The Turk is coming. On August 27th, the first group of players will get that dreaded summons, the one where they tell you to bring your playbook. Or playpad, in the new digital age. That first group will primarily be the camp bodies, the players most of us can agree don't have a real chance to play for the Cowboys.
That leaves the players that are pretty much a lock, and the rest are the ones on the bubble. On August 31st, the team will get down to the final 53, leaving the rest to hope some other team needs their services, or, for the eligible ones, that they get a shot on the practice squad.
Rabblerousr has put together a ranking of all the players currently on the roster, from first to last. While I might disagree with some of the rankings, overall, he clearly has a good grasp of things. The first forty names on his list are players that we all know will be on the team if they are even reasonably healthy. After that, things get a little shaky. The team has to make decisions, not just about who the best players are at a given position, but how many to keep as they fit the roster together.
I want to take a look at the players I think are on the bubble right now, and why I think they are there. To me, they fall into certain categories.
One note here, I don't have any of the 2013 draftees on this list, because every indication is that all of them will make the roster.
Falling from grace
These are players that were seen as solidly on the roster or strong competitors in the offseason, but have had things go rather wrong.
Nate Livings. Going into training camp, Livings and his fellow free agent signee from last year, Mackenzy Bernadeau, were seen as the incumbent guards. Bernadeau was injured to begin camp, which seemed all too familiar a story, but he has returned to the lineup and seems to be making a move to claim his starting job. Livings went down early, and has not returned. With the emergence of Ronald Leary and a greatly improved job from David Arkin, the team may not be able to wait and see if Livings is ever going to recover.
Matt Johnson. Again, injury has kept him off the field. I would not be surprised to see him put on IR to try again next year if he can't get back on the field soon. The man seems very talented, but it does the team no good to have the talent standing on the sidelines in street clothes.
Danny Coale. Do you sense a theme? Injury is the great enemy, and in this case, I feel a personal responsibility for the Great Pet Catastrophe of 2012. Coale again missed time, and fell perhaps too far behind too many other wide receivers. He is still practice squad eligible, and that may be his best hope right now.
Tim Benford. He was seen as having a leg up from spending time on the practice squad, but too many dropped passes are dropping him fast.
UDFAs that faded
Speaking of pet cats, these are names that all had their supporters, but have either not shown up or have been disappointing after early flashes.
Eric Rogers. Early in camp, he was catching everything that came his way. Lately, he has just faded into the background.
Taylor Reed. Just a matter of a couple of other guys that are outplaying him. Tank is not out of it yet, just not making a strong a charge as many expected.
Jared Green. Not making much of an impression, and the wide receiver field is too crowded.
Jakar Hamilton. What happened to him, exactly? Mostly, it just seems other safeties have outperformed him.
Brandon Underwood. Started camp well, but has either faded a little, or been passed by others.
Kendial Lawrence. Largely invisible, but the story may not be over for him. Brian Broaddus indicated that the team plans to take a long look at him in the last two pre-season games with Lance Dunbar missing time. It may be a golden opportunity for him to at least make an argument for the PS.
Xavier Brewer. Just nothing to excite so far.
These are players that many expected were not going to make it, but their performance may be rewriting the script.
Eric Frampton. He has looked better at safety than those UDFAs that were thought to have a real shot. Seems to be working well in the new 4-3.
Caleb McSurdy. Another player who has been better than expected, and definitely in the mix as a backup linebacker.
Kevin Kowalski. If he can get healthy, he is the biggest threat to Livings. Position flexibility.
Ryan Cook. Think of him as the next fallback if Killer K doesn't make it.
Micah Pellerin. Another guy that is quietly getting some quality snaps in, and is a real threat to claim a spot.
Where did these guys come from?
Anthony Armstrong. Just on performance alone, he seems to be the sixth WR right now, and his fate is likely going to be determined by how the team allocates the roster spots.
Jerome Long, Landon Cohen, Jeris Pendleton, and Thaddeus Gibson. All are the same. Defensive linemen, brought in during camp, who have come in and showed an ability, at least at times, to be the kind of rushmen that Rod Marinelli wants. While Selvie has gotten the most press, any of these players could make a late charge. And I suspect that at least one or two who don't make the roster will be asked to leave a phone number where they can be reached.
Cameron Lawrence. Another guy doing well under the radar. With Alex Albright going on IR, he is one of the linebackers who now have a very real opportunity to make the team, and has an excellent shot at the PS as a fallback.
Plain old battles
These are other players that are in the mix, but certainly not assured of anything. They are just players who have to fight off other players on this list, or in some cases still have some hope of making a move. It also has some other players like Armstong, who are going to be waiting to see just how many players at each position the team keeps.
Brandon Magee and Jeff Heath. Probably the two UDFAs right now that have the best chance of making the team. Magee has been touted all along, and Heath has made some plays that are catching some attention.
Danny McCray. A special teams ace, but definitely getting some pressure from players like Heath and Frampton.
Edawn Coughman, Ray Dominguez, Demetress Bell, Darrion Weems, and Andre Smith. Smith is another guy waiting to see how many players go where, with the recent talk of going with five tight ends being a possible opening for him. The others just can't be counted out due to the injury riddled offensive line.
Nick Stephens and Alex Tanney. The two quarterbacks are in a practice squad only competition, I think, but it seems that one or the other will make it, and certainly not both.
That is a lot of names, for maybe five to ten spots on the 53 and eight PS jobs. What is good about it is that it appears that at least as many of the players on this list are on the rise as are falling. And with how things have gone this year, I would not be surprised to see someone we still think is just a camp body suddenly emerge. But right now, these are the players riding the bubble. It will be interesting to see who is gone when it bursts.
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