Two of three Organized Team Activities are in the books for the Dallas Cowboys, and the third session kicked off today. 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.
Before going any further though, keep in mind that this is an early June depth chart. All practices have been conducted without pads, and a lot will change between now and the end of the preseason in August. Even more importantly, players like George Selvie, Jeremy Mincey, Henry Melton, 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.
|LDE||George Selvie||Tyrone Crawford||Ben Gardner||Anthony Spencer|
|3-Tech||Henry Melton||Ben Bass||Davon Coleman||Amobi Okoye|
|1-Tech||Terrell McClain||Ken Bishop||Nick Hayden||Chris Whaley|
|RDE||Jeremy Mincey||DeMarcus Lawrence||Martez Wilson||Caesar Rayford|
With the Cowboys expected to rotate the defensive linemen heavily during games, I'm not sure the distinction between starter and backup is as important as on other teams. Most of the nominal starters have not taken part in OTAs as they recover from various surgeries, but that has left the door open for the likes of McClain, Lawrence and Bishop, who've all drawn a lot of praise in OTAS so far.
In the end, the defensive line will come down to a numbers game: I assume the top eight here will all make the roster, and there may be one or two spots left for Gardner, Coleman, Wilson, Hayden, and Rayford. Whaley will likely sit out the season on IR, Spencer will start the season on PUP.
|SLB||Kyle Wilber||Justin Durant||Cameron Lawrence||Joe Windsor|
|MLB||DeVonte Holloman||Anthony Hitchens||Orie Lemon||Dontavis Sapp|
|WLB||Bruce Carter||Will Smith|
At linebacker, Sean Lee leaves a hole in the middle. For now, the most likely replacement appears to be Holloman, with Hitchens being groomed as a backup. Both Lemon and Sapp have shown up well so far, so there could be a real battle here. Durant is penciled in behind Wilber on the strongside because he's got to show up somewhere, but his real value to the Cowboys will likely be as a potential veteran fill-in for all three positions in a unit that is dangerously low on NFL experience.
||B. W. Webb
|SS||J. J. Wilcox
The Cowboys will likely play more than half their snaps in some form of sub package, so the slot cornerback is a de facto starter on this defense. Scandrick currently has the lead over Claiborne in the standard defensive package with two CBs, but he moves to the slot as soon as the Cowboys field three CBs.
Tyler Patmon and Terrance Mitchell show up relatively high based solely on accounts out of rookie minicamp. This could be wrong, of course, but for now I have them competing with Webb for that coveted fourth corner spot.
At safety, the Cowboys call Church the free safety, even though he's the guy usually playing in the box. The word out of Valley Ranch right now is that Wilcox has that second spot. Hamilton has been showing up well in camp, and I've moved him up ahead of Matt Johnson, who had to sit out last week's activities as a precaution brought on by soreness in his hamstrings.
The tables above may suggest that there is ample room on the roster, given that I've listed the depth guys and even have a column called 'others'. But the reality is that it's going to be a tightly contested battle for roster spots almost everywhere. Here's what the number of roster spots looked like on the opening-day rosters on defense over the previous eight years.
|of which: CB||4||5||5||3||4||7||5||5|
|of which: S||5||5||4||6||5||4||5||4|
Those numbers likely won't change all that much this year: 9-10 rushmen, 6-7 linebackers, 8-10 defensive backs - and those numbers probably can't add up to more than 25 players.
Agree, disagree? Let us know in the comments whose pet cats I've slighted and which players I've grossly overrated (and you're only allowed to say "All" if you're a troll).