In some areas of the roster, you can finalize the Cowboys' 53-man roster in permanent ink. Others will depend on many factors including talent, depth, money and suspensions. Where the Cowboys decide to go long or short will seal the fates for guys holding their breath.
In the spirit of roster predictions, here is another one focused solely on positions where this team is going long as well as where they keep it short.
Offensive Line - 9 (long)
The Cowboys kept eight linemen last season but this season’s keepers will be longer than last year. With the uncertainty of health for some guys, the Cowboys' will feel a greater need to keep their team’s strength intact.
Starters: LT Tyron Smith, LG Jonathan Cooper, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, RT La'el Collins
Backups: OT Chaz Green, OL Joe Looney, OT Emmett Cleary, OL Byron Bell
The offensive line will be a spot to watch for waiver wire activity. Right now, the Cowboys are more comfortable with the probability of Green staying healthy as a backup than a starter. They wanted him to win the left guard spot but he’s walking around in a boot right now.
Looney has played well backing up at center and guard. Cleary has outplayed Bell but Bell will be kept too unless they find a waiver wire target.
Quarterback - 3 (long-ish)
If it were up to most, this position would stay at two with Cooper Rush getting the edge over Kellen Moore. That's just not likely because Scott Linehan is adamant that Kellen Moore adds value to his quarterback room. We can debate all day about his value as the primary backup but regardless of where he is, Moore is on the team no matter how irresponsible that sounds.
Starter: Dak Prescott
Backups: Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore
Rush got time with the second team and led the Cowboys to their third preseason win. Rush has earned more than reps, he's earned the backup spot though no official word will be given.
Rush is the "young developing" quarterback that Stephen Jones talks about having but they have had trouble finding. It's a quarterback-driven league so you should never give up an asset for free. If Rush continues to impress, teams will gain interest. From there, the Cowboys will hold all the cards.
Defensive Tackle - 3 (short-ish)
What it comes down to here is that there are too many guys with position flexibility on the roster. The Cowboys typically keep four but this is an easy one due to the wealth of ends they will keep that can play inside.
Starters: Maliek Collins, Stephen Paea
Backup: Cedric Thornton
The young guys on the roster have fought hard at times but it’s going to only help with a practice squad spot. Between Joey Ivie, Jordan Carrell, Lewis Neal, and Woody Baron, none of them have done enough to demand a fourth tackle. Again, there are simply too many people they can move around like Tyrone Crawford, David Irving, and Taco Charlton.
Defensive Ends- 7 (long)
This position will start with five guys as two suspensions will open up temporary spots. However, temporary is the key word here. The Cowboys kept eight linemen last year but they are going ten deep in 2017. Most of these ends add value in versatility.
Starters: DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, Benson Mayowa
Backups: David Irving (suspended), Damontre' Moore (suspended), Charles Tapper
Looking at that list of names, who is going to get cut? Moore has shown enough to intrigue these coaches, he plays everywhere. Charles Tapper may be the most vulnerable but they have waited a year to see him. This team is not going to get rid of any of them.
Wide Receiver - 5 (short)
Dallas is going to take the risk at receiver in hopes someone will slip through to the practice squad. Suspensions on defense will help a guy or two make the initial roster but it’s hard to see it staying that way. Keep in mind that it’s going to be difficult to get a sixth receiver much playing time.
Starters: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley
Backups: Brice Butler, Ryan Switzer
It's going to break some hearts when the Cowboys make cuts at this position. Noah Brown is the darling but when does he get on the field outside of special teams? Brown got reps with the first team against the Raiders but he walked out of the night with a ‘0’ in the stat line. Lance Lenoir has two highlight plays surrounded by a myriad of muffed punts and mistakes. Those five in the stable will bury the sixth option. They need guys that will see legitimate playing time.
Cornerback - 7 (long)
You're reading that right, the Cowboys will keep seven cornerbacks to start the year. Why? Because they need the depth among all this uncertainty. There are currently four cornerbacks healthy and even that's debatable. Out of necessity of not knowing their availability, they’ll go long and be safe to begin their season.
Starters: Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown (hamstring)
Backups: Chidobe Awuzie (ankle/ hamstring), Jourdan Lewis (hamstring), Marquez White (hamstring), Sammy Seamster or waiver wire acquisition
Jourdan Lewis will most likely be inactive for multiple games, he's dealing with the more serious of the hamstring concerns. Awuzie looks to be healthy but he’ll need time before he’s ready to start. What’s increasingly a probability is that Marquez White will be needed for week one. Before Duke Thomas sprained his knee and ankle, his chances were good to make the roster.
Anthony Brown is playing right now but he’s banged up too. They may not keep seven cornerbacks all season long but drawing the Giants in week one is too tough to take risks with injuries. You can expect the Cowboys to be active on the waiver wire or even interested in a guy like Joe Haden at the right price. They need corners.
Linebacker - 6 (short-ish)
Considering they kept seven last year, this is on the short side. They also have their starting middle linebacker, Anthony Hitchens, set to rehab for the next eight weeks. It almost perfectly fits in with an IR designated to return timeline.
Starters: Sean Lee, Justin Durant, Damien Wilson
Backups: Jaylon Smith, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha
Stephen Jones stressed that he’s confident the roster can cover the absence of Hitchens. He also didn’t sound like a guy who plans on shopping the market for linebacker help.
For the most part, you’ll see Lee and Durant as the starters with Wilson getting snaps at the Sam. The Cowboys play nickel most of the time and that calls for more defensive backs. Hitchens is likely going to miss five games but when he returns, look for Nzeocha to be the odd-man out.
There you have it, cutting this roster to 53 is never the end of the roster churn and lots of positions will see movement all season long. With that said, now that the last preseason game has been cancelled, audition time is over.
It’s not easy to make an NFL roster let alone a talented Cowboys’ roster that has very limited roster spots. The competition is steep because it’s not enough to win within their positions, they’re competing with the coach’s comfort or discomfort at every position.