With training camp a couple weeks away, the Dallas Cowboys are close to getting on the field and doing work again. Several positions are still up for grab as the team strengthens their roster. With some tough choices ahead, the writing staff at BTB put together their predictions for the Cowboys 53-man roster.
Everyone is in agreement that Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, and Mike White all make the team. As we all witnessed last year, preseason action can shake up the depth chart, but as things stand right now - this seems like a safe bet.
For the most part, it’s the same group of five running backs for everyone. With roster spots scarce, Dave is leaning towards leaving Bo Scarbrough off the final 53 for the moment.
Dave Halprin: I think they try to put Scarbrough on the practice squad to start with as they go long at other positions. Rod Smith is the primary backup, Tavon Austin is the change-of pace-guy, and Jamize Olawale can be used as a third-down/jack-of-all-trades type player as well as being the primary fullback. There just doesn’t seem to be enough room for Scarbrough who would likely be inactive on game day anyway. They may stash him away for later use if they get injuries, or if they need him for other reasons.
With Ezekiel Elliott not seeing much work in preseason, this leaves a lot of reps for both Rod Smith, Scarbrough and Darius Jackson as they try to show their worth to the team.
Eight different wide receivers show up, with all of them getting at least two votes. Everyone agrees that Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, and Cedrick Wilson all make the team. Wilson might be the surprise here as he has been left off many predictions from other sites. Terrence Williams almost slid in unanimously, but there’s always got to be that one guy who has him left out, and today - that one guy is David Howman. Despite TDub not making his list, Howman still goes deep at the position and explains why:
David Howman: Versatility at other position groups allows the Cowboys to go light elsewhere and stock up on receivers. The speed and ability as a kick returner make Deonte Thompson too good to cut, and so does Lance Lenoir’s route running. In the end, Terrance Williams is the odd man out, whether he gets suspended or not.
Michael Strawn: Brown simply succumbs to the numbers; there are others who can do what he seems to do best (block) but add more in terms of pass catching. Also, not sure whether he plays special teams or not but for these bottom of the roster guys those that contribute on STs, that will be a difference.
Noah Brown still holds a slight advantage among the writers for that sixth spot, but Lenoir is gaining steam. It’s hard to not put Thompson on the list as well which is why both the Dave H’s include him on their rosters.
The group is divided about Rico Gathers. Tom Ryle and I have already discussed reasons why the Cowboys shouldn’t be overly concerned whether or not he makes the team as well as why cutting him could be a mistake so we got you covered regardless of what side of the fence you’re on. Here are a couple other opinions favoring keeping him around.
Dave Halprin: Rico Gathers has the potential to be an explosive player if the Cowboys can get him up to the level they need in other parts of his game. He will probably never be a great blocker, but if he can be average, then his ability to stretch a defense down the seams and make plays with his athleticism is something they need to explore. They need to give him a chance for one season, at least, before making a final decision.
Michael Strawn: Rico is on the roster because he again shows in training camp that he has by far the highest ceiling of any TE on the team.
Will Rico have himself another preseason performance like he did last year? What will be the scuttlebutt around camp regarding how well he’s handling his blocking assignments? The Rico saga continues...
There is an overwhelming consensus for the top seven offensive linemen spots. Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Fredick, La’el Collins, Connor Williams, Cameron Fleming, and Joe Looney all make the team. The eighth and final spot isn’t so definite. Kadeem Edwards, who hasn’t been included on a lot of other roster predictions, gets a lot of love from the BTB staff. A few of us lean towards the new free agent. Connor Livesay explains why:
Connor Livesay: Martin signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys to compete for the starting LG job. Little did the team know Connor Williams would fall into their laps in the second round of the draft. Heading into camp, Martin has to compete with Kadeem Edwards and Chaz Green for the backup swing guard role. Due to his experience at both guard and center, Martin may be the best option as the teams eight offensive lineman.
It’s a little surprising that Chaz Green doesn’t show up at all on here. This does not appear indicative to how the coaches view him as he started camp getting first team reps when Zack Martin was sitting out. Are we just sour on him? Maybe. But it’s also possible that other linemen are just better. Green still has a fighting chance, but from our perspective - he’s on the outside looking in.
