The regular season is less than a month away for the Dallas Cowboys. The team already has one preseason game under their belt and training camp at Oxnard will end on Thursday before heading back to Texas host the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. With final roster cuts not too far away, the BTB writing staff has put together their roster predictions. Here is a position-by-position break down of which players we believe with make the team.
Dak Prescott is the starting quarterback and Cooper Rush is the backup. The only question left to be answered is do the Cowboys want to save a roster spot for developmental quarterback Mike White or are they going to risk releasing him and hoping he clears waivers so they can add him to the practice squad? Based on what we’ve seen so far, White hasn’t done much to warrant keeping him around. Being a fifth-round pick may cause one to think he’ll be given a little bit of a cushion and kept around longer, but roster spots are scarce and the team often times only likes having two quarterbacks on the team. The majority believes White will stick around as the team isn’t interested in what he can do now, but rather what he can do later and putting him out there for other teams to snatch is just too risky.
There is no debate about the place of Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Jamize Olawale on this team. Zeke is the team’s workhorse back and should dominate the touches out of the backfield. Smith continues to improve and is demonstrating that he can be a reliable no. 2 running back for this team. Olawale is a solid fullback and should add an element of receiving that the team hasn’t had from that position in years.
So it really comes down to - Bo or no Bo? Early indications are that the team wants to give Bo every chance they can to make the team. He had the most offensive reps of any running back in the game on Thursday. And he was given plenty of chances on special teams as well as only four other non-specialist players had more ST snaps than Bo. He has the build of a good special teams linebacker, only with better speed.
The consensus is - Bo makes the team, but RJ Ochoa is leaving Scarbrough off his roster and instead gives some love to the speedster Darius Jackson.
RJ Ochoa: Going into camp it really seemed like Darius Jackson was in line to be the third running back for the Cowboys, and to a large degree it still does feel that way. Bo Scarbrough stood out with some splash plays in San Francisco, but Darius Jackson also played well; however, on Saturday after the game, Jason Garrett heralded Bo Scarbrough for his work on special teams. Considering this is the third running back and that he’ll have to contribute on ST that’s definitely worrisome, but I’m a believer in DJ, too.
There is a full consensus that Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Terrance Williams, and Tavon Austin will all make the team. And for good reason - they’ve had a great camp so far. But speaking of great camps, Lance Lenoir had emerged from the ashes of the practice squad and flat out balled since day one. It’s just remarkable to see how much progress he’s made since last season.
What is still left to be determined is whether or not they will carry a seventh receiver into the regular season. That’s a lot of bodies and doesn’t seem likely, however, five out of nine BTB writers are adding Deonte Thompson to the mix as well. Thompson is a good receiver and just hasn’t been on the field due to an injury, but he still has time to show his worth to the team.
At this point, Noah Brown is sliding off the radar as only Connor Livesay still believes he can keep his roster spot.
The new has worn off of the shiny toy that was once Rico Gathers. His struggles learning the intricacies of the tight end position has put him at the bottom of the depth chart. And with how little he was used in San Francisco, it makes you wonder what the team is thinking with him. Are they hiding him, preparing for a stack on the practice squad, or do they just not believe in him that much? Both aren’t good scenarios for Gathers. David Howman explains why he has changed his mind on Rico.
David Howman: I had Rico making it last time but given his low snap count and low productivity in the SF game, I took him off. It feels like if he goes off like last year, they’ll try to trade him (maybe for Earl?) and if not, he’s a potential practice squad guy.
And I explain why I’m still holding on that little bit of hope.
Danny Phantom: The Cowboys have really done an excellent job of strengthening their bottom depth guys at key defensive positions. Having players like Dorance Armstrong, Antwaun Woods, and Justin March-Lillard show out in camp means the team won’t have to go deep at those positions to cover the uncertainty in those groups. The same is not true at tight end. With Jason Witten’s departure, the team has a lot of possibilities, but very little certainties. Keeping Rico around is just another dart they can throw at the position. He has shown some improvement and may only be a situational player at first, but if those situations turn into red zone touchdowns, I’ll take it.
The Cowboys offensive line situation looks like this - they have four really good starters in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, and La’el Collins. They have a talented rookie that’s still a rookie and will have his share of miss-steps as the season progresses. They have a solid swing tackle in Cameron Fleming - nothing spectacular, but he gets the job done. And they have a solid reserve guard in Joe Looney - again, nothing flashy, just good enough to suffice.
After that, they have a lot of questions. The first question is - can Chaz Green play well enough to earn a roster spot? According to the BTB staff, the answer is an emphatic - No!
Tom Ryle tried to believe, but at some point, it became too much to handle.
Tom Ryle: The first preseason game didn’t change much, although it certainly put a quick end to any hopes that Chaz Green was going to make the swing tackle job a real competition between him and Cameron Fleming.
