The Cowboys released their third unofficial depth chart of the 2018 season this week because the NFL requires all teams to do so prior to each preseason game.
Ideally, even if it’s an unofficial depth chart, you’d hope that it was put together by Jason Garrett and his coaching staff after hours of debate and hand-wringing. The much more likely scenario however is that the depth chart probably originates from somewhere in the PR department, and if we’re lucky, a coach somewhere at least gave it a cursory glance.
Be that as it may, the depth chart is something the Cowboys have put their name to, and even if you may want to take it with a grain of salt, it is still worth a look.
A first glance the depth chart doesn’t look much different from the one the Cowboys published prior to the Bengals game, except it’s been updated with the most recent signings (OC Jacob Ohnesorge, WR Dres Anderson, DT Caraun Reid, S Dominick Sanders, S Jeron Johnson). Additionally, they are still listing Randy Gregory as a fourth-teamer on this week’s depth chart, which we know is false.
But there is one position where there have been some significant changes, and that’s at defensive tackle. Here’s a look at the what the defensive line depth chart looked like prior to the second preseason game:
Jihad Ward and Datone Jones were listed as the starters, even though neither of them ended up starting against the Bengals. The actual starters in the game were Antwaun Woods as the 3-technique, and Daniel Ross as the 1-technique.
With Maliek Collins back practicing, and recently signed Caraun Reid added at defensive tackle, the depth chart was bound to change, and it did:
In this week’s chart, Antwaun Woods moves up into the starter position, quite a jump for a guy who was signed almost as an afterthought and was “just” a third-teamer on last week’s chart.
Maliek Collins enters the chart as a second-teamer, Caraun Reid as a third-teamer.
Something had to give to accommodate all these changes, and Jihad Ward is the guy affected the most, as the depth chart maker drops him from first to third team. Brian Price also drops two spots, from second-teamer to fourth-teamer.
But even with these changes, the depth chart probably doesn’t reflect what the defensive tackle rotation will likely look like at the start of the season.
Jason Garrett said earlier this week that he doesn’t expect Datone Jones to practice “in the next couple weeks,” which likely means he’s done for the preseason (and might even mean mean he’ll enter the regular season on IR), but for now we’ll assume he’ll be ready for the season opener.
At the same time, the new-found depth at DE means the Cowboys are moving Tyrone Crawford back inside to DT, creating even more pressure on the depth chart.
Add in David Irving, who could re-join the team in Week 5 after sitting out his suspension, and the Cowboys, for the first time in a long while, will be deep at defensive tackle. And that’s good news for a pass rush that was already graded as one of the best units in the league last year.
The Jaguars pass-rush is the most ferocious in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/CGeywcA6nF— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 24, 2018
At some point prior to the season opener, the Cowboys will publish their first official depth chart of the 2018 season. And it might look something like this:
The Cowboys started both the 2016 and 2017 seasons with eight defensive linemen (and had one guy on suspension), so it’s not a given that they’ll keep more than eight players this year too.
But if they do keep a ninth guy, that last spot will likely come down to Daniel Ross, Kony Ealy, Caraun Reid, Brian Price, Charles Tapper, or Jihad Ward. Or they could swap one of those players for a tight end or safety currently on another roster. That’s what depth can do for you - when you have it.