Organized team activities and mini-camp are now complete for the Dallas Cowboys. The team will get a five-week break before heading to Oxnard, California on July 26th for training camp. While the practices thus far has only included shells and shorts, that hasn’t prevented some players from impressing coaches as guys look to solidify their spots on the team. And with that buzz comes the ongoing stacking of players as we attempt to build the 2018 roster. So, how do things look so far? Well, here is a post OTA’s 53-man roster prediction.
The only real question at quarterback for the Cowboys is who will be the team’s backup. Currently, the job belongs to second-year, undrafted free agent sensation Cooper Rush, but if last preseason taught us anything - jobs are always up for grabs. Rush secured the backup spot last season over Kellen Moore after a brilliant preseason performance. Rookie Mike White has the skills to challenge Rush for his spot, but who comes out on top is anyone’s guess.
This is another position group that looks pretty set. The team has a star in Ezekiel Elliott who will handle the workload, but the other guys all offer a little something different. Rod Smith can catch passes and help out on special teams. We are all looking forward to see what kind of flavor Tavon Austin brings to the offense. And rookie Bo Scarbrough is a nice bruiser back that can punish the defense after Zeke wears them out.
Fullback Jamize Olawale should take over for the departed Keith Smith.
The Cowboys don’t have Jason Witten anymore, but they have a lot of young guys champing at the bit to earn reps at tight end. The team will use a committee approach and it’s unclear what type of role each of them will have. It’s possible the team goes lean at TE if Rico Gathers doesn’t show enough improvement with his blocking, but I’m still leaning towards the big guy making the squad.
The Cowboys aren’t top heavy with superstars at this position, but they are bottom heavy with solid players. The competition is fierce and ultimately there will be some tough roster cuts at this position. Some roster predictions we’ve seen don’t include rookie Cedrick Wilson, but he makes this list. Not only does he make the cut, but if the Cowboys go with only five receivers, Noah Brown could be the odd man out, not Wilson.
Free agent Deonte Thompson still has training camp to strut his stuff, but based on sheer numbers, there’s just not a lot of room to keep extra receivers.
With the addition of free agent Cameron Fleming and second-round draft pick Connor Williams, the offensive line is six strong. They still have room for a couple more guys and there should be some good battles going on to finalize those remaining spots.
Joe Looney and Marcus Martin are solid reserve interior linemen who have position flex to play center, but the team doesn’t need both of them. This offseason, they were both signed to cheap deals, but only one will be worth hanging on to. I’m giving the nod to the incumbent Looney so the “Jumbo Joe” package can remain intact.
Another interesting battle should be between Chaz Green and Kadeem Edwards. Many fans don’t ever want to see Green on the field again, but he’s still around... for now. With Zack Martin sitting out of OTA’s while he was working on a new contract, Green got first-team reps at this spot. Is that an indicator of where they see him in the pecking order? Most recently, however, Green was replaced with Kadeem Edwards during last week’s mini camp in Martin’s spot. Edwards played okay last preseason and it looked like he might’ve had a shot to make the team after both Byron Bell and Emmett Cleary both played terrible. And last month, we listed him as a dark-horse candidate who could make the roster.
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.
The Cowboys stashed Edwards on the practice squad and that could pay off. Chaz Green’s career in Dallas is still breathing, but the plug can be pulled anytime.
DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford are the starting bookend defensive ends for this team. Last year’s first-round draft pick Taco Charlton and veteran free agent Kony Ealy will serve as nice rotational pass rushers for the team. Not much is expected out of rookie Dorance Armstrong as it’s going to take time for him to develop, but thanks to their depth the team has the luxury of being patient with him.
While Charles Tapper has flashed some good upside when healthy, his history of unavailability makes it hard to justify hanging on to a roster spot for him. If he has a good camp and makes a few highlights going against backup offensive linemen, it could boost his value enough for the Cowboys to consider trading him away.
It’s really tough to get a feel for how the future of the Cowboys interior defensive line will play out, but you have to be intrigued by it’s possibility. Both David Irving and Maliek Collins are talented players, but neither has been practicing for different reasons. Collins is dealing with an injured foot and Irving is trying to get in better playing condition. With both these players unavailable, that has opened the door for Datone Jones and Jihad Ward. They are former first- and second-round picks respectively and the Cowboys are hoping that a change in scenery will help cash in on their upside. Ward has had a strong camp so far and people are excited about this new toy. As for Jones, his name isn’t showing up on very many roster predictions, but we have mentioned him a couple times as an under the radar player for the Cowboys.
The defense needs to hang on to one true 1-tech defensive tackle. Richard Ash could make a case for that spot, but right now I give the edge to Brian Price.
I love the starters and I love the depth. The star potential of Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch is all there and just dependent of some good health and the proper development of the up-and-coming rookie. It should be interesting to watch Smith and LVE battle it out for playing time.
It’s also going to be interesting to see how the team fills out the depth at the position. There are some solid players led by Damien Wilson (who is in the last year of his contract) and free agent Joe Thomas. The final spot should come down to who impresses the most - Justin March-Lillard or Chris Covington. March-Lillard has been playing well so far, so he’s in the early lead, but the Cowboys have a knack for sniffing out players with the right attributes at the linebacker position. I’m going against the grain and rolling with the rookie for that last spot.
It’s really easy to get excited about the starting cornerbacks. With the news of Byron Jones adjusting well to his position change, this could be an area of strength for Dallas in 2018. Not only is the starting unit pretty stout, but the depth is solid as well. Anthony Brown struggled last season in a starting role, but performed better when he was relegated to the bench.
Marquez White’s name has shown up on a lot of roster predictions, but that could just be an overreaction to the fact he’s got the prototypical build that new defensive backs coach Kris Richard looks for. White still has to get his footwork down and develop as a reliable corner and so far in camp it’s been crickets. Another year on the practice squad could be in his future.
What White doesn’t have yet, undrafted free agent Kam Kelly might demonstrate, and that could earn him the last spot on the roster. Look for the Cowboys to go deep here to counter going lean at safety. They have a handful of CBs that could play the safety position if needed.
The Cowboys haven’t added any new safeties this offseason. With Earl Thomas still in Seattle, the team appears to be rolling with the guys they had last year. The coaching staff still has a lot of faith in the upside of these young players and the only thing they could end up needing is more time. Don’t be surprised if all three of these guys - Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier make a nice jump in 2018.
Just some savvy veterans who are among the best at what they do.
Which players not on the list do you think make the roster?