Almost every year when the Dallas Cowboys make the oxymoronic final cutdown to the initial 53-man roster, there is at least a surprise or two. Someone most of us thought would make the team is waived, or a player not many gave a real chance of making the roster makes it. It is part of why the cuts are watched so closely.
But not this year. When the roster was "finalized" on Saturday, there was not one name on the list that almost all of us thought wasn't a certain cut. And no one that was on the list of names was a big surprise after the performances of the final preseason game were factored in making this the most boring roster that I, at least, can remember.
In this case, boring is a very good thing indeed.
There seems to be one main reason for the complete lack of surprise and very limited controversy in this roster. The Cowboys have an established team with very good talent. There remain a few questions in the group. Running back is one where we will have to see what happens in the real games to find out if the Cowboys' faith in the group is justified. Backup quarterback has us all hoping, praying, and perhaps performing whatever arcane ritual we think will help so that Tony Romo remains healthy all season. Swing tackle has us as nervous as that proverbial long-tailed cat. But for the most part, what we see is fairly clear evidence that the top 49 or 50 players with the team at the moment are good. In many cases, they are excellent. And depth is finally a strong attribute for Dallas.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the defensive line. There were so many good rushmen that the team went very deep there, keeping eleven. Rod Marinelli's desire to send these players in waves is well documented here and elsewhere. Now he has a bulging toolbox to work with, and it should only get better after four weeks (or possibly sooner depending on if there is a further appeal) when Greg Hardy is done with his suspension. There were a lot of fans who were disappointed that Ben Gardner was not among the ones that were kept, but most of us saw the handwriting on the wall for him the last part of the preseason. The team probably hopes he will make it through waivers so they can try to get him on the practice squad, but most of us hope he gets his chance somewhere else. It will be bittersweet if he does, but he appears to be an NFL-level talent. It is just that the Cowboys have eleven others, plus Hardy, who are more so.
Dallas even felt comfortable standing pat with the hand they held after the loss of Orlando Scandrick. In the past, that would have been almost devastating. He will still be sorely missed, but there was enough depth at corner that the team should be able to move forward without him and be fine.
Churn is still likely. There are several players who are now on the new bubble to be replaced if the Cowboys are able to make a waiver claim on someone they think is an upgrade. And it may not be a position for position swap. Here are the names of some players that should be waiting nervously for the waiver process to play out.
Darrion Weems. His play was underwhelming at times. When Doug Free was injured last season, it was clear just how important a quality swing tackle is. And Weems just does not seem to fit the bill. The team publicly expresses confidence in him, but the Cowboys do not bad mouth their own. They are undoubtedly scouring the names of available tackles to see if there is an upgrade out there.
The last one of the rushmen. Eleven is certainly heavy at that position. Only the team knows who that last name is, but it may be one of Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman, or Lavar Edwards. Based on the eye test, Coleman seems to be in the best shape of the three, but he has a history of not working hard. He seems to have matured past that, but we are not privy to all that goes on behind the scenes.
Danny McCray and Jeff Heath. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on McCray being the 53rd man on the whole roster. He just did not show the same effectiveness as a special teams ace, which is his main value to the team. But they had enough faith in him to bring him back after a year away. Once again, we don't know what the coaches are seeing on video with him. Heath is in a very similar situation, but does seem to be somewhat more serviceable if called upon to play some downs as a safety.
Tyler Clutts. Although Jason Garrett loves him some fullback, if the team finds a running back they would like to have for depth, or even a fullback they see as an upgrade, he might be expendable. The position is dying in the pass-oriented world that is today's NFL, and we don't know what advice Scott Linehan is giving Garrett. His word certainly carries a lot of weight in this.
James Hanna and Geoff Swaim. While it is very unlikely either would be an outright cut, there is still the possibility of a last minute trade, and both are good enough to possibly draw some attention from a team that is hurting for a tight end. Four makes this position also heavy, and a late round pick might be enough to draw some interest from the Cowboys. While we are on that subject, the same might be true of one of the rushmen. You can be sure a lot of teams saw what even the lower tier of this group was doing in preseason. Someone with need for a strong D lineman and a 4-3 scheme might be working the phones with the Cowboys.
That is just about all the players that could conceivably be at some kind of risk, at least in one man's opinion. Who do you think may have the dream of wearing the Star suddenly snatched from them?