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Way Too Early 53-Man Dallas Cowboys Roster Projection

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-OTA Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As the Cowboys continue to work through the organized team activity portion of the off-season, the majority of the spots on the 53-man roster that will be put together the first week of September have begun to have quite a bit of clarity, as have the "battles" we'll need to have our eyes on when training camp kicks off in Oxnard in less than two months.

As early as it is, and as much as will change between now and the day the Turk will walk the halls of The Star in Frisco, to notify the last group of players who didn't make the cut, there's still plenty of value in projecting based on what the most current information tells us, so lets venture on.

Quarterback (3)

Tony Romo - Starter

Kellen Moore

Dak Prescott

For the first time in several years, the quarterback position should really be interesting to watch develop in training camp. I'm projecting Kellen Moore to beat out Jameill Showers and Dak Prescott for the backup QB role, not because of any personal belief I hold in Moore's abilities, but because I believe offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has enough say in these types of decisions that he'll win out. Of course Tony Romo's workload, mobility, and comfort will be highly scrutinized.

Running Back (3)

Ezekiel Elliott - Starter

Alfred Morris

Darius Jackson

This position will likely be hotly debated throughout camp, but depending on the recovery timetable of Lance Dunbar's knee, I believe this has a significant chance to be the way it falls out. Make no mistake about it, despite the ceremonial respect and reps being given to Darren McFadden early in OTA's, Alfred Morris was brought in to replace McFadden as the veteran presence in the running back group and Ezekiel Elliott was drafted to be "the guy". McFadden performed admirably in many areas in 2015, but his deficiencies executing the Cowboys base run schemes and the fact that he won't contribute on special teams means he doesn't make the cut in 2016. Drafting a complete back like Elliott eliminates the need for a "Third Down Back" unless that player is truly special in those situations as Lance Dunbar can be when healthy.

Fullback (1)

Rod Smith - Starter

The competition between Rod Smith and linebacker convert Keith Smith will be very interesting to watch develop. I am going with Rod here because I believe he will provide some things that Keith will not, both in the passing game as a receiver and with running back instincts as a blocker in the run game.

Wide Receiver (5)

Dez Bryant - Starter

Terrance Williams - Starter

Cole Beasley

Brice Butler

Lucky Whitehead

The wide receiver group will likely feature a significant battle for playing time as Brice Butler is expected to challenge Terrance Williams as the starter at the "Z" receiver spot. If Butler fails to step-up to take on the bigger role, there's also a chance that Devin Street could make a run at the spot I have reserved for Butler here. Outside of Butler battling for snaps, the wide receiver group is fairly straightforward with each guy playing a specific role within the group.

Tight End (3)

Jason Witten - Starter

James Hanna

Geoff Swaim

The point of interest at tight end will center around the Achilles injury to former-2nd-round-pick Gavin Escobar, and whether he will be ready to get on the field and contribute only nine months post-injury. Additionally, the possibilities of what could be with a guy like Rico Gathers will be very intriguing throughout the rest of the off-season and training camp.

Offensive Line (8)

Tyron Smith - Starter

La'el Collins - Starter

Travis Frederick - Starter

Zack Martin - Starter

Doug Free - Starter

Chaz Green

Ron Leary

Jake Brendel

This group will be very interesting to watch from a depth perspective. My projection here is probably the teams ideal scenario. Unless Doug Free takes a major step back and/or Chaz Green takes a huge step forward, the starters are essentially set for 2016. The hope for this group will be that Green and Brendel can step forward and take the reserve jobs of veterans Charles Brown and Joe Looney, while Ron Leary, who will not be traded, provides great stability to the group.

Defensive Ends (5)

Benson Mayowa - Starter

David Irving - Starter

Jack Crawford

Charles Tapper

Ryan Russell

This position will look drastically different after the first four games of the year, as presumptive starters DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory will return from their suspensions. The best guess for the early season starters is full of question marks, but this group presents at worst a group of players who have enough upside as pass rushers to give hope that there will be some semblance of a rush. Ryan Russell will spend training camp and the first four weeks of the regular season attempting to prove that he is worth retaining once Lawrence and Gregory return to the fold.

Defensive Tackle (5)

Tyrone Crawford - Starter

Cedric Thornton - Starter

Terrell McClain

Maliek Collins

Rodney Coe

Crawford and Thornton have the makings of a very solid interior duo, while McClain and Collins can be effective rotational options. The depth in this group is impressive, and without the presence of bonafide edge rushers, the team will need significant inside push and disruption to be the best defense they can be. Rodney Coe has a chance to be the type of disruptive nose tackle that Terrell McClain has been when healthy, but will have to fend off guys like Casey Walker for the final spot.

Linebackers (7)

Sean Lee - Starter

Rolando McClain - Starter

Kyle Wilber - Starter

Anthony Hitchens

Damien Wilson

Mark Nzeocha

Andrew Gachkar

There is likely to be competition for the starter at "Sam" with Mark Nzeocha throwing his name in the mix at that position, but really this position group hinges on the health and availability of Sean Lee and Rolando McClain. If those two stay on the field the Cowboys defense will have a fighting chance, and the group of young guys will battle it out for the opportunity to take whatever snaps are available on defense.

Cornerbacks (5)

Orlando Scandrick - Starter

Brandon Carr - Starter

Morris Claiborne

Anthony Brown

Josh Thomas

The trend of the top of the roster being stable with plenty of battles going on at the bottom continues at corner, as Scandrick, Carr, and Claiborne set up a very solid top three. The bottom of the depth chart will feature a competition among four young players for one or two spots, and I'm projecting Brown and Thomas coming out on top.

Safeties (5)

Byron Jones - Starter

Barry Church - Starter

J.J. Wilcox

Jeff Heath

Kavon Frazier

There will likely be little true competition at this spot, as Jones is clearly the starter at free safety going into his second NFL campaign, and Barry Church isn't likely to succumb to any pressure for his spot at strong safety. Although Wilcox and Heath aren't perfect players, they are plenty solid enough to combine with Frazier to provide good depth on defense, as well as a core group of special teams players.

Specialists (3)

Dan Bailey

Chris Jones

LP Ladoucuer

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