The Dallas Cowboys have now played in two preseason games giving us a good look at many of the players battling for a roster spot. It's still early, but not too early for an updated version of the Cowboys 53-man roster projection.
BLUE = Elite Players
GREEN = Strong Players
YELLOW = Solid Players
Italics = Position Battle
The question whether the Cowboys could find a viable backup quarterback has cleared up nicely with the emergence of Dak Prescott. Sure, it’s only preseason, but he’s been doing everything right so far. The kid won’t be able to sustain this level of awesomeness, but if his number is called at some point in the season, you got to feel as if he can come in and make plays for this offense.
It is hard to guage how well Jameil Showers has done as his supporting cast has been inferior to that of Prescott. As a result, he hasn’t been able to show us much. But maybe that’s all part of the plan as a spot on the practice squad seems relatively safe.
Stock Rising: Dak Prescott continues to do his best at helping Cowboys fans feel that all is not lost should something should happen to Tony Romo.
If you had doubts about who should be the team’s number two RB, Alfred Morris should have answered that on Friday. Not only has he been running the ball well, but he’s picking up blitzes and even catching passes. He is going to do very well in this offense. Lance Dunbar is a specialty back and it’s not too hard to remember what he brings to the team when he’s healthy. The tricky part is what happens after that. My mind still believes that Darius Jackson is the more sensible choice, not just because of the money it saves, but for the additional years they’d have him under contract. But you can’t overlook the type of person McFadden is and the coaching staff recognizes his professionalism and locker room presence.
Some say it’s important to keep McFadden for insurance, but keep in mind - Morris has started in every single game of his four-year career. It would take some very bad luck to have to resort to calling upon McFadden. And if there is one workhorse RB that I would be worried about getting hurt, it would be McFadden.
Rod Smith is doing a solid job. Keith Smith (no relation) did okay against the Dolphins, but the converted linebacker is no threat to steal Rod’s job.
There was once the thought that the Cowboys would keep six WRs. That is no more. There is a clear separation between this group and the sixth fella, Andy Jones. While Jones did play better his second game than he did in game one, the hill is too steep to climb to land a roster spot.
Stock Rising: The blocked punt by Vince Mayle has put him on the radar. He could fight for a practice squad player as well.
Geoff Swaim is now more valuable to the team. He’s shown great improvement and the timing couldn’t be better since James Hanna is out with an injury. The first three are set. What happens next will surprise some people. There is one school of thought that entails having Rico Gathers make the team just to shelf him while he goes through his development. They knew he wasn’t going to be ready for real football action this season, but they still felt he was important enough to invest a draft pick in him so another team couldn’t take him. If they were that worried about losing out on him, then why would they send him to the practice squad now?
That is certainly a possibility, but the Cowboys may need a tight end that can contribute right now. I’m going against the grain and giving Traylor the edge right now.
Tyron Smith’s stingers has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the extra opportunities for Chaz Green had really helped. He was tasked to protect Tony Romo’s blind side on Friday, and he did an admirable job. His progress is reassuring and the team may have found its new swing tackle.
Joe Looney has played better too and I no longer think of undrafted free agent Jake Brendel as a potential threat to his job as the backup center.
Stock Rising: Jared Smith (#62) had a good game against the Dolphins. He made an outstanding block protecting Prescott’s blindside on the pass completion to Lucky Whitehead.
The amount of improvement from this position group over the last few years is refreshing. They have good starters and they have good reserves. They have been effective in rushing the quarterback and stopping the run. The amount of damage this group is going to be able to do will allow the Cowboys linebackers to make plays. Don’t be surprised if this team is back in the top 10 against the run.
Stock Rising: Terrell McClain gets overlooked quite a bit, but he is a guy that’s easy to love if you watch the tape. He has great push back and can be seen constantly redirecting the path of the ball carrier.
Stock Rising: Cedric Thornton had a great game against the Dolphins. Not only was he "Johnny-on-the-spot" when he picked up the fumble, but he had a great athletic batted ball late in the second quarter. Look how he gets his hand up even though the lineman has him turned the wrong way.
Stock Rising: Shaneil Jenkins is having himself a nice preseason. In two games, he has two sacks, forced a fumble, and has two tackles for losses. While he hasn’t been with the team but a couple weeks, he hasn’t wasted time making his presence felt.
This position continues to worry people. DeMarcus Lawrence has looked impressive, but he’ll be on the shelf for the first four games. Then David Irving, who showed some good promise in the game against the Rams, has a groin injury. We haven’t seen much of free agent Benson Mayowa yet, but coaches are hopeful he’ll be someone who can contribute on the edge.
Stock Rising: Jack Crawford – I keep moving him around between DT and DE. He’s versatile enough to play both, but due to a lack of resources on the edge, he has himself a secure role at defensive end right now.
Stock Falling: Ryan Russell is struggling. He’s losing battles with the tackles and doesn’t have very good awareness of the play going on around him. The suspension to Lawrence might buy him some extra time, but unless he picks it up, he could be falling out of the race.
The Cowboys typically carry 6-7 linebackers on the roster. I expect them to go on the high side this season for a couple reasons. First, two of their better LBs, Sean Lee and Justin Durant, have had trouble staying healthy. And second, there isn’t any real separation between the bench guys so it’s tough to figure out the best one to cut. It’s tough to say which one of the players in white will step up and make an impact, but the team is just hoping someone will.
Stock Rising: Kyle Wilber had a great game against the Dolphins, however it came at the defensive end position. Miami’s third-string QB, Brandon Doughty, had trouble with his footing a couple instances and Wilber was there both times to greet him. Wilber also keep getting in his throwing lane on quick screens to the receiver, even knocking one of the passes down.
Stock Rising: Damien Wilson hasn’t seen a lot of action due to his eye injury, but he had a nice debut on Friday. He did a great job making open field tackles.
Stock Falling: Mark Nzeocha was having a great camp and played well against the Rams, but he suffered an Achilles injury against the Dolphins. Hopefully, he will return soon, but this should hinder his progress as he tries to move up the linebacker ranks.
You have to be pleased with this group as they have a solid starting group and a couple decent reserve guys. Deji Olatoye is the only one who has an interception so far, but don’t be surprised if this group starts taking the ball away.
Stock Rising: Morris Claiborne is flat out balling. I don’t care what the past has shown us, what matters now is what he has been doing this season. He looks like the best corner on the field and he is making play after play.
Stock Falling: Brandon Carr is the one liability of the starting group. Time and time again he allows too much space for the receiver to get open. He needs to be more mindful of the down-and-distance and make sure to close off any routes deep enough to convert the third downs. He started showing improvement on Friday as the game went on, but as a whole, he still plays off too far.
Byron Jones continues to play well. He seems dialed in to his coverage responsibilities and gives away very little. He’s also been very quick to react in run defense. The strides he’s making could mean he’s in for a big season.
Stock Falling: J.J. Wilcox is very consistent…at playing poorly. Every time there’s a breakdown on defense, it’s a safe bet he’s responsible. His experience could keep him on the roster, but I don’t have him making the team. I’m really hoping Kavon Frazier continues to show progress so he takes the last safety spot. At least with Frazier, there’s hope.
What can you say about these guys that hasn’t already been said? These guys are great.