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10 dark-horse candidates to make the 2018 Cowboys 53-man roster - Part I

Get your saucers of milk ready, it’s pet cat city!!

Oregon v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Being good enough to play in the National Football League is hard. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Jason Garrett and watch how he emphasizes the word “hard.” It’s very convincing. And as the Cowboys have continued to strengthen their roster, it makes it even more difficult for young players to don the star come September. Be that as it may, every year there are players who surprise us and land a spot on the team. So, which players stand the best chance to battle the odds and prove themselves roster worthy? Over the next couple of days we will break down 10 players who could shock some people and end up on the team by final cuts.

Today, let’s examine players 6 through 10.

10. Lance Lenoir Jr.

There is a lot of talk about which wide receivers will end up making the Cowboys roster, but last year’s UDFA Lance Lenoir usually isn’t a part of it. With players like rookie Cedrick Wilson, free agent Deonte Thompson, and the incumbent final WR roster spot-holder Noah Brown all in the mix for a final spot, where would Lenoir be expected to fit in? He seems like he’d just be an afterthought, but there is open competition at Cowboys camp and as our own RJ Ochoa has already mentioned, Lenoir could make some noise in the receiver room.

Everyone remembers Cooper Rush and his five-touchdown preseason he has last year, but it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Lenoir was the recipient on two of them, including this 44-yard bomb.

Why he could make the team: With a new receivers coach and a complete shake up of cast and characters - who knows how everything will play out? Lenoir has the toughness and grit to keep fighting. Don’t forget, the Cowboys have both Rush and rookie Mike White throwing passes down the depth chart so all these lower guys are going to get a fair shake.

What’s standing in his way: There are just too many players fighting for the last spots on the roster. And a lot of these guys are multi-purpose players. Tavon Austin can return puts and play running back, Deonte Thompson can return kickoffs and has eight years experience in the league, and Noah Brown is a strong blocker and is used on special teams. Lenoir is going to have to add some more traits to his resume if he wants to make the team.

9. Joel Lanning

Joel Lanning is an undrafted free agent from Iowa State who transitioned from quarterback to linebacker in order to help his team. He’s one of those guys that will help out however he can. He played 1,001 snaps last season, with 822 of them being on defense, 51 on offense and 128 on special teams. He had 114 tackles and six sacks. He didn’t get invited to the combine, but he ran a 7.01 second three-cone shuttle, which would have put him in the top third for linebackers.

Why he could make the team: He’s just a good football player. Lanning is going to get a chance to play against third-string competition and this could provide an opportunity to stand out. He has the potential to be a special teams ace. And don’t be surprised if the Cowboys ask him to transition yet again to another position as they’ve moved players like Keith Smith (LB to FB), Jameill Showers (QB to S) and even Lewis Neal (DT to FB) in order to give them a chance to make the squad.

What’s standing in his way: The Cowboys linebacker group is essentially set. Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch have the starting spots locked down. Reserves like Damien Wilson and Joe Thomas should make the team and are fighting for reps as it is. And then there is sixth-round pick Chris Covington who is trying to earn a spot as well. There is just not enough room for Lanning and it’s hard to make a case for holding a spot for just a special teams guy.

8. Kadeem Edwards

Scouting all the preseason games last year left me with a bad taste when it comes to all the backup offensive linemen the team had. Players like Byron Bell and Emmett Cleary played as if they had roller skates on. The only player that intrigued me in the slightest was former fifth-round pick from 2014 Kadeem Edwards. While his technique needs work, Edwards is a big guy with huge arms to thwart off pass rushers. He looked like a guy who could develop into a potential swing-tackle candidate. The team cut him, but signed him to the practice squad.

Why he could make the team: If the team decides to wash their hands of Chaz Green, then the only other backup tackle they have is their current swing-guy, Cameron Fleming. And with Fleming on a one-year rental, Dallas needs to have someone around for the future. They team is real strong with their top six guys so they can afford to look to the future with their last OL spot and back pocket a guy like Edwards.

What’s standing in his way: First and foremost, Chaz Green. If the team gives him another chance, that should be the end of Edwards. If not, then he also has to prove he’s more valuable than recent free agent signing Marcus Martin, who is trying to make the team as a backup interior linemen.

7. DeQuinton Osborne

Everyone expected the Cowboys to address the 1-tech defensive tackle at some point in the draft, but that never happened. The team now is left with a bunch of undrafted guys looking to fill the void. Both Brian Price (150 snaps) and Richard Ash (233 snaps) were UDFA’s who played sparingly last season as Maliek Collins handled the 1-tech responsibilities for most of the year. The team seems content with just taking flyers on guys, hoping someone emerges as a player they can count on. This season, DeQuinton Osborne appears to be their flyer-guy. Ryan Ratty has Osborne listed as his pet cat.

Yes, they traded for a player they were high on two years ago in Jihad Ward, but the Cowboys are still missing a presence from the 1-technique defensive tackle position. Osborne is a player that could be intriguing. At 5-foot-11 and just a few ticks over 300 pounds, it is clear what role Osborne will play in the NFL. He will not sack the quarterback, but he will do the dirty work of taking on double teams and clearing way for his teammates to make plays in the backfield. A JUCO transfer, Osborne was extremely productive at Oklahoma State. In the position the Cowboys will ask him to play, he could succeed and become a nice player upfront.

Why he could make the team: There is nobody challenging for the 1-tech position. Both Price and Ash are very mediocre at best. Osborne is the new toy and is an unknown still in terms of his upside.

What’s standing in his way: It’s unclear how this team will proceed at the defensive tackle spot. They have several candidates, however, most of them are of the 3-tech variety. If they push Collins back to 1-tech duties, then need for another big-bodied DT drops considerably.

6. Tyree Robinson

Mark my words - an undrafted free agent defensive back will make this football team. What I don’t know, however, is - which one will it be. There are reasons to like Kam Kelly, maybe Charvarius Ward is your favorite, or who knows - the Portland State kid, Olumba Donovan, could come away with the job. It’s anyone’s guess. For me, I’m torn between Kelly and the DB from Oregon, Tyree Robinson. Earlier in the month, I chose Robinson as my pet cat for 2018.

Robinson is 6’2” so he fits right into Richard’s profile of long, rangy defenders. With no Earl Thomas trade taking place and Byron Jones moving to corner, the free safety position is nowhere close to being solidified. Sure, people are optimistic about Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath is still loved for his effort, but don’t be surprised if one of these undrafted kids lands a job on this team. Robinson has great athleticism and if you go youtube his highlights, you’ll see him with pick-6’s left and right. If I was Stephen Jones, I’d venture to say he had a dozen, maybe two dozen pick-6’s in his college career at Oregon.

Why he could make the team: Robinson has an advantage over the other UDFA guys - speed. He’s the fastest of the group. Like Kelly, he made the transition from safety to corner so he has some position flex that could help his chances.

What’s standing in his way: The position group is deep and there are a lot of guys he’d have to beat out.

Which one of these players do you think has the best shot to make the team? Make sure to check back tomorrow and find out which players finish out the top 10. Any guesses who they might be?

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