The Cowboys released their first official depth chart of the 2017 season because the NFL requires all teams to do so prior to the season opener.
Unfortunately, what the league wants and what the league gets can be two completely different things. Ideally, a depth chart like this is put together by the coaching staff after weeks and months of careful consideration, but it's just as likely to have been thrown together by a PR intern that's still shaky on the difference between a 1- and a 3-technique.
But that doesn't really matter, because this depth chart is as official as it's ever going to get, so it's still worth a look. Here's what the full depth chart currently looks like, with the following color codes used to aid legibility:
- GREEN = returning players
- YELLOW= rookies
- ORANGE = added via trade, free agency or waiver claim in 2017
|WR1||Dez Bryant||Brice Butler|
|LG||Chaz Green||Jonathan Cooper|
|C||Travis Frederick||Joe Looney|
|RG||Zack Martin||Byron Bell|
|RT||La'el Collins||Byron Bell|
|TE||Jason Witten||James Hanna||Geoff Swaim|
|SWR||Cole Beasley||Ryan Switzer|
|WR2||Terrance Williams||Noah Brown|
|QB||Dak Prescott||Kellen Moore||Cooper Rush|
|RB||Ezekiel Elliott||Darren McFadden||Alfred Morris||Rod Smith|
|LDE||Tyrone Crawford||Taco Charlton|
|3-tech DT||Maliek Collins||Brian Price|
|1-tech DT||Stephen Paea|
|RDE||Demarcus Lawrence||Benson Mayowa||Charles Tapper|
|SLB||Damien Wilson||Kyle Wilber|
|MLB||[Anthony Hitchens]||Jaylon Smith|
|WLB||Sean Lee||Justin Durant||Jayrone Elliott|
|CB||Nolan Carrol||Bene Benwikere|
|CB||Anthony Brown||Jourdan Lewis|
|CB||Orlando Scandrick||Chidobe Awuzie|
|SS||Jeff Heath||Kavon Frazier|
|FS||Byron Jones||Xavier Woods|
|KR||Ryan Switzer||Jourdan Lewis|
|PR||Ryan Switzer||Cole Beasley||Jourdan Lewis|
Notes / Observations from the initial depth chart:
Color by numbers: The first thing that stands out is that there are a lot of returning players (green) on this roster. Only three free agent pickups (Stephen Paea, Nolan Carroll, Byron Bell) made the team, and even if Justin Durant was also a free agent pickup, he counts as a returning player in this color code.
The Cowboys picked up three more free agents over roster-cut weekend, perhaps slightly inflating the number of orange boxes in the depth chart above. Still, for all the very real question marks this roster has, there is a lot of continuity from the team that went 13-3 last year - especially at the starter spots.
Seven rookies made the team this year, six drafted players and one undrafted rookie in Cooper Rush. None of them is penciled in as the starter right now, but outside of Cooper Rush, every single one of them will likely be asked to play a lot over the course of the season.
No. 2 or No. 3? For now, the depth chart settles what the Cowboys have been saying all along and fans didn't want to believe: Kellen Moore is the No. 2 QB.
And that order on the depth chart has a certain elegant logic to it: If you release Player A because you're not worried he's going to get picked up by another team, but you don't release Player B because you are worried you would lose him to another team, then cleary Player A is the better player.
O-line: Going by this depth chart, we can expect Chaz Green to start at left guard against the Giants, but if injuries continue to set him back, not only will Jonathan Cooper likely start at left guard (ahead of Joe Looney), but the Cowboys will have to go looking for a replacement - which could be why they kept three linemen on their practice squad.
Also interesting to see that Tyron Smith doesn't have a backup penciled in. Now that might just be the PR intern having a formatting issue, but not having a plan in place for a guy who's been struggling with a back issue for more than a year doesn't feel terribly smart.
Linebackers: Interesting to see that Anthony Hitchens is still nominally the starting MLB, even if he'll likely sit out at least the first four games.
Notice also that Justin Durant is listed as a weakside linebacker. And while that is undoubtedly what he is, there is also little doubt that he and Jaylon Smith will share snaps at MLB, regardless of Durant's position designation.
D-line: Even if it's odd to see Brian Price listed as a backup to Maliek Collins, it's even odder to see just three defensive tackles on this roster. I can only assume that the coaches will ask some of their defensive ends to move inside on some plays to ease the workload in the middle of the D-line, but that sure looks like a pretty thin position.
In a strange coincidence, the Cowboys' strategy with defensive tackles (three players for two spots) mirrors what they are doing with offensive tackles (three players for two spots). And on a roster where every starting position is at least two deep, that makes all four tackle spots the thinnest spots on the roster.
Share your thoughts on the depth chart in the comments section.