My 53 + 8 heading into training camp

Dallas Cowboys 53 man roster and practice squad – September 2013
Italics for new veteran starter, bold for rookies who make 53, * for veteran acquired since 2012 season

Offense 25 (2 QB, 4 RB, 9 TE/WR, 10 OL)

2 QB Romo, Orton
4 RB Murray, J. Randle (R5-151), Tanner, Dunbar (KR)
4 TE Witten, Hannah, G. Escobar (R2 - 47), D. Rosario* (UFA CAR)
5 WR Bryant, Austin (slot), T. Williams (R3 - 74), Harris (PR), Beasley (backup slot)
5 OT T. Smith, Parnell, Free (swing OT), Weems *(OG/RT), Coughman* (FA SEA)
5 OL Leary, T. Frederick (R-31) (OC), Bernadeau, Kowalski (G/C), Arkin (emergency 3rd OC)

On offense I decided to go with an unorthodox approach and keep five 'OTs', one of whom is really a guard/tackle swing man in Darrion Weems. This gives the Cowboys maximum flexibility and allows them to keep the young talent they've either poached from other practice squads (Weems) or developed in training camp (Edawn Coughman, who's a candidate for the swing tackle job in 2014). Weems in particular could have potential to take a starting guard spot by 2014 but at the very least can become a younger, better version of Derrick Dockery. Coughman's athleticism should keep him at offensive tackle. Coughman needs another season to develop but could get snatched should the Cowboys try to stash him on the practice squad. [Think of it this way, where are teams usually more desperate to find quality depth, OL or LB?].

Where's Phil Costa, you may ask? In this scenario he's been dealt to the center-needy Detroit Lions for a 7th round pick -- as Costa's contract is very reasonable for an NFL-average center. The problem that Costa is going to have is that he lacks the flexibility to play guard well like Kowalski, though I could concede the possibility of Costa+Killer K pushing Arkin off this roster. Bernie sticks because his contract has been restructured and he can still move over to center if Frederick gets hurt. But Bernie would only move over from the right guard spot if Killer K were unavailable. Unlike Livings who may have already peaked, Bernie has some chance to improve this season with Weems pushing him for playing time in late 2013. Kevin Kowalski takes over Ryan Cook's swing guard/center spot on gamedays. David Arkin shows enough to stick for one more year to fill out his rookie deal, but at this point looks to Bryan Broaddus like a career backup. By cutting Vickers, Livings and Cook now the Cowboys save a few million in cap room that can lower their hit in 2014 and be used toward extending Sean Lee and Dez Bryant. Cut Doug Free and Miles Austin in 2014 and there might be enough money freed up in 2015 for extending Tyron Smith and Bruce Carter.

The top five receivers are pretty much locks at this point. But I don't see the Cowboys being able to roll with six wideouts, four running backs and four tight ends, even if they eliminate the fullback position. Danny Coale and Jared Green look headed for the practice squad and in this projection I have Tim Benford starting training camp on PUP.

Defense 25 (10 DBs, 6 LBs, 9 DL)

5 S Church, Johnson, W. Allen* (FA PIT) (STG), J.J. Wilcox (R3-80), J. Hamilton (R- UDFA S. Carolina St)
5 CB Carr, Claiborne, Scandrick (slot), B.W. Webb (R4 - 114) (backup slot), Moore* (Emergency Free Safety)
6 LB J. Durant (FA DET), Lee, Carter, S2/WDE3-Albright, M2-D. Holloman (R6-185), W2-Sims
4 DE Spencer, Ware, SDE2 Crawford (3t), W2DE2 Wilber
5 DT Hatcher (3t), Ratliff (1t), Bass (3t), Lissemore (1t), Igbinosun* (1t) (FA PIT)

On defense, I think Matt Johnson will hold off Will Allen for the starting free safety spot but Allen provides veteran insurance and can replace Danny McCray as the main special teams gunner. Wilcox and Hamilton should both see special teams action too. In my view the only way McCray can avoid becoming a cap casualty is to step up his game in preseason and show he can cover better in Kiffin's system than he could last season for Rob Ryan.

