I just got finished listening to the most excellent podcast for the week from Rabs and McCool. (What, you haven't listened to it yet? Take care of that immediately!) Among other things, they made some very thought-provoking comments about who makes the team this year, and who doesn't. I also took the time to read through the final 53-man projection from the Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota. One of the things Rabs and McCool brought up that we too often forget is that the Cowboys, like almost all NFL franchises, continue to churn the bottom of the roster even after the cutdown from 75 to 53. So that got me to thinking. Which leads to this, a somewhat different take on how the Dallas roster will look as the team heads into the game against the New York Giants.
The Dustin Vaughan experiment is over. The team is going to roll into the season with two quarterbacks. I was tempted to keep Jameill Showers primarily as a special teams player, but that is very unlikely. It would not be a total shock if it should happen, though.
Running backs/fullback (4)
No surprises here - but don't be surprised if the Cowboys add someone off the waiver wire.
Wide receivers (4)
This idea comes from the podcast, and I think it was Landon that threw the idea out. Lucky Whitehead has just not shown enough dependability as a return man, and would have to really dazzle in the final preseason game against the Houston Texans to get on the roster. This year's crop of UDFA receivers, plus A.J. Jenkins, have been rather disappointing.
Tight ends (4)
One reason (again stolen from Landon) that the team goes short at wide receiver is that they will use Escobar and Swaim more as receivers than in the traditional tight end role. They are big targets and can get downfield when needed.
Offensive linemen (9)
Going short at QB and WR lets them carry Gibson. And Weems is a real candidate to be cut when the team has to make room for Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain if (admittedly a rather big if) Gibson can continue to show improvement as a swing tackle.
Total offense: 23
Yes, I think Ben Gardner is not going to make it. I also have Terrell McClain as a bit of a surprise cut, just because the young talent at DT is that good. Edwards has just been kind of sneaky good so far.
The team will eat the guaranteed money for Jasper Brinkley. Gachkar and Smith have just outshone him.
Defensive backs (8)
Danny McCray has not been good enough in his old role as a special teams ace to keep around. Jones and White will be used at both corner and safety.
Total defense: 23
Don't mess with success.
You may notice that there are only 49 players here, and that is because I believe that four players who will be on the team September 13th are not yet in Dallas. A fifth and perhaps sixth wide receiver, an additional running back, and another defensive back or two are all likely candidates for these spots. Look for players who can also contribute on special teams. And remember that two of the players that will be on the roster week one will have to be moved out to make room for Hardy and Rolando McClain. The team might even pick up a third quarterback if they think someone might be able to challenge Weeden as the backup down the road, but that is a long shot.
If I was short with any of these groups, the defensive line is where another player like Ken Bishop may be held onto. And Efe Obada has been amazingly good for his lack of experience. It is possible that the team sees so much upside with him that they keep him on the roster just to protect him. Watch how he does against the Texans.
If this looks controversial, that is very deliberate. Dallas just has too many talented players at some spots to keep them all, and a few weaknesses that will be addressed through the waiver wire. This may be way off in some ways, but we will find out very shortly. Jump into the comments and make your own projections. It is the last chance we have to try to outguess Jerry Jones and company.