That leaves the door open for either Marcus Martin or Kadeem Edwards to snag that eighth and final OL roster spot. Based on playing time against the 49ers, Martin looked like he was ahead of Edwards, but a toe injury has crippled his chances. Edwards chances to make the team just got a big boost.
The talent from this group is amazing. Not only does the team have themselves an All-Pro in DeMarcus Lawrence manning one of the edges, but there are some guys champing at the bit to get in there and do some damage themselves. Tyrone Crawford is the veteran run-stopper holding down the starting job on the right side, but watch out for the youngsters. Both Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong have been having a good camp and looked really good against the 49ers. And that doesn’t even account for Randy Gregory who will slowly work his way back into football activities.
It’s going to be hard enough to find enough snaps for those five guys, let alone bubble players like Charles Tapper and Kony Ealy. The staff is split on which one of these players they like to grab that last roster spot. Tapper is finally healthy (at the moment) and is playing well, whereas Ealy hasn’t done much thus far. I don’t have either of them making the team, so allow me to explain:
Danny Phantom: Initially, I though Armstrong was going to take more time to be NFL ready, but that is clearly not the case. While he’s not ready to be unleashed, he’s definitely worthy of getting Taco volume reps from last year. And with Taco ready to increase his workload, that puts these other guys as road blocks. Ealy would flat out be a “progress stopper” and while Tapper is still growing, the team just doesn’t have snaps for him. Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys trade their DE surplus to either help address another position or gain a little extra draft capital for the future.
The absences of Maliek Collins and David Irving has turned out to be a positive as it’s afforded the team the opportunity to take a hard look at several other guys in the interior of the defensive line. The Cowboys got Jihad Ward from the Oakland Raiders (could you imagine trying to find room for Ryan Switzer with this receiving group?) and he has been solid in camp. Brian Price is a true 1-tech and he gets a strong cast of votes to land a roster spot. Same holds true for Datone Jones, who has been disruptive, despite not getting the credit as his teammates finish the play.
The surprise player on this list is the camp standout Antwaun Woods, who continues to play strong inside. He was the starting 1-tech against the 49ers and looks like that’s not going to change until Maliek Collins returns.
The linebacker group played extremely well against the 49ers. It gave fans a sense of relief as the starters flashed great play and the depth guys looked impressive as well. Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch are locked in as the stars, despite the expected rookie growing pains for LVE. Joe Thomas has been impressing in camp and could be used to help keep some of the wear down for the starters. Damien Wilson and Justin March-Lillard have been solid and have a roster spot locked down according to the BTB staff. David Howman didn’t have Wilson on the roster before, but has had a change of heart. He explains:
David Howman: After not including Damien Wilson last time, I’m changing course. LVE seemed to struggle and got outplayed by Joe Thomas, so Dallas may end up going deeper at LB than I previously thought. Wilson has veteran experience that helps.
Things are not looking so good for rookie Chris Covington as bronchitis has kept him out of practice. With a group so strong, he could be a candidate for the practice squad.
The top four corners are set in stone with Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown all slated to make the team. The only question from this group is who wins the starting slot corner job - Brown or Lewis. When it comes to who gets that fifth corner spot, we are all over the place with votes cast for Duke Thomas, Charvarius Ward, and Marquez White. I state my case for Thomas:
Danny Phantom: Duke just has a nose for the ball. He’s not the most athletically gifted player, but his instincts are good and he gets his head turned around to make plays. This has already been on display this preseason with his heads-up play on the ball against the 49ers for an interception.
And Howman and Sisemore explain their case for Ward:
David Howman: Kam Kelly was my pet cat early on but he’s not getting on the field much, and Charvarius Ward is so far. It seems as though Ward is in direct competition with Duke Thomas for the fifth CB spot, and if it’s a toss up, Ward’s size should give him the edge.
Michael Sisemore: I had Marquez White with the leg up earlier but my pet cat Charvarius Ward looks like a fit for Kris Richard’s secondary. He’s been outstanding in practice but also showed up well in limited action against the 49ers. In a game where all the DB’s names were being called out for the wrong reasons, Ward did a nice job of staying clean. He’s got a lot to offer as a man cover corner in the NFL. He’s sticky out there but has patience and trust in his technique.
The big three are locked down - Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier. After that, it gets a little hairy. The most votes for the fourth safety spot goes to UDFA out of Oregon, Tyree Robinson. Kam Kelly Marqueston Huff and Jameill Showers all each have one.
It’s still wide open and the team could always recruit from the outside in the form of signing a free agent, picking up someone off of waivers, or making a deal for an All-Pro star from the Pacific Northwest. These are all possibilities. Or the team can just roll with one of these lesser known guys to round out their depth.
The versatile kicker/punter Brett Maher continues to see some action, but it’s not going to amount to anything. This group of specialists are etched in stone as nobody is going to take their job.
What do you think about these roster predictions? Of the players we are conflicted about, who do you think has a strong case to make the team? Is there anyone we are leaving out? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.