One of our favorite rituals every year during the dog days of summer (no football games) is making our best guesses and dreaming as to what our favorite team's initial 53-man roster might look like on opening day.
One of the aspects of doing that is deciding how many to carry at each position. Instead of presenting just the list of who I think it will be for this year, I thought it would be fun to also make the case for those who have supplanted the starters from last year's squad.
So, here is the early look at my projection of who will make the 53. I list the new additions to the 53 with an asterisk (*) and those who still have a chance to make the team under the "On-The-Bubble" and "Free Agents" columns.
Those who have been released are Donald Hawkins, Troy Davis, and Dekoda Watson. Josh Brent has retired and Greg Hardy will not count on the 53 until he has been reinstated and that can be anywhere from 2-10 games.
|QB||3||Tony Romo||Jameill Showers|
|RB||4||*Darren McFadden||Ray Agnew - FB||Synjyn Days|
|*Ryan Williams||Jed Collins - FB|
|WR||5||Dez Bryant||Chris Boyd||Antwan Goodley|
|Terrance Williams||Reggie Dunn||Lucky Whitehead|
|Cole Beasley||Nick Harwell|
|Devin Street||Deontay Greenberry|
|*George Farmer (FA)||George Farmer (FA)|
|TE||3||Jason Witten||James Hanna||Ray Hamilton|
|OT||4||Tyron Smith||Darrion Weems||Daniel Quave|
|Doug Free||John Wetzel||La'el Collins (FA)|
|*Chaz Green||R.J. Dill|
|*Lawrence Gibson||Ryan Miller|
|*La'el Collins (FA)|
|C||1||Traivs Fredrick||Shane McDermott|
|CB||6||Orlando Scandrick||Robert Steeples||Joel Ross|
|*Bryon Jones||C.J. Spillman||Jason Wilson|
|S||4||Barry Church||Keelan Johnson||Tim Scott|
|J.J. Wilcox||Ray Vinopal|
|DE||5||*Randy Gregory||Kenneth Boatright|
|DeMarcus Lawrence||Lavar Edwards|
|Jeremy Mincey||Jack Crawford|
|Ben Gardner||Adewale Ojomo|
|DT||5||Tyrone Crawford||Davon Coleman|
|LB||6||Sean Lee||Cameron Lawrence|
|Rolando McClain||James Anderson|
|Anthony Hitchens||Jasper Brinkly|
|*Damien Wilson||Mark Nzeocha|
|Andrew Gachkar||Keith Rivers|
|Kyle Wilber||Will Smith|
|LS||1||L.P. LaDouceur||Casey Lreoter|
|P||1||Chris Jones||Tom Hornsey|
Next, here are who I think will be the starters on both sides of the ball. Keep in mind this is certainly subject to change and we will update these lists as the fall gets underway.
|1||QB||Tony Romo||1||MLB||Rolando McClain|
|1||RB||Darren McFadden||1||WLB||Sean Lee|
|3||WR #1||Dez Bryant||1||SLB/SCB||Anthony Hitchens/Orlando Scandrick|
|WR #2||Terrance Williams||1||RCB||Byron Jones|
|WR #3||Cole Beasley||1||LCB||Brandon Carr / Orlando Scandrick|
|1||TE||Jason Witten||1||RDE||Randy Gregory|
|1||LT||Tyron Smith||1||DT 3-Tech||Tyrone Crawford|
|1||LG||La'El Collins||1||DT 1-Tech||Terrell McClain|
|1||C||Travis Frederick||1||LDE||DeMarcus Lawrence / Greg Hardy|
|1||RG||Zack Martin||1||SS||Barry Church|
|1||RT||Doug Free||1||FS||J.J. Wilcox|
A few notes about my selections for the starting positions that are either undecided or not obvious.
1. I believe Darren McFadden has the inside track to be the starter. Some may point to his lack of production the last couple of years and believe that since other running backs on that team were able to do better that meant that McFadden had begun to decline. One thing that may be overlooked when making that conclusion is that the other backs may have only been better in getting the "hidden" yards and not better at getting to the second level and make the big plays as well as McFadden is and that the Raiders offensive line was not near as good as the Cowboys.
With this offensive line there will be many more holes and with McFadden's world class speed, he will have a chance to hit a lot of "home runs" and when it is time for some third and short yards then the Cowboys will put in Ryan Williams or Joseph Randle to get those tough yards.
2. Since Jason Garrett has said he wants to put the five best offensive lineman on the field at the same time, then it would seem to beg the question of which current starting offensive lineman is going to get replaced. It should be clear that three things need to be considered. talent, current contract, and age. When you consider those things it should begin with the current contract since the talent difference may not be that much. Ron Leary is on the last year of his first free agent contract that counts $585,000 against the cap. Doug Free has just signed a new contract that counts $3,000,000 against the cap. Add to that the fact that the Cowboys just recently decided to keep Free instead of Jeremy Parnell because of his leadership, it would seem clear they will or should replace Leary with Collins and then when Free's contract is up in three years consider replacing Free with either Chaz Green, Lawrence Gibson or Collins and let one of the remaining guys from those three fill in at the other spot.
3. Since it is obvious that the Cowboys will want Byron Jones on the field as much as possible, and that Orlando Scandrick is the best choice to be the slot corner due to how difficult that slot receiver is to cover, then until Morris Claiborne is ready to get back in the mix Jones will fill in for either Scandrick when there is a slot wide receiver, or for Carr or Scandrick when a team is not in 11 personnel.
4. Notice that I did not include any fullbacks. Since more and more teams have decided that when you want to not show your hand as far as whether the play will be a run or pass, that they have chosen to use the 11 or 12 personnel and not the 21 personnel (RB and FB) and that teams will use an H-Back or another offensive lineman when they are in an obvious running down and want a lead blocker, and thus the FB becomes a position that is no longer a valuable roster spot. However, Dave Halprin has pointed out to me that Garrett usually carries at least one fullback on the roster, but I could not bring myself to replace one of the other positions and make it short due to my bias against the fullback position. So, perhaps those of you who think the coaches will keep one, perhaps you can help me by telling me who you would cut to get a fullback on the final roster?
5. Once Greg Hardy returns to the 53-man roster, someone will have to be cut and that is too difficult to say at this time who that might be and who might make the practice squad, both of those subjects are better left for a later date.
Well, there you have it. I know others will see the 53 and/or the starters differently even at this early stage, so have at it in the comments section.