Defensive Roster Battles To Watch For The Cowboys

Ronald Martinez

It's the last chance for the staff to evaluate the players on the bubble, and the players' last chance to impress. Here are some names who bear watching.

Against the Houston Texans, several Dallas Cowboys hopefuls are trying to prove their value to the coaches. For me, the offense is mostly a matter of how many at what position, with very few actual player versus player battles. The interesting fights are on the other side of the ball. Here are a few key battles to watch when the team is on defense.

Defensive Tackle: Sean Lissemore, Landon Cohen and Jerome Long. This is a real surprise, but Lissy has not looked good in the 4-3. Even with the depth issues on the line, he is suddenly fighting for his job against younger players who have looked more dynamic so far. With Jay Ratliff designated PUP, there is also a decision to be made about how many tackles to keep overall. The interior of the defensive line is going to be very interesting to watch. My prediction: I think Lissemore will be cut, and Cohen and Long will both wind up on the roster until Ratliff comes back.

Linebacker: Caleb McSurdy, Brandon Magee, Cameron Lawrence and Taylor Reed. The last spot or two for linebackers is perhaps the most wide open competition for the Cowboys. McSurdy and Magee probably have the advantage here, but I would not say they have overwhelming leads. Additionally, word on DallasCowboys.com is that Magee is not expected to play, so McSurdy has a golden opportunity. The numbers here are a concern, with four people possibly contending for one last backup job. It is interesting that the unofficial depth chart at DallasCowboys.com has Reed as the only backup at Sam. However, I don't think that is anywhere near definitive. Everyone also auditioning for a practice squad chance. I think McSurdy makes the team, and Magee and Lawrence make the PS, but just about any other combination would not surprise me.

Safety: Eric Frampton and Danny McCray. I think both have been passed by Jeff Heath, but he may also be in this mix. My assumption is that Heath is in the fourth slot behind J.J. Wilcox. But it seems likely that McCray's spot as the special teams ace is threatened most by Frampton, who looks like he can contribute about as much there and do more if called on to play in coverage. Matt Johnson is not playing once again, and that is likely a sign that he is not going to be on the 53-man roster. I think Frampton sticks, and McCray has to seek a job with another team.

Cornerback: Sterling Moore and Micah Pellerin. This is also a bit of a surprise. Bryan Broaddus has been championing Pellerin of late. Pellerin is practice squad eligible, which may tilt things in Moore's favor on the theory a player stashed on the PS is almost as useful as one on the 53-man roster, letting you essentially keep both if you put Pellerin on the PS. That's how I would probably do it.

Don't forget that the special teams is usually the deciding factor for some of these battles. With the problems that have continued there, a standout job on ST may trump a lot.

That's what I think, but I freely admit I am probably off on at least a couple of these. What do you think?

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