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Cowboys 53-man Roster Projection (Post-Raiders Preseason Game 1)

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The Cowboys, like every other team, will have to cut down their roster to 53 players in two steps. The first cut to 80 players happens on August 28, the Tuesday after the third preseason game. The second and final cut is scheduled for Aug 31, the day after the last preseason game and five days before the Cowboys kick off the 2012 season against the Giants.

Andrew Brandt, Packers vice president from 1999-2008 and now a player agent and columnist for ESPN, recently remarked on how teams have their depth chart already largely set before camp:

Teams have most of their depth chart and final roster established well before camp opens. Sure, there will be a couple of tweaks, but absent of a sustained impressive performance through camp and a scout or coach standing on the table for a prospect, odds are minimal.

To some degree, this is probably true for the Cowboys as well. But in the wake of the Oakland game, and with the impressions from two weeks of training camp, shouldn't there be a couple of previously unheralded players making a push for a roster spot?

After the break, we look at four different roster projections to understand which positions could still be open.

After the Raiders game, ESPN Dallas and the Dallas Morning News both published updated roster projections. The table below summarizes their 53-man roster projections for the Cowboys, and for good measure I've added rabblerousr's and my own take on the likely season-opening roster. Note that the players are not necessarily shown in the order as they were originally published, as I reordered them in some instances to make the projections more transparent across the four sources.

The table highlights (in yellow) the spots that do not yet appear to be locked down, and where there is still competition for a roster spot. Look closely and you'll see that there aren't many of those spots left, if these projections are anything to go by.

T. MacMahon, ESPN D. Moore, DMN rabblerousr, BTB
Romo Romo Romo Romo
Orton Orton Orton Orton
Murray Murray Murray Murray
Jones Jones Jones Jones
Tanner Tanner Tanner Tanner

Dunbar Olawale
Vickers Vickers Vickers Vickers
Witten Witten Witten Witten
Phillips Phillips Phillips Phillips
Hanna Hanna Hanna Hanna
Austin Bryant Austin Austin
Bryant Austin Bryant Bryant
Veteran TBD Holmes Ogletree Holmes
Holmes Coale Holmes Harris
Beasley Beasley Harris Coale

Smith Smith Smith Smith
Livings Livings Livings Livings
Costa Costa Costa Costa
Bernadeau Bernadeau Bernadeau Bernadeau
Free Free Free Free
Arkin Leary Parnell Arkin
Parnell Arkin Arkin Parnell
Leary Parnell Leary Backup C, TBD
Dockery McQuistan Dockery Leary
Lissemore Spears Lissemore Coleman
Ratliff Ratliff Ratliff Ratliff
Hatcher Hatcher Hatcher Hatcher
Spears Crawford Crawford Crawford
Crawford Lissemore Bass Lissemore
Brent Brent Brent Brent
Geathers Geathers Coleman Bass
Lee Lee Lee Lee
Connor Carter Carter Carter
Carter Connor Connor Connor
Lemon Albright Albright Albright
Lemon Lemon Lemon
Ware Ware Ware Ware
Spencer Spencer Spencer Spencer
Butler Butler Butler Butler
Wilber Wilber Wilber Wilber
Albright Hamilton Hamilton
Sensabaugh Sensabaugh Sensabaugh Sensabaugh
Church Church Church Church
McCray Johnson McCray McCray
Johnson McCray Johnson Johnson
Bailey Bailey Bailey Bailey
Jones Jones Jones Jones
Hughlett Ladouceur Hughlett Ladouceur

When rabble and I were discussing our projections, he noted that some of these projections are likely to be "totally off base", as there are bound to be some surprise cuts and late additions that nobody saw coming. With that in mind, here are the positions that the above consensus projections suggest could still see some real roster competition.

Running back / Fullback: There may be a spot open as the fourth running back or perhaps second fullback. Olawale looked promising early on, but now it looks as if recently arrived Javaris Williams may be in the running here as well. According to rabble, the coaches gave Williams a lot of one-back and third down snaps in camp yesterday and he wonders "if the Jamize experiment went sour after one game..."

Wide receivers: Ask ten people about how they rank the Cowboys' wide receivers and you'll get 11 different answers. And that is a problem, because none of the players have separated themselves from the pack so far.

Offensive line: In addition to the five starters, backups David Arkin and Jermey Parnell look set, but there is some competition among the down-roster guys. And things could be shaken up further with the late addition of another veteran.

Defensive Line: Here the competition will likely be determined by the Cowboys' preference for either experience or potential: It's likely that the Cowboys will have to make a choice between veterans Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman on the one side and youngsters Clifton Geathers and Ben Bass on the other.

Linebacker: At linebacker, it's likely to come down to a numbers game. Are the Cowboys keeping eight or nine players at the position? In Alex Albright, Orie Lemon and Adrian Hamilton, the Cowboys have three players battling for one or two spots.

Secondary: The secondary looks set, assuming that Mike Jenkins gets healthy and actually plays for the Cowboys. The consensus seems to be that the Cowboys will go with nine defensive backs, and it seems unlikely that a player like Mana Silva will be able to make a late push for a spot here.

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