As we near the date for final roster cuts on Saturday, the Cowboys coaches, scouts and the front office were almost certainly busy watching film from the last few practices, reviewing their notes from camp, and evaluating the three preseason games played so far. And in the process, one of the things they were likely doing 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.
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 preseason. 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 the DMN's Jon Machota (a previous version of this post had Machota's projection from last week, I've since updated it).
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.
|Bob Sturm, DMN||Todd Archer, ESPN
||Jon Machota, DMN|
|Unknown addition||Unknown addition||
|K. Smith (FB)||R. Smith (FB)||K. Smith (FB)|
|T. Crawford||T. Crawford||T. Crawford|
|T. McClain||T. McClain||T. McClain|
|M. Collins||M. Collins||M. Collins|
|J. Crawford||J. Crawford||J. Crawford|
Here are a few thoughts on three projections above.
Quarterbacks: The Cowboys appear close to signing Austin Davis, but they could also decide to ride it out with Jameill Showers.
Running backs: The selection here is made a lot easier by leaving Darren McFadden on the NFI list. The only real suspense is at the fullback spot, where the decision on which Smith to keep may be up in the air until after the final preseason game.
Tight ends: Archer thinks the Cowboys might look to trade Gavin Escobar.
Allow me to speculate here: I think the Cowboys will find a trade partner for Gavin Escobar. The former second-round pick was playing late in the fourth quarter versus the Seattle Seahawks, with Traylor getting more snaps with the regulars.
Wide receivers: The five guys are locks, nobody else played themselves into contention, Devin Street played himself out of it.
Offensive line: Will they go short and only keep eight offensive linemen, or will they stick with nine guys, and who'd be the ninth guy?
Defensive Line: For a unit that's seen perhaps the most personnel turnover of any position group in recent years, there is remarkably little uncertainty here. Ryan Russell's roster spot appears to be up in the air, and there's a chance they could bring in a veteran, but the eight-man rotation appears to be set.
Linebacker: Keeping seven guys at linebacker may appear a little high, but that should pay off handsomely on special teams.
Secondary: J.J. Wilcox appears to be the odd man out, as all three projections have the same nine guys making the roster. Could the Cowboys opt for a 10th defensive back this year and keep Wilcox for his special teams play?
If the consensus here holds true, TE Rico Gathers is the only rookie not to make the team (Jaylon Smith being the other, but he's on the NFI list). That's not a bad haul, considering that five of six rookies picked on the third day would make the roster. The situation looks a little bleaker for this year's UDFA class. The Cowboys have a history of having at least one undrafted rookie free agent make their opening-day roster, and it looks like TE Austin Traylor will be that guy this year. Traylor wasn't even part of the 14 UDFAs originally signed after the draft, but received a workout invite for rookie minicamp and has successfully stuck around since.
What's your take on the combined projections above, and which of your pet cats did the three reporters slight?