The Cowboys are finally back in Dallas, and while they haven't had an official practice over the last couple of days, that doesn't mean there wasn't anything going on in Valley Ranch. The Cowboys coaches were almost certainly busy watching film from the last few practices and reviewing their practice notes from camp. And one of the things they were likely doing in the process is slotting their players into some kind of a depth chart; a depth chart they have been building since the start of OTAs and one that is constantly being reconfigured.
So we're going to do a similar exercise today and take a look at what the Cowboys' final 53-man roster could look like based on what we've seen so far in training camp and in the first preseason game. To do that, we're going to look at three separate projections. One from Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas, another one from Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News, and a final one from BTB's rabblerousr. What all three projections have in common is that they were put together by people who were actually in attendance in Oxnard.
I've combined all three projections in the table below. 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 three projections are anything to go by.
|Todd Archer, ESPN
||Bob Sturm, DMN
|T. Crawford||T. Crawford||T. Crawford|
|T. McClain||T. McClain||T. McClain|
|J. Crawford||J. Crawford||J. Crawford|
|R. McClain||R. McClain|
As we saw in May when we looked at the Top Five Pitfalls Of Early 53-man Roster Projections, these roster projections may feel like they have a certain degree of certainty and finality, but they don't, not really. It's still early in the process, and players are bound to rise and fall, and there may yet be some surprise cuts and late additions that nobody saw coming. Scandrick's season-ending injury is just the most recent example of that; Archer and Rabble had him in their projections, Sturm does has already removed him. With that in mind, here a few thoughts on three projections above.
Quarterbacks: The Cowboys may still choose to have a developmental guy on the roster, but if I had to guess, I'd say right now it looks like that guy will be doing his developing on the practice squad, be it Vaughan or Showers. This may change over the final two preseason games if either of the guys shows up in a big way, but for now it's Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden, and that's it.
Running backs: The Cowboys have gone with three backs in most of the previous years, and barring injury, the rotation here is set, and that rotation will include a fullback.
Tight ends: All three projections have four guys at tight end.
Wide receivers:Whitehead seems to have a lead for the fifth spot, but will he be able to hold on?
Offensive line: Will they go short and only keep eight offensive linemen, or will they keep a spot for the late-surging Gibson?
Defensive Line: For a unit that's seen perhaps the most personnel turnover of any group on the 2015 team, there is remarkably little uncertainty here. Bishop, Coleman, and Gardner, are in competition for the last roster spots. In recent years, the uncertainty at the position sometimes forced the Cowboys to go longer at these positions than they may have wanted to (the kept 11 defensive linemen last year, and 10 in 2013). The quality they have at the position today, plus the fact hat Hardy will return at some point, could see them going with just eight or nine guys here.
Linebacker: Not really a lot of clarity here in terms of the depth chart, but there really isn't anybody pushing the top six guys from the bottom. Rolando McClain will eventually re-join the team, and it'll be interesting to see what the trickle-down effect of that will be.
Secondary: Outside of Scandrick, all three projections have the same nine guys making the roster. Could the Cowboys opt for a 10th defensive back this year?
If the consensus here holds true, six of the eight draft picks make the roster. Chaz Green is likely headed to IR and Mark Nzeocha is a practice squad or PUP candidate at this point. Also, if Lucky Whitehead makes the roster, the Cowboys would continue their successful tradition of having at least one undrafted rookie free agent make their opening-day roster. And with the league moving to a 10-man practice squad, there's a good chance more UDFAs make the roster over the course of the season.
What's your take on the combined projections above, and which of your pet cats did the three camp reporters slight?