It’s almost a consensus when it comes to defensive end, but one of us just can’t convince themselves to give Randy Gregory the blue star. He’s a talented player and would be a roster lock if his reinstatement goes through, but I can’t help it - I have serious trust issues. It’s like finally believing that Lucy from The Peanuts won’t pull the ball away from Charlie Brown when he tries to kick it this time.
One thing we can all agree on though is that Charles Tapper won’t make the team. It’s just a deep group and Tapper’s inability to stay healthy makes him a risky pick.
You won’t find Datone Jones on the majority of roster predictions right now, but not a single one of us here at BTB are wavering. He gets blue stars all across the board. There are a few dark horse defensive tackles like Richard Ash, Lewis Neal, and Antwaun Woods that could challenge for that final spot, but none of us are choosing them.
Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch are obvious locks. And everyone has free agent Joe Thomas making the team as well. The first surprise comes from Howman who doesn’t have Damien Wilson making the team. The fourth-round pick from 2015 was starting to show promise in his second year, but was relatively quiet last season. That’s unfortunate too as injuries to Lee and Hitchens and a not-quite-ready Smith put a strain on the linebacker group. He’s not terrible, but the competition is tougher this year.
The battle for the final spot could come down between Justin March-Lillard and rookie Chris Covington. March-Lillard might not have been anyone people gave much thought about, but things are different now. Tom Ryle and Michael Strawn explain their reasoning.
Tom Ryle: March-Lilliard took full advantage of the rest days for Lee and the injury to Leighton Vander Esch. He is making a real case as the top backup LB.
Michael Strawn: Covington makes the team as a special teamer and to add linebacker depth.
Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown are all locks. The only mystery with those guys comes down to who starting at nickel corner - Lewis or Brown?
It gets a little trickier trying to figure out who rounds out the bottom of the depth chart. The lengthy Marquez White has the advantage based on our predictions. Connor Livesay explains why he chose the second-year corner from Florida State.
Connor Livesay: White has already spent a year in Rod Marinelli’s system on the practice squad. He also fits the Kris Richard size prototype as a bigger/longer corner. White was able to hang around on the practice squad for the entire 2017 season and has had a positive start to the offseason. If White can show up in training camp, and in preseason games he has a great shot to win the final cornerback spot on the depth chart.
Duke Thomas was on his way to making the roster last year when he suffered a leg injury in the third preseason game that cut his year short. In two years, he’s yet to see action in a regular season NFL game. Could this be the year that changes?
Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier are the sure-things at the safety position. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. There are several undrafted free agent candidates, but the BTB staff has it narrowed down to two players - Kameron Kelly and Tyree Robinson. Cole Patterson and Dave Howman explain why they went with Kelly.
Cole Patterson: I think he has the ability to be a quality player in the secondary. I have been high on him from the moment that Dallas signed him after the draft. He’s a rangy defensive back that has the ability to play at safety and some press corner. Kelly is aggressive and competitive, traits that will certainly enthuse Kris Richard -- not to mention his nine career interceptions. With the lack of depth at safety, Kelly’s versatility gives him a chance to make the roster
David Howman: For Kam Kelly, I’ll say that his size and frame is what makes him stand out the most. But watching his game tape from SDSU makes me confident that when preseason games come around, he’ll make up for a disappointing OTA performance.
Tom and I make our case for Robinson.
Tom Ryle: With Robinson, a lot of people went with Kam Kelly as the UDFA to break out, but his performance was also seen as underwhelming during OTAs. Also, they need another safety a lot more than they need another CB.
Danny Phantom: Robinson was my pet cat a couple months ago and I’m going to roll with him until given reason otherwise. He’s got the size and athleticism to be a good piece in the secondary and I keep envisioning him taking a pick to the house in preseason.
The toughest thing about this list is remembering how to spell L.P. Ladouceur’s name. Barring injury, there is really nothing to discuss here.