Dallas Cowboys Defensive Depth Chart Heading Into Training Camp

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have completed all of their offseason OTAs and minicamps, and now get 32 days off until training camp startes. That makes this a good time to take a look at what an updated defensive depth chart could look like.

Over the last month or so, the Cowboys have had 10 days of OTA practices, three days of rookie minicamp and three days of mandatory minicamp. In that span, they've also gone through the install of their playbooks, as rookie QB Dustin Vaughan recounts in an interview with the Amarillo Globe-News:

"I’ll tell you this. At West Texas A&M we had a three-day install for a playbook. In the NFL with the Cowboys it’s a nine-day install. It’s a lot of information. Even guys coming from Division I schools didn’t have to deal with this much information. I think it’s great because it broadens your game. It’s crazy the step you have to take from college to the NFL."

In addition to being teaching sessions, the practices have also been evaluation sessions, as Jason Garrett told ESPN Dallas on Thursday:

"We’ll continue to make evaluations of individual guys, where they stack up, if they belong on the roster, who else is on the landscape and you’re always trying to do that."

And as these evaluations have been going on, the Cowboys depth chart has inevitably changed, some players started playing with the first team, some players moved up from the third team to the second team, others moved down in the depth charts. Not all practices have been open to the media, but there's been enough information published to give us a better idea of what the team's depth chart could look like.

As you review the depth charts below, keep in mind that none of the practices so far have been conducted in pads. More importantly, players like George Selvie, Jeremy Mincey, Henry Melton, Amobi Okoye, Devonte Holloman, Matt Johnson, and Nick Hayden have missed parts or all of OTAs with injuries, while players like CB Tyler Patmon and CB Terrance Mitchell have missed time due to academic obligation. I've simply made assumptions of where each of these players will fit on the depth chart, starting with the defensive line.

I've also added a color scheme to the depth charts. A green background denotes the 25 defensive players I expect to make the 53-man roster, yellow denotes borderline players who need a strong camp to make the team (or the practice squad), red denotes players I think will eventually get cut.

Defensive Line
POS Starter Backup Depth Others
LDE George Selvie Tyrone Crawford Ben Gardner Anthony Spencer (PUP)
3-Tech Henry Melton Ben Bass Davon Coleman Amobi Okoye
1-Tech Terrell McClain Ken Bishop Nick Hayden Chris Whaley (IR)
RDE DeMarcus Lawrence Jeremy Mincey Martez Wilson, Dartwan Bush
Caesar Rayford

We've heard all about the "waves of rushmen" the Cowboys plan on sending after the QB. That probably means the Cowboys will need a solid rotation of at least eight players, and I've added Gardner and Coleman as extra depth. Recently added Dartwan Bush could make a push for the practice squad, Hayden and Wilson might win a spot as veterans, but the odds look stacked against them right now. Spencer and Whaley are safe for now, as they'll likely end up on PUP and IR respectively.

Free agent signing Amobi Okoye has yet to recover from whatever illness he's suffering from, and Caesar Rayford hasn't shown up on anybody's radar so far.

Linebackers
POS Starter Backup Depth Others
SLB Kyle Wilber DeVonte Holloman Cameron Lawrence Joe Windsor
MLB Justin Durant Anthony Hitchens Orie Lemon Sean Lee (IR)
WLB Bruce Carter Will Smith Dontavis Sapp

While we initially assumed Holloman would be the top choice to replace Lee in the middle, he took most of his reps with the second team on the strong side, and the Cowboys have been playing veteran Justin Durant in the middle. All of that may still change in training camp, but for now, the starting three linebackers look pretty much set.

Defensive Backs
POS Starter Backup Depth Others
LCB Brandon Carr
Terrance Mitchell
Dashaun Phillips

SCB Orlando Scandrick
Sterling Moore B. W. Webb
RCB Morris Claiborne
Tyler Patmon

SS Barry Church Jeff Heath
Ahmad Dixon Ryan Smith
FS J. J. Wilcox Jakar Hamilton
Matt Johnson
Keith Smith

The Cowboys played 61% of their defensive snaps in 2013 in a nickel package, so I'm assuming they'll want to go at least five-deep at corner. Webb appears in serious danger of losing his job to Sterling Moore, and Terrance Mitchell, despite missing most of OTAs due to academic requirements, made the most of his opportunity in the two minicamps and looks to be a candidate for the fourth corner spot.

At safety, it's Church and Wilcox as the starters, with Hamilton emerging as the surprise of the offseason. He's showed up very well in the various practices over the last four weeks and looks like a roster lock.

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Despite having colored in most of the backup spots in green in the tables above, those backup spots will be tightly contested in training camp. And while you may feel that there this player or that player should also make the roster, the hard truth is that when the roster is cut down to 53 players, a lot of pet cats will be cut.To give you an idea of how many roster spots could be available for which unit, here are last year's opening day rosters for the Cowboys, Giants, Seahawks and Bears.

Team Cowboys Giants Seahawks Bears
Defensive Line 10 11 10 9
Linebackers 6 5 7 6
Defensive Backs 9 9 9 10
of which: CB 4 6 5 6
of which: S 5 3 4 4
Total 25 25 26
25

Those numbers aren't far apart and suggest that the Cowboys will carry 9-10 rushmen, 6-7 linebackers, 9-10 defensive backs - and there probably won't be more than 25 spots for the defense

Agree, disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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