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Cut’em or keep’em? Which bubble boys make the Cowboys roster and who gets left off?

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Roster cuts are almost here. Which fringe players can survive?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys will be making their 53-man roster announcement Saturday afternoon. And while there will be a little bit of shuffling around over the weekend as team’s scour the waive wire for good players, making the original roster will be the first step towards wearing the star in 2018 for many of those bubble players. Who makes the cut and who gets cut will be of interest to Cowboys fans and here is my last attempt at trying to nail down the roster.

Before we get to the tough decisions, let’s lay out the players who are roster locks. Now, there are some players that I feel should also be on this list, but I am being ultra-conservative here and only listing players who are heavily predicted to make the team.

The locks consist of 43 players, so that leaves 10 spots remaining. Now, David Irving is suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy so he won’t count against the roster until Week 5. And Travis Frederick’s availability is still unclear so it’s possible another roster spot becomes open if they place him on injured reserve. We also know that past history clues us in on the fact that the Cowboys are likely to shop around after waiver cuts and add a couple players who have been released from other teams. For the sake of this this roster-prediction experiment, I’m going to reserve the extra roster spots from Irving and Frederick for these outside players. That still leaves 10 more spots available on the rosters.

GOTTA LOVE THEIR ODDS

OL8 - Kadeem Edwards

After being selected in the fifth-round in 2014 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Edwards was declared inactive for half the season before being placed on IR with a foot injury. Over the next three seasons, he’s been hanging out on the practice squad - first, with Jacksonville, and the last two years with the Cowboys. His practice squad eligibility is over, but that’s okay because the young lineman stash is starting to make strides towards being a viable reserve. He’s had a good camp and stands a great chance to secure one of the last OL spots on the roster.

Result: Keep him.

DT6 - Brian Price

On one hand, there is no reason to get too excited about an undrafted free agent from the Green Bay Packers who bounced back and forth on their practice squad. The Packers released him for a third time during this time last year and that is when the Cowboys pounced. It wasn’t that big of a deal, except the team chose Price over veteran Cedric Thornton, even though they absorbed a heavy dead money hit. The Cowboys wanted the best player, and apparently Price was it.

Price has impressed at times and then been very ordinary at others. With the Cowboys a little light on true 1-tech defensive tackles, Price could sneak in as a bottom roster depth guy.

Result: Keep him.

TE3 - Dalton Schultz

In a vacuum, the young tight end looks every bit like a practice squad player. He’s still extremely raw and wouldn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy should you have to throw him in the game and depend on him. The team could cut him on Saturday and not feel too terrible about him. He’d probably clear waivers and onto the practice squad he goes. Perfect, right?

Unfortunately, the Cowboys are desperate at the tight end position. While Schultz offers a very limited skill set at this point, it’s possible his services could be needed. What happens if Geoff Swaim gets hurt. Which tight end is blocking for them then? Some say his fourth-round draft cost will save him as the team doesn’t want to show the world they messed up, but that’s not going to be the difference maker. What will be, however, is the idea that while he’s not great, he might be needed and there’s always that hope that he’ll show improvement.

Result: Keep him.

S4 - Tyree Robinson

It was believed that one of these undrafted defensive backs would flash some real talent and come away with a roster spot. While those expectations have been a little underwhelming, Oregon safety Tyree Robinson has emerged as the most desirable choice. The Cowboys are thin at safety and they will need some bodies. Robinson’s performance in camp and in preseason action should be enough to land one of those spots.

Result: Keep him.

SORRY, THINGS JUST AREN’T WORKING OUT

DT7 - Jihad Ward

Things were looking good at first for Jihad Ward early in camp. The former second-round pick of the Oakland Raiders was thought to be a possible reclamation project with a change of scenery in Dallas. With a nice draft pedigree and some buzz-generating gossip in OTA’s, fans were excited about what could be with this new young defensive tackle.

Unfortunately, Ward just hasn’t been able to make enough plays. There have been players around him rising up, but he seems to be stuck in purgatory. Ward did next to nothing in Oakland, causing them to deal him to the Cowboys for Ryan Switzer (who has since been shipped to Pittsburgh), and it doesn’t appear like he’ll be finding a new home in Dallas.

Result: Cut him.

DE5 - Charles Tapper

Some thought Tapper had a real good shot to make the team this year if he could just manage to stay healthy. And to the surprise of many, he’s been able to do just that. In camp he hasn’t looked bad out there, he hasn’t really done anything to stand out.

With the return of Randy Gregory and the great start of rookie Dorance Armstrong, the Cowboys just won’t be able to find snaps for the former 2016 fourth-round draft pick.

Result: Cut him.

DE6 - Kony Ealy

The Cowboys have waved the white flag on Ealy’s chances of playing on the edge. The team is too deep there and he’s got no chance to take snaps away from their young edge rushing group. The coaching staff has now moved Ealy inside in an effort to give him every opportunity to salvage a roster spot. While the inside/out flex appeal could be what saves him, he’s still on the outside looking in as the team has other positions they must fill.

Result: Cut him.

IT’S GOING TO BE CLOSE

QB3 - Mike White

The Cowboy made the decision to keep White on the roster back in April when they drafted him as he’s a young quarterback they want to try to develop. White has many appealing traits and despite how he’s performed in camp, I highly doubt the front office gives up so early on him. While Cooper Rush’s body of work still appeases the coaching staff to make him the no. 2 quarterback, his performance on Sunday has planted that seed of doubt that he might not be the answer should something happen to Dak Prescott. That just gives the front office another reason to hold on to their lottery ticket quarterback.

