Going into training camp, it was pretty easy to figure out around 45 or so players who were going to be on the roster for the Dallas Cowboys to start the regular season. That number hasn’t changed much, but some of the names have. So where are the remaining positions that can realistically be earned as the preseason winds down, and who is in contention? Here’s a look.
Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Nothing will change here.
Position in play: QB3
Contender: Mike White
White was drafted to be a developmental QB, and the early thinking was that he would be kept on the 53-man roster to avoid poaching, as happened with Matt Moore a few years back. But his play has been lackluster at best in preseason. The chances of getting him to the practice squad look good, and there are some other places that the team can really use that roster spot. White has two more preseason games to make his case, and he can change things if he balls out. But if he doesn’t, look for him to be waived.
Position in play: RB3
Contenders: Bo Scarbrough, Darius Jackson
Scarbrough was thought to be in the lead here, but his injury in the Cincinnati Bengals game opened the door for Jackson, and the latter put some really good plays together. Now the team has options depending on the injury to Scarbrough, they could even take the rather small risk of just keeping him off the field and getting him on the PS. And there is a cap consideration that might make having both Scarbrough and Jackson available to compete next camp: Rod Smith is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and may get some interest elsewhere. It is always nice to have options.
Positions in play: WR6, WR7
Contenders: Lance Lenoir, Deonte Thompson, Noah Brown
The plan to spread the ball around has been in full effect in the preseason. Lenoir has made the big splash with Thompson and Brown both fighting injury. The team also has to decide how many WRs to carry. They could go five, six, or even seven, with six looking like the most likely. Thompson and Brown have to get back on the field to really come into play here.
Position in play: TE4
Contender: Rico Gathers
Gathers remains a divisive player, with some totally enraptured by the splash plays he makes, like the spectacular catch and run against the Bengals. But the team has made it clear that he is not up to speed on either his assignments or blocking, and a one-trick pony is a costly way to use a roster spot. His chances seem slim with all the other places that slot can be used - but he still has two games to win the coaches over.
Positions in play: OL8, OL9
Contenders: Kadeem Edwards, Jacob Alsadek, player(s) not on current roster
Going into camp, the idea that the Cowboys would just go with eight OL for the regular season seemed likely. But injury scares with Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, plus Tyron Smith’s injury history, may make that ninth OL not just attractive but necessary. Joe Looney has been a pleasant surprise and Cameron Fleming seems at least serviceable. but the team needs better depth. Again, the last couple of preseason affairs will tell the tale for Edwards and new acquisition Alsadek, but it is very likely that the team will add someone from the waiver wire before the season.
Position in play: DE6
Contenders: Charles Tapper, Kony Ealy
The DE position has morphed into a real position of strength for the Cowboys. The top five look pretty obvious. The question becomes how deep they want to go here. For either Tapper or Ealy to have a chance, one will have to really show out the last two preseason games. Tapper has been better as an end, although not as consistent as he probably needs to be. Ealy may gain some ground if he can show some value kicking inside.
Positions in play: DT2 through DT5
Contenders: Everybody but Maliek Collins
The suspension of David Irving means the team has to have a fill-in for him. And although Datone Jones, Brian Price, and Antwaun Woods have looked good, nothing seems set in stone, especially as far as how the depth chart will sort out. Jihad Ward is also in play, especially if they go five deep here. But you can’t really say Daniel Ross or newly signed Caraun Reid are out of the running, either. Lots to figure out here.
Positions in play: LB6, LB7
Contenders: Justin March-Lilliard, Chris Covington
Again, the top five are easy to figure out. A big factor here is special teams value, and that will likely determine the sixth man. It may also lead to keeping a seventh LB, which could allow a dark horse to sneak into the competition. But no one has stood out there yet, so March-Lilliard and Covington, who has also fought injury, are the likely candidates to watch.
Position in play: CB5
Contenders: Duke Thomas, Marquez White, Kam Kelly, Donovan Olumba
While Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown have had their struggles, it seems highly unlikely that they will not make the team. That leaves a wide-open competition for a fifth spot, and it is almost certain that the team will carry at least five. Thomas probably has an edge here, but the others still have time to make a move.
Positions in play: S4, S5
Contenders: Tyree Robinson, Marqueston Huff, player(s) not on current roster
Depth is a real concern here, especially with Xavier Woods’ hamstring injury. The Earl Thomas trade seems more attractive than ever, but unless the Seattle Seahawks decide to play along, that may just not be in the cards. The release of George Iloka by the Bengals right after their game against Dallas adds another possibility, and there still is some other talent out there on the market. Robinson seems to be the best candidate in-house, having a good showing in the last game (especially in comparison to some of the other DBs) and also getting a long look on special teams. But this seems another place that where at least part of the solution is going to come from outside the current Cowboys’ roster.
There are the positions still to be decided. It also must be kept in mind that positions like DE6, OL9, QB3, and WR7 involve trade-offs, and likely won’t all be filled.
But barring injuries (which I hate to even mention), these are the remaining competitions in camp - at least as I see them. Let us know your take in the comments.