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Dallas Cowboys Roster: Who Are The Top 53 Regardless Of Position?

Orlando Scandrick helps to make cornerback the team's most top heavy position. The lingering question is: who is behind him at the position?
Orlando Scandrick helps to make cornerback the team's most top heavy position. The lingering question is: who is behind him at the position?

This time of year, its common practice to publish updated 53-man rosters, based on how players have performed in training camp practices and, then, in the preseason games. In fact, our own O.C.C. recently offered up his version, based on the first three training camp practices. As you know, the normal "53" man roster posts look at the top players by each position group, taking into account the necessary juggling that invariably accompanies the bottom-of-the-roster decisions: does the team take a sixth receiver over a ninth linebacker? A second kicker over, well, any other position player?

This is a good methodology (and one I have oft pursued); however, it doesn't fully take into account the talent distribution across the team. Often the fourth OLB can be better than, say the starting RG. As a result, an organization has to make difficult decisions when it comes time to cut the roster down to 53, as they will almost certainly have to release good players at positions of strength to keep weaker players at positions thinned by injury or lack of talent.

When looking at the Cowboys roster, its pretty clear which positions boast more strength and depth (linebacker) and which are thin (offensive guard). But the question remains: how much of a disparity exists between the various position groups? In an effort to answer this question, I selected who I thought were the best 53 players on the Dallas roster and ranked them in order, from one to fifty-three, regardless of position. What this will show us, I hope, is just how strong our beloved 'Boys are at some positions, and where they will need be relying on duct tape, baling wire and a few hosannas.

Want to see Rabble's rankings, dear reader? Then make the jump...

To make this list, I wrote the name of each player on the 90-man roster on an index card and moved the cards around on my hotel room floor (I know, right?) until I was satisfied with the arrangement. A proviso: my rankings reflect the best players on the team as of today, and are greatly influenced by the results that have emerged from the first week of training camp. Determining the top 53 was actually fairly easy. Ranking them was more difficult, largely because we have seen so little of players like Nate Livings and Mackenzie Bernadeau thus far. How good are they? I can't honestly tell, so I've tried to make fair, educated guesstimates. Okay, so here goes:

1. DeMarcus Ware, OLB
2. Tony Romo, QB
3. Brandon Carr, CB
4. Dez Bryant, WR
5. Sean Lee, ILB
6. Jason Witten, TE
7. Miles Austin, WR
8. Tyron Smith, OT
9. DeMarco Murray, RB
10. Dan Bailey, K

11. Jay Ratliff, NT
12. Jason Hatcher, DE
13. Anthony Spencer, OLB
14. Doug Free, OT
15. Morris Claiborne, CB
16. Kyle Orton, QB
17. Felix Jones, RB
18. Mike Jenkins, CB
19. Bruce Carter, ILB
20. Dan Connor, ILB

21. Sean Lissemore, DL
22. John Phillips, TE
23. Gerald Sensabaugh, S
24. Orlando Scandrick, CB
25. Tyrone Crawford, DE
26. Lawrence Vickers, FB
27. Barry Church, S
28. Kyle Wilber, OLB
29. Clifton Geathers, DL
30. Nate Livings, OG

31. Kenyon Coleman, DE
32. Victor Butler, OLB
33. Phil Costa, OC
34. Jermey Parnell, OT
35. Marcus Spears, DE
36. Josh Brent, NT
37. Rob Callaway, DL
38. Ronald Leary, OG
39. Danny McCray, S
40. Alex Albright, OLB

41. Mackenzie Bernadeau, OG
42. Orie Lemon, ILB
43. Phillip Tanner, RB
44. Kevin Kowalski, OC
45. David Arkin, OG
46. James Hanna, TE
47. Raymond Radway, WR
48. Dwayne Harris, WR
49. Adrian Hamilton, OLB
50. Bill Nagy, OG
51. Matt Johnson, S
52. Andre Holmes, WR
53. L.P. Ladouceur, LS

A few scattered thoughts in response to this list:

-At first glance, the positional breakdown coincides fairly neatly with the 53-man roster's standard allocations: 2 QB; 3 RB; 1 FB; 5 WR; 3 TE; 3 OT; 5 OG; 2 OC; 7 DE; 2 DT; 6 OLB; 4 ILB; 4 CB; 4 S, for a total of 24 offensive and 27 defensive players. This includes a kicker and a long snapper, but no punter. Luckily, there won't be any radical shoehorning - i.e., a situation wherein they have to go deep at a weak position.

-Seven of the top ten are offensive players, but seven of the guys ranked 11-20 play defense, and by the time we get through the top twenty two, there is a fairly even distribution on each side of the ball.

-Dallas is set at quarterback. I think Orton is the best backup QB in the league, and can lead the team to victories against good teams should Romo go down for any extended period (quick: knock on wood).

-The Cowboys have good talent through the first 25 players, but it begins to drop off after that. You'll notice that I located guys like Kyle Wilber and Clifton Geathers in the top 30. This was largely because there were no vets whose body of work trumped the promise these youngsters bring to the table. I'd like for there to be a more experienced players at that roster level (ideally, they would be starters). Hopefully, FA signees Livings and Bernadeau will settle in the mid-twenties, and give the team that middle-of-the-roster veteran presence.

-The front seven is really deep. It seems like the Cowboys have been perpetually searching for linebackers (and burning a lot of draft picks in the process) since they switched to the 3-4 in 2005. For the first time in that span, the ILB spots are manned by good to great players, and they have terrific depth (Orie Lemon looks really good in Oxnard). A look at the OLB corps suggests that, in 2012 at last, they'll boast a lot of depth as well as some impressive upside in players like Alex Albright and Adrian Hamilton, both of whom have flashed in camp. The question remains: how may OLBs can Dallas keep? I can't imagine its more than five, which will mean at least one quality player will visit the Turk.

-They appear to have a similar (good) problem at defensive end, where Jason Hatcher, Tyrone Crawford and Sean Lissemore have all made important strides. Hatcher finally seems to be fulfilling his potential, and Crawford looks like a real find, showing a knack for getting interior penetration. Lissemore is stout at the point and flashes a little pass rush inside. And this bounty is enriched by Rob Callaway, who looks good in drills, and former Aggie Ben Bass, who didn't even make this list, but will be very hard to let go. This spurs two thoughts: 1) perhaps defensive end won't be quite the problem we imagined it would be all offseason; 2) I don't like Marcus Spears' chances of surviving final cutdown.

-The interior of the offensive line might what we feared. While it appears that the Cowboys are set at tackle, where Smith, Free and Parnell all look anywhere from solid to superb, the same can't be said of the interior positions. A great deal of this uncertainty must be attributed to the injury situation, where the constant game of musical chairs has eliminated any possibility for consistency or continuity. But the fact that the top-rated interior O-lineman comes in at #30 is cause for concern.

-At present, my list contains only four corners (all of them in the top 24!) and four safeties, and one of those, Matt Johnson, made the list based on a whole lotta nothin' other than draft position. Given that the Cowboys usually keep ten defensive backs, a couple of young'uns, guys like Lionel Smith or Justin Taplin-Ross, will need to make an up-roster move, or else we'll have undeserving DBs bumping a worthy DL or LB off the list.

Whaddya think, BTBers? Anybody take umbrage at the list? With 'Ol Rabble's conclusions? If so, go to the comments section and let 'er rip!


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