Result: Keep him.

LB7 - Chris Covington

The Cowboys have certain things they look for in players and when they took the linebacker from Indiana, they were intrigued by his athletic ability. The rookie has fought a battle with bronchitis and that has hindered his ability to get on the field and show what he can do. He was thought to be in competition with fellow linebacker Justin March-Lillard for that last linebacker spot, but while the veteran doesn’t have the upside, he’s more reliable right now.

Covington could possibly sneak on as the team if they keep seven linebackers and get a little work on special teams, but he should be a good candidate for the practice squad. He’s just got a lot of work still before he’s NFL ready.

Result: Cut him.

DT5 - Datone Jones

Not a lot of people had Datone Jones making the team when training camp started, but we’ve been beating this drum for a while. In May, he was the no. 1 player on our list for dark horse candidates to make the team and way back in January, we identified him as an under-the-radar guy for the defense. Jones has showed up this training camp as he’s been running with the first-team defense for almost the entire camp. First, he was partnered with Jihad Ward, but when Antwaun Woods emerged out of nowhere, he was then teaming up with him as the team’s starting defensive tackles.

When you’re a bubble player, you have to do everything right in order to make the team and that includes staying healthy. Unfortunately, a knee injury suffered in the second preseason game has now put his roster chances in doubt. How much will this influence the team’s decision? It’s tough to say, but I’m awarding my one Golden Buzzer to him so he can move on to the next round.

Result: Keep him.

CB5 - Charvarius Ward

The cornerback from Middle Tennessee State is very raw as he’s only been playing the game of football for four years, but that hasn’t stopped him from flashing some good coverage skills in training camp. The team understands there will be some growing pains with this UDFA, but he’s a physical player that has the size and length that new defensive backs coach Kris Richard looks for in his players. Ward has struggled with consistency, but his light has shined a little bit brighter than any of the other corners fighting for that last roster spot. And when you factor in that he’s just going to get better, keeping Ward around offers up an intriguing upside.

Result: Keep him.

CB6 - Duke Thomas

Thomas was on his way to making the team last season when an injury late in the preseason sidelined those chances. It looked as if he had a decent shot to make the team this year, but he hasn’t done much to justify keeping him on the team. And with rookie UDFA Charvarius Ward breaking up more and more passes, Thomas is being passed on the depth chart.

He’s still has one more game to prove himself, but Ward appears to be in the drivers seat now.

Result: Cut him.

RB3 - Bo Scarbrough

Let’s round out this rookie class with the Cowboys last pick of the 2018 draft, Bo Scarbrough. The Alabama running back hasn’t done a whole lot to impress people this offseason. He’s been okay at times and has improved his ability to play special teams. The team needs to carry a third running back and it really comes down to him or Darius Jackson. The team trusts the intel they got from Nick Saban and will want to see more from Scarbrough.

Result: Keep him.

RB4 - Darius Jackson

If we were going on just what we saw in preseason games alone, Darius Jackson would win the job over Scarbrough. Jackson is faster and has shown more of an ability to create space for himself. Unfortunately, there is more to consider than just this limited game sample. This isn’t about which RB is better behind a second-rate offensive line or who can do the most with nothing. There are other things to consider as well. Who will perform best with the starters? Who can’t help out in other areas? And while we don’t know what answers the team has for these questions, we do know this - Bo is ahead of DJax on the depth chart and gets game reps before he does. We also know that Jackson has been cut before and then cut by the Cleveland Browns whereas Scarbrough hasn’t been given enough of a chance to show what he can do.

I wouldn’t bet the farm that Bo wins over Darius, but I’m giving the rookie the edge over Jackson.

Result: Cut him.

WR7 - Lance Lenoir

When you look at all the holes the Cowboys had with the wide receiver turnover, one might think last year’s undrafted free agent Lance Lenoir would have a legit shot to make the team. And when you combine that with his amazing improvement, everything seemed to be coming together for the young receiver.

But the Cowboys have done a lot to fill those holes. Free agency, draft picks, trades...you name it. The team has five guys they really like and question becomes - just how many receivers do they want to carry? I have them going deep at WR, but unfortunately it’s not enough to keep Lenoir on the roster. The Cinderella story is over, at least for now.

Result: Cut him.

WR6 - Deonte Thompson

It’s easy to look at what we just saw and draw conclusions, and if that’s all we had to go on - Lenoir would win the last WR job over free agent Deonte Thompson. But there’s always more to the story and when it comes to Thompson, part of that story involves how much new receiver’s coach Sanjay Lal loves him. The Cowboys had a plan when they brought Thompson over and just because he’s been ailing through most of camp doesn’t mean they’re going to “86” their plan.

The Cowboys don’t have to go deep at WR and could just keep five, but with Allen Hurns having some bad luck with injuries in recent years, it might be a good idea to have someone around as insurance. Thompson has good speed and could be a deep option for the offense. He’s also most likely going to be the team’s kick returner if kicks ever get ran back.

Result: Keep him.

TE4 - Rico Gathers

I’d like to be able to tell you that this is where the Rico Gathers saga ends. He’s either going to make the team and all the Rico-supporters can rejoice or he’