Training camp begins in a couple weeks and your Dallas Cowboys will be back out on the field doing football things. And with it will come weeks of scrutinizing players performances. Some players will heat up, others will fade. The roster projections will be all over the place as we try to get an idea of how the new 2017 Cowboys will look come September. We all have our favorites, but our love for certain players isn’t always enough to justify keeping them on the 53-man roster. Here are three fan-favorites who might get sent packing.
I guess I should have warned everyone that you’re not going to be happy about some of the names that make this list. So we might as well just start off with the most unpopular one. Rico Gathers is a player that many fans are jacked up to see this year. At 6’8”, the former Baylor basketball player offers up an athletic giant with a huge catch radius. The red zone target appeal is salivating, I get that. But as a sixth-round draft pick who was stashed (and not claimed) on the practice squad last year, it’s clear that he was facing a huge learning curve before he’s ready to make the roster.
"I went from a person that was completely oblivious of a situation to now, I feel like an animal," he said earlier this Spring. "I feel like I have come into my own over the past year, just in my development with everything, from blocking to route running to being able to make those athletic plays that you see on Sundays. I really feel like this could be my breakout year and I feel like I could really contribute to this offense in the right situation.
It’s great that he feels that way, but the kid still has a ways to go before he’s ready for the big leagues. Cowboys tight end coach, Steve Loney recognizes this.
Loney says while that's all well and good, he'd like to see Gathers take the next step first before he starts fitting him for the crown.
“He’s a young man with a lot of talent, but over the years I’ve seen guys who can run plays off cards in scout team but have trouble transitioning,” he said. “I don’t believe that’s going to be him. He has to realize that reading coverage on the run -- not knowing what the coverage will be, which you know when you’re on scout team and see it on the card -- those are the things that will add details to make him a really excellent tight end.”
What’s standing in his way?
- Attention to detail. Can he read the defense? Follow through with his assignment? On a team that relies heavily on all their offensive line moving parts to be in sync, there isn’t a lot of leeway for mishaps.
- Health of both James Hanna and Geof Swaim. While neither posses the upside of Gathers at the tight end position, they are both are really good blockers. If they return healthy, the dependency on Gathers lessens.
- Other roster spots going deep. The Cowboys will have to make some tough cuts this year so every roster spot is valued. If a player like Noah Brown balls out and forces the team to keep six wide receivers, it could cause them to go lean at tight end.
The good news is that multiple things have to happen for Gathers to not make the team, not just one of these. You still have to like his chances, but if you’re writing his name down as a roster lock, I wouldn’t use a pen.
Cowboys new offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper could end up being the starting left guard for the team. The former seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft has some people excited because of all his athletic traits that at one point in time allowed him to be so highly coveted.
But that’s over. He’s not that player. Cooper broke his left fibula during his rookie season and was placed on IR. While injuries heal and players can return to full health, Cooper has struggled immensely to show any resemblance of the star player he was before his injury. He’s been in the league for four years and already three teams didn’t want him. That includes two teams not wanting him as recent as last year. What’s happened in the past doesn’t mean it will continue, but it’s understandable if some are skeptical.
What’s standing in his way?
- Three other big offensive linemen fighting for the same spot. The Cowboys also have Chaz Green, Byron Bell, and Joe Looney all trying to earn a spot on the team. Granted, multiple players from this pool will make the team, but there’s a good chance at least one of them doesn’t. The Cowboys other free agent signing, Bell, is still thought by many to be the odd man out, however, he made good on his weight loss incentive last month so he’s working hard to earn one of those spots.
- The Cowboys aren’t as strapped for cash as some like to make it seem and they won’t be making important personnel decisions just to save a buck or two. However, should it be real close, they save $1.5 million if they release Cooper.
The Cowboys are loaded with defensive ends. Right now they have DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Taco Charlton, Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper, and Damontre Moore. That’s six DE’s, and that is not even including the possibility of Tyrone Crawford getting reps there again. The team will go deep at the position, but can’t go overboard so they’ll be forced to make some tough cuts. And if you’re one of those guys who like the chances of a late-round rookie like Joey Ivie or Jordan Carroll making the squad, then it gets even more convoluted for the DL position group.
Moore would seem like an easy to target to bounce since he’s sorta the low man on the totem pole and he’s had so much trouble fitting in elsewhere.
Four months ago when I did my free agent research for pass rushers, I looked at 30 different players and eliminated them round by round based on these factors that fell in line with the Cowboys free agent approach:
- Criteria #1 - Be patient, avoid players in the top 10
- Criteria #2 - Eliminate players that are a poor scheme fit
- Criteria #3 - Not interested in older players
I was left with these seven players:
Unfortunately, Criteria #4 was - Don’t want another team’s problems
And that bounced Moore from the list. My prediction in March was that he wouldn’t make the team.
Sure, it’s a low-risk move, but until he proves otherwise, he’s a problem child. He’s had issues with teammates, drove while intoxicated/suspended license, and was arrested for marijuana in college. He has a history of poor judgment so he’s not someone I would get very excited about.
Jerry wants a war daddy, but instead he get a jail birdy.
Now, to be fair - Moore has conducted himself well so far in Dallas. There have been a lot of Cowboys players in the news recently for unfavorable things, but Moore’s not one of them. He had a good showing in camp and he’s one of the few edge rushers that has done well from the right side. His stock is climbing and fans are latching on.
What’s standing in his way?
- Moore can do a lot of things to better his chances on the team, but where does he fit long-term? Taco is the future, Irving has flashed some great promise, and Mayowa came on strong at the end of last season to finish as the team’s sack leader. Tapper might seem like the only other guy dancing around the bottom, but even he has upside and the team is going to give him every chance to demonstrate his skills after missing all of last season with a back injury.
- His troubled history. If he slips up like he’s done so many other times, there won’t be any leniency. He’ll be gone.
- Irving returning. There’s a good chance Moore will get a little extra time to prove himself while Irving undergoes his four-game suspension. But once he returns, what place will Moore have on the team? A lot more will be revealed by then as it pertains to the Cowboys pass rushing situation and they may need the extra roster spot for someone else. He might be the Cowboys choice for release at that point.
Moore is the guy who has to show out and prove himself. I certainly like his chances more than I did a few months ago, but all this new founded love for him might be a little presumptuous. If I had to guess at one edge rusher to get the boot, it would still be him.
What player do you think is being hyped a little too much who could end up being left off the Cowboys roster?