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Cowboys Defense: Early Projection Of Which Players That Are Most Likely To Make The Roster

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Looking at the entire landscape of the Cowboys roster, we examine which players are locked down with roster spots and which players are on the bubble.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

On Monday, we examined the roster of the Cowboys offense to see which players appear to have the best chance to make the team. We used a point system grading on talent, age, and cost to produce an ultimate score that was used to rank a player’s value to the team. (Reference the previous post for details on the points system). Many times fans will just give up on a player whenever a shiny new prospect shows up that plays that same position. They will throw them to the curb without taking into account the financial implications of such a decision. This exercise takes those things into consideration and put things in perspective as to how likely a player was to make the team.

Note: Undrafted free-agents are in blue.

DEFENSIVE LINE

This has been the position group that is the most fun to play with. Fans have attempted to pencil in who will be the RDE, 3-tech, etc. It’s quite the challenge considering the depth the team has along the defensive line. And since Rod Marinelli likes a good rotation, it’s not crucial to hone in on the starters. What is more significant is determining which players make the team.

On last year’s final roster, this group consisted of eight players (4 DE’s and 4 DT’s), but that didn’t include the suspended Demarcus Lawrence. The year before that, this group had 11 players (6 DE’s, 5 DT’s), but that consisted of a lot of wild card players the team was still feeling out. The Cowboys now find themselves in a position where they are stronger than they’ve ever been at the bottom of the depth chart, however many of these players have had limited snaps (or none) in a Cowboys uniform. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Dallas hang on to an extra player or two so they can get a stronger sense of what they have.

One thing that stands out in this evaluation is that Tyrone Crawford isn’t going anywhere. The Cowboys are not going to just cut loose a player of his ability and absorb a $18M dead money hit to free up a roster spot. If Crawford is in jeopardy of losing anything, it would be snaps to another player making a splash. It’s unsure where Crawford is even going to line up. With Taco Charlton and redshirt player Charles Tapper joining the edge gang, it makes things crowded on the outside. Crawford may be pushed back inside. A healthy Crawford at DT has been proven to produce good results.

Another player that sits in better shape than people might realize is Cedric Thornton. Buried behind the productive Terrell McClain, Thornton didn’t get as many chances to make an impact. And while it may just as hard to get reps this year, Thornton should get one more year to show what he’s got. The money says he stays.

Bottom line: The top eight on this list stand a great stance to make the team as any one of them has a shot to make the starting front-four. The team has so much depth inside and out and have a couple players with position flexibility that it’s going to come down to keeping the best guys, regardless of where they play. Damontre Moore scores a point higher than Stephen Paea because of his age, but unless Moore shows something promising in camp, Paea should be projected ahead of him. Anyone else on this list has their work cut out for them if they are to make the team. The Cowboys seventh-round investments on the defensive line, for all intent and purposes, are fighting for practice squad spots. Of course, injuries like to rear their ugly heads so those types of things could buy a little time for a younger prospect to sneak on the roster.

LINEBACKER

The Cowboys have carried seven linebackers in each of the last two seasons. That seems like a lot, especially when only two are on the field for the majority of the snaps in the nickel package. But the team also grabs from this pool when filling out their special teams group. Even if they skim a linebacker off the roster, there is still some opportunities for some new blood. Mark Nzeocha entered the league at the old age of 25 and he’s not getting any younger. Kyle Wilber is a solid asset, but he’ll never be accused of locking down a roster spot.

Bottom line: The top four are locked and the final two spots are still up for grabs with the veterans holding the advantage. Any young player that starts making a splash should grab our attention as it wouldn’t be hard to break into this group. So claim your pet cats while you can.

CORNERBACK

In 2015, these players played cornerback for Dallas: Corey White, Tyler Patmon, Ayodeji Olatoye, Terrance Mitchell, and Josh Thomas. Last year, only Dax Swanson and Leon McFadden were the questionable players at the bottom of the depth chart. The times are much different now. The Cowboys worst corner on the roster could end up being the Philadelphia Eagles’ best corner last year, Nolan Carroll.

While there will be your typical rookie growing pains, both day two draftees are locks. This is going to make things real challenging for another corner to make the team. If a young player like seventh-round draft pick Marquez White has a good camp, it’s not inconceivable that he could sneak on, but it would most likely come at the expense of someone from another position.

During the draft, Orlando Scandrick’s name surfaced as a potential trade candidate. Jerry Jones quickly defused such blasphemy, but that hasn’t stop fans from clinging to the idea that Scandrick could be still dealt. Anything is possible, but Dallas has $6M of bonus/restructure money tied up in him and then there’s that great leadership that would be great to have for the youngsters. Any team would be lucky to have a player like Orlando.

Bottom line: Five corners set in pretty solid. The young-lings with weak draft stock have their work cut out for them.

SAFETY

The Cowboys starting strong safety position is completely up for grabs. After losing Barry Church in free agency, the team doesn’t have a clear-cut safety in mind to fill his role. Jeff Heath’s name has come up as someone who will get his chance to earn the job. This ranking falls in line with that line of thinking, but it also shows that rookie Xavier Woods could edge him out.

One thing to be mindful of, if the cornerback squad emerges strong in camp, a player like Chidobe Awuzie could end up sliding into the strong safety spot. The competition for safety goes beyond just what you see in this group.

Bottom line: The top three will make the roster, but anything after that is completely wide open. For the first time ever, I’m excited to see Jameill Showers in preseason action. Of course now it will be at the safety position instead of quarterback. Keep an eye on number 28. It’s typically a bad omen to wear the jersey number of a Cowboys legend as that’s a sure sign of not making it out of camp, but Showers has been the uncut-able one so far in his career. Can he keep it going?


Do you agree with this evaluation? Are there any players that scored 10 or higher that you think are at risk? Are there any players that scored lower than 10 who you think stand a great chance to make the roster?