At the other spots, the injury to Rob Callaway has opened the door for Ike Igbinosun, formerly with the Pittsburgh Steelers, to show what he can do as Jason Hatcher's backup at the one-technique spot. Ben Bass and Sean Lissemore will also get to show what they can do inside with Tyrone Crawford rotating into the mix. I'm still not sold on Anthony Hargrove making this roster, while Justin Durant will also have fierce competition at SAM linebacker from DeVonte Holloman and Taylor Reed (Albright sticks with special teams and being a jack of all trades between playing with his hand in the dirt and the backup SAM spot stuffing zone read looks).

Ernie Sims should be safe as a special teams speedster and backup Will familiar with the Tampa 2 scheme. The real surprise comes on the practice squad with Deon Lacey and Taylor Reed filling out the two linebacker spots on the eight-man roster while Brandon Magee gets claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I like Jeff Heath's ability to push for a 5th safety/special teams gunner spot on next year's roster but that depends on whether Jakar Hamilton sticks on this roster (and McCray holding off Hamilton). if Lacey can't put on much weight to play linebacker perhaps he can compete with Heath for a special teams/safety spot.

1 K Dan Bailey
1 P Chris Jones (or S. Benton UDFA-Clemson)
1 LS J.P. Ladoceur (or Jackson Anderson)

On the practice squad this team still needs a quality third QB to develop as competition for Kyle Orton. I hope the Eagles release Gilmer, Texas native G.J. Kinne and we're able to sign him to the active roster for Week One then slip him onto our practice squad to groom as Orton's successor.

My guess is the Cowboys will pluck at least one guard/center hybrid type off waivers for their practice squad in early September.

Practice Squad Offense 5, Defense 3
1 QB G.J. Kinne (claimed off waivers from PHI)
2 WR J. Green* (KR), Coale
1 RB K. Lawrence (R-UDFA Missouri) (KR)
1 FB- McSurdy (coming off Achilles tear)
1 M3-T. Reed (R-UDFA SMU)
1 W3/SS -D. Lacey (R-UDFA W. Alabama)
1 S J. Heath (R – UDFA Saginaw Valley St) (STG)

WR Benford (coming off surgery)

DTs Price, Callaway

Non-Football Injury List/NFL Suspended
NT Brent

P. Costa (to DET for a 2014 7th round pick)

Final September Cuts
QB D. Williams (R-UDFA Akron)
FB Vickers
OL Cook (claimed by CHI), Livings
OT J.B. Shugarts*(FA CLE)
TE A. Smith*
WR A. Amos (R-UDFA Mid. Tenn. St.)
LB B. Magee (R-UDFA Arizona St) (claimed by TB)
DT Hayden*
DE C. Sheffield* (FA KC), A. Hargrove* (FA NO)
S D. McCray (claimed by NO)

Training Camp Cuts
QB Stephens
TE Cochart
WR A. Armstrong (FA WAS), E. Rogers (R-UDFA Cal. Lutheran),
OG Dominguez* (FA GB)
LB C. Lawrence (R-UDFA S. Miss.)
DE Taylor*
CB Underwood , D. Smith (R-UDFA Wisconsin), X. Brewer (UDFA – Clemson)
M. Jackson (R-UDFA Langston) (STG)
S Pellerin*, Frampton

Released Off-season (June 1st or pre-June 1st cut)/Workout Players
QB Corp (claimed by MIA)
3-4DE Spears (signed with BAL)
CB A. Spencer (R-UDFA Bowling Green), D. Harris (R-UDFA TAMU),
TE B.J. Stewart(R-UDFA Cumberland), P. Freedman (R-UDFA Virginia)
WR Kemp , C. Mitchell* (FA JAX), G. Herd (R-UDFA EWU)
OG C. Bryant (from SD - quit team), D.J. Hall (from JAX)
OT Simmons*

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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