Yesterday, we started this thing off with the first five under-the-radar guys who might sneak their way on the roster. Today, we finish it off.
5. Charles Tapper
There was a time when fans were excited about the potential of fourth-round pick Charles Tapper. Coming out of Oklahoma, he was one of the more athletic defensive ends in the draft. In his annual Finding the Superior Athlete series, the Cool One identified Tapper as defensive end with the highest SPARQ score.
And after he got his first (and only) sack in last year’s season opener against the New York Giants, fans again were buying into what could be with Tapper. All of that was short lived, however, as he fell victim to something that has plagued him his entire (albeit, short) NFL career - another injury.
After being diagnosed with pars defect (back injury; bone break in part of his vertebra), Tapper was shelved in 2016. His return last season was met with a hip injury in preseason, followed by a broken foot a few weeks into the season. He was again placed on injured reserve.
Why he could make the team: Based on talent alone, Tapper could still be one of the better reserve guys on the team. His true potential has yet to be seen. With the Randy Gregory situation very hazy and the rawness of this year’s fourth-round pick, Dorance Armstrong, Tapper’s experience could give him an edge if he can stay healthy.
What’s standing in his way: The defensive end position is very competitive in Dallas. They have strong veterans in DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford as well as young future guys like Taco Charlton and Armstrong. They even signed Kony Ealy for depth. Tapper has a lot to prove and with his durability concerns, it would be easy to understand if the Cowboys went a different direction.
4. Marquez White
The Cowboys selected White in the sixth round of last year’s draft. He didn’t make the team, but was stashed on their practice squad. In January, he signed a reserve/future contract with the team. Initially, White also played basketball at Florida State so he only had two years of starting experience at corner under his belt. His limited experience made him more of a project guy last year, but is he now ready to take the next step?
Why he could make the team: The addition of Kris Richard helps his chances as he loves corners with length. For White, the potential is there, but it’s about developing his technique. Spending a year on the practice squad helped and with the direction of Richard, White might earn his way onto the roster.
What’s standing in his way: There are a lot of bodies vying for that last corner spot. Negative plays can kill you and White can sometimes get caught up in a fake or become off-balance and lose a step. The question is - has he done enough to improve for the coaches to give him a real shot?
3. Kameron Kelly
Kelly is an undrafted free agent from San Diego State who transitioned from safety to cornerback his senior year because of team need. He has good length and is a physical player and that will appeal to new coach Kris Richard. And while Kelly didn’t wow anyone at the combine with his 40 time, he’s got good tape speed and has a penchant for making plays. And as you can see, he’s not afraid of contact.
Will a DB compete / tackle ? Top of screen- flat footed read on bubble- trusts eyes and goes ! Just checking boxes- I see you, kameron Kelly of SDSU.... pic.twitter.com/fJM4s16Eq1— Mike Mayock (@MikeMayock) December 27, 2017
Why he could make the team: His ability to play the safety position could help his chances. The Cowboys only have Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier as guys who are locks to make the team. Position flex as well as a “do anything you ask” attitude that will make him a special team’s asset gives Kelly an edge.
What’s standing in his way: The Cowboys are deep at cornerback. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis all hold down the starting spots, while Anthony Brown is the teams #4 CB. That leaves a couple spots at most for another corner. Duke Thomas and Marquez White are also fighting to make the team. This one could come down to the very last preseason game and as we saw with Ayodeji Olatoye in 2016, all it takes is one bad outing to get you bounced.
2. Chaz Green
You’re cringing as you’re reading this and fighting off the urge to go immediately to the comment section to express your unpleasantries. Understandable - nobody wants to see Green’s name on a list that has anything to do with the Cowboys roster. I have not seen a player single-handedly give away a game since Babe Laufenberg sent our playoff hopes crashing in the season finale in 1990, which coincidentally was also against Atlanta.
For reasons we may never understand, Green completely forgot how to play the tackle position. He was solid in 2016 when he filled in for an injured Tyron Smith. Why was he so dreadful last year. Did all that time practicing at left guard throw off his mojo? That’s a narrative many are using as an excuse, and while I don’t know if I buy that, I got nothing else to offer, so we’ll just go with that. Despite his dreadful performance, Green might still be able to salvage some good blocking and slide in as the last OL player on the depth chart.
Why he could make the team: The Cowboys have a much more reliable swing tackle now in Cameron Fleming, but he’s on a one-year rental. If Green could be a reclamation project that offers some value in the future, then he might be worth hanging on to.
What’s standing in his way: The Cowboys are six-strong on the offensive line with Fleming and rookie Connor Williams joining the main four from last year. That leaves only two spots available (assuming they keep eight) with Joe Looney likely to grab one of them. With free agent Marcus Martin joining the squad and some hungry youngsters fighting to make the team, competition will be fierce for that last OL spot.
1. Datone Jones
The Cowboys have shown a pattern in sifting through former first-round cast offs as a way to shore up the bottom of their roster. They got a good season out of Rolando McClain (8th overall, 2010 draft) and Jonathan Cooper (7th overall, 2014). Now, they’re trying to recapture the greatness that made Datone Jones the Green Bay Packers first-round pick in 2013 (taken five picks ahead of Travis Frederick). In January, we posted a piece about how he could be an under-the-radar guy for the Cowboys defense.
He compiled nine tackles and a sack in his four games in Dallas. He flashed some great play, but that’s been his thing his entire career. A flash here or there, but just isn’t able to string together consistent play. He doesn’t have to play like a first-round pick to be a valuable asset to the defense. His role may end up being just a bottom roster guy who can work himself into the rotation with a few snaps here and there.
It even included this tweet from someone who just so happens to be our new front-page writer, Connor Livesay, who is also showing some love about what he could bring to the team this season.
Why he could make the team: The Cowboys didn’t draft a defensive tackle this year and they also missed out on Terrell McClain. Jones is talented enough to round out the depth for the DT unit. With Maliek Collins breaking his foot and David Irving showing up out up shape, his opportunity is right now.
What’s standing in his way: The Cowboys are deep at defensive end, which could lead to them carrying less interior DL on the roster. And with Jones more suited for the 3-tech DT, he’s got Collins, Irving, and Jihad Ward all vying for reps.
Which of these players do you think has the best chance to make the team? Am I leaving anyone out?