Time for another 53-man roster projection for the Dallas Cowboys, but this time from a different perspective. The team is believed to want to go heavy at a couple of positions to try and make use of the available talent, plus fit what the staff wants to change for this season. This may not be a likely roster, but it is one way to approach things with some explanations for how this all fits together.
These are a given again, so let’s get them out of the way.
K Dan Bailey
P Chris Jones
LS L.P. Ladouceur
This is not what many expect, believing the team will carry three this year. But with the objective (in this particular exercise) of finding some extra spots at key positions, that may just not be in the cards. Cooper Rush could wind up the backup again, but assuming the team would want to try and get either him or White to the PS in this scenario, they would likely be more concerned with protecting White on the 53. Of course, he would have to earn the job in camp/preseason, but that does not seem unlikely given his college background.
Running backs (4)
This seems a pretty solid bet for numbers. Zeke is going to be the workhorse, Smith is a proven commodity, Scarbrough has a lot of promise, and fullback Olawale has some exciting potential.
Fan-favorite Darius Jackson is a dark horse candidate to push Scarbrough off the 53, hopefully to land on the PS where he could be ready for call-up in an emergency. Being a seventh-round pick hardly makes him untouchable.
Tight ends (3)
It may be proven wrong, but these three seem all but given. With Jason Witten gone, a committee approach seems very likely, along with a de-emphasis on the position in the game plan. Rico Gathers fans will be dismayed, but his skills would be better with a team that does not require as much blocking. He fits that big, strong wide receiver in all but name profile a lot of teams are going to. It seems likely he would get claimed after the cut to 53. And unlike many, I would not be dismayed to see him find success in another uniform.
Offensive line (8)
The team rolled with eight last year. Things did not work out so well, but that was more about the lack of quality backups. Fleming is a superb swing tackle and it is actually surprising the Cowboys signed him as such rather than him going somewhere else to be a likely starter. Edwards should put finis to the Chaz Green experiment, while Looney’s familiarity with the scheme could be the deciding factor in beating out free agent Marcus Martin.
Wide receiver (8)
And here is where the team goes heavy on offense. While there may be no obvious star receiver (yet), there are an awful lot of players that appear to be good, with not much separating the last four. The team would probably only carry six on the active roster each week, but the final two names from that last four would be decided on matchups and situations. Austin of course can also be used in the backfield, so he sort of double counts as a back as well. Additionally, this many WRs carries built-in injury insurance.
Defensive end (6)
Here is where the D goes heavy. This assumes Gregory is re-instated and is able to come in and produce. If he isn’t then Charles Tapper is the likely “next man up.” One will also probably be inactive on game day each week, with similar considerations as wide receiver as to whom.
Defensive tackle (4)
The suspension of David Irving makes this group suddenly shallow, and if Collins has a setback, then the team might turn to Richard Ash to fill in for the four weeks. Jones is listed as an end, but is big enough to help out as a 3-tech until Irving gets back. A sleeper to watch is Daniel Ross. He is a true 1-tech and may edge out Jones to get that four weeks to prove himself.
Leighton Vander Esch
This assumes March-Lilliard continues to show up when the pads come on after a strong performance in OTAs. Thomas has good experience and is also a strong special teams player. Chris Covington will probably be another player they try to get to the PS. An intriguing story to watch is going to be Kyle Quiero, who has been switched from defensive back. He will have to gain some weight, but it will be interesting to see how they try and use him.
White is in a fight with Duke Thomas, who may just supplant him. This position is semi-heavy, which is logical given the importance of coverage. Brown will have to have something of a bounce-back year, and will likely be contending with Lewis for snaps. Charvarius Ward may also get his name into the mix with a strong camp.
Kelly is the bubble guy here, with Tyree Robinson his likely biggest competition. The real wild card is the possible trade for Earl Thomas. With the news of Kam Chancellor not being medically cleared, there may be enough pressure on the Seattle Seahawks to work out a deal to keep Thomas.
Signing or trading for other players during camp is also something that is quite likely, especially if the injury bug bites. But for the most part, the current Dallas roster looks deep enough that they may not need to do that as much as in recent years.
This projection may be putting too much faith in that, but it is the time of optimism. And it is just an attempt to go deep at WR and DE. That may not be the way the team does it at all. But who knows?
Share your thoughts in the comments. Politely, of course.