Earlier in the offseason, the NFL decided at the owner’s meeting that the roster cut down from 90 to 75 was pointless and eliminated it altogether. The reason this is important is that in the past teams have had to cut guys they like in order to get through a preseason game. For example, say you like a wide receiver but you need an extra arm at quarterback so you can rest a veteran.
You end up running the risk that they’ll be gone for good while that quarterback is cut the following week. So now it’s a straight cut from 90 to 53, which in its own right will be very difficult for the Dallas Cowboys.
Usually, this team has had a lot of success at finding hidden gems, be it late-round picks or with UDFA’s. As you scan the Cowboys’ roster, a few things stand out. We know that its a pretty young team and we’ve discussed the competition that they have created this offseason. The Cowboys have a nice blend of youth and veterans.
What’s great is that even most of their vets are on the right side of their 20’s with only five guys at 30 or above. One of the most important observations though about this roster is that it’s going to be very hard to make this team for so many down-roster players. Even for some of these players that have made the most of their OTA’s and minicamp opportunities, it’s a steep climb to break through. In fact, good performances at training camp and the preseason may not be enough.
The Cowboys have always been sort of conservative and cautious during the preseason. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have some super competitive practices as we witnessed the final day of minicamp with Jason Witten and Byron Jones. However, they’re not going to push guys like Tyrone Crawford or Demarcus Lawrence, both coming off offseason surgeries. These are two players with a lot to prove but they’re also players they need.
They will be extremely cautious with anyone they needs to be fresh for the season or with the players that are rehabbing. We’ve already seen that with guys sitting out, the veteran days off, and even Jaylon Smith’s schedule thus far. That is a definite positive for the down-roster guys that need to play. They will get their chance to play a lot of snaps this summer but for most, it’ll be auditioning for another team.
Take a player like Damontre Moore, signed as a cheap free agent; he’s been having a heck of an offseason. His NFL failures have been widely publicized but the Cowboys have shown interest before this season. Just like with Benson Mayowa, they had their eye on him and the way he closed out last year with the Seahawks got him a shot in Dallas.
So far, he’s been outstanding and he knows that this could be his last shot at a career. Needless to say, a lot of us in the BTB community are hoping that the former third-round pick has finally had that light bulb come on. After all, he was considered a steal for the Giants and received an 87.9 grade from NFL.com. By their terms that meant he was considered an instant starter with Pro Bowl potential. Yeah, it would be pretty huge for him to make this roster and he’s doing everything including playing the gunner position on special teams to realize that dream. Will that be enough though?
Over the past four years, the Cowboys have typically gone longer on the offensive and defensive lines. It makes a lot of sense because you fortify a strength and weakness. On average, the Cowboys have kept about nine guys on each line. They’ve gone as far as keeping 11 guys along the defensive line in 2014 but that number decreased to ten in 2015, and eight in 2016.
In Moore’s case, he’s not just competing with counterparts on the defensive line but you could make a case that he’s up against defensive backs, linebackers, and offensive linemen. He’s got to beat someone out and it’s not going to be Lawrence, Mayowa, Taco Charlton, David Irving, or Charles Tapper. That’s how difficult it’s going to be because none of those guys are getting cut.
Moore’s the perfect example but he’s not the only guy that could have issues staying off the bubble. The late-round picks like Marquez White, Jordan Carrell, Joey Ivie, and Noah Brown are up against the odds. You can make that same argument for veterans like Alfred Morris, Kyle Wilber, or Mark Nzeocha. Is Orlando Scandrick completely out of the woods yet?
R.J. Ochoa and I have offered up the opinion of cutting down to five at linebacker for an extra defensive back or linemen. That’s well and good but the Cowboys haven’t kept less than six over that same four-year period. It’s always like the old saying of robbing Peter to pay Paul, for one position to go long another has to be cut short.
There will likely be a lot of pet cats in the preseason that will need to find new homes and that’s just the nature of the beast. The Cowboys are one of the better teams in the NFL which makes them a hard club to get into. Again, they’ve done an excellent job at elevating their levels of competition. Performing well at OTA’s, minicamps, training camp, and even preseason games will not automatically result in guaranteed entry.