details)
So that does it For the Offense, But what about the Defensive side of the ball? Dallas spent alot of Money and draft picks on it this past offseason, so How do I think it will play out? Glad you asked:
Game day inactives- Robert Callaway
Alot of people might be surprised to not see Spears on this list, given his recent contract extension, However Cutting Spears would only add $100,000 to the cap, if Dallas took the entire cap hit now. But given that it is past June 1st, Dallas could easily spread that out over the next two years meaning that cutting Spears could actually "save" money this year. Given that Dallas is Currently 7+million under the cap, that wouldn't be that big of a deal. Also if you note Coleman is gone. His release would save almost 2 million this year, no Fancy maneuvering needed. This allows Geathers and Crawford to move into the key rotation spots currently occupied by those players(Coleman /Spears). I will say though, I am worried about Jay Ratliff, His Contract extension doesn't look very good at the moment, and seems counter to the other extensions that were given out....
Key Rotational Players- Bruce Carter
I am sorry to all Adrian Hamilton/Caleb McSurdy Fans here, but they get caught up in a numbers crunch at LB. With 8 LB's total, and Albright showing that he can play ILB last year, there just isn't room on the 53 for them. I am currently @ 40 players, which leaves just 10 players left for the secondary(+3 "specialists", P, PK, LS). but as I said at the beginning this is likely to change so anything can happen. not to mention there is still the Practice squad, where I think we will have some serious competition. stay tuned.
3rd CB: Morris Claiborne
4th CB: Mario Butler
5th CB: Issac Madison
6th CB: Teddy Williams
Surprise! My pet cat from last year make the 53! Ok I admit that this is *might* be a little optimistic(note sarcasm), but I admit I like TW. he got great reviews from Newman and Campo his first year, but got caught in a numbers crunch @ CB. Then got moved to WR due to injuries there, before being moved back to CB earlier this year. I for one hope that Dallas keeps him there and lets him Develop. His Size and Speed (6-3 200lbs, and has been clocked @ < 4.4 in the 40) make him a unique weapon at the CB position. Of course you are all wondering "Where is MIke Jenkins?" well it is seems likely that he will start off on the PUP list which moves Scandrick to the #2 CB spot...As much as everyone else likes Claiborne, I am tempering my enthusiasm about him...don't ask me why, I can't put my finger on it, but something just doesn't sit right with me about Claiborne. I was never as high about him as most, and I don't really have any "proof"(depending on how you view the Combine and "triangle #'s") Am I rooting for him to prove me wrong? Hell Yeah!...but I just can't shake this feeling....
Huge surprise here. It is a FA that gets caught in a #'s crunch this year. With Only 4 spots left out side of the "specialists" and Church and McCray being proven Players, Matt Johnson gets the nod over Pool. Pool Signed a 1 year "show me" contract and from reports out of OTA's has gotten "Shown up" by Church. That doesn't bode well for him. Sensabaugh is fairly entrenched as one starter, and Church plays alot of subpackages along with McCray. Pool just doesn't have the versatility of those two nor the upside of Johnson to warrant keeping. Disappointing for me at least is the exclusion of A.O.A.. I always hoped that he could translate, but alas also gets caught in the numbers crunch.
Punter- Chris Jones
Place Kicker- Dan Bailey
Long Snapper- L.P. LaDoucer
Not much surprise here, except swapping out of Chris Jones for Matt McBriar. Yes I love McBriar, but at this time he isn't even on the roster, so I can't very well include him at this point. That said Jones filled in adequately when McBriar went down Last year, and should be a decent punter. But then Dallas will never need to use him anyway...haha
As For The Practice Squad, Here is my list of 8 players that *might* Make it there:
WR- Saalim Hakim: probably wouldn't clear waivers, but unless some team is super desperate, I think he might stick
OLB/DE- Adrian Hamilton: (see above)
ILB/FB- Caleb McSurdy: shows enough promise to take Orie Lemon's spot here
CB- Lionel Smith- Dallas Hides him during Preseason for this specific reason
Safety- Justin Taplin -Ross: See Lionel Smith
WR- Tim Bedford: after much promise in OTA's, disappoints in Preseason, clears waviers
Levy Adcock: let the jokes begin, but kid shows enough to make the Squad.
Charles Hughlett: Possible L.P. replacement next year....
*Bonus*; PUP list:
Both of these were explained eariler, so I won't go into detail about them, but I could see both of them and possibly "Bernie Mac" start the season here. All three are too talented to simply cut, but might not heal in time to make an impression. Likely cuts to get them on the roster:
Mike Jenkins- Robert Callaway
Danny Coale- Issac Madison
*Bernadeau MacKenzie- Pat McQuiston
And there you Have it Ladies and Gent's....My First "53" with practice Squad. Let me know what you think, and if there is anything you would like to see different Format wise next time. As Always I welcome Comments and Critiques, so feel free to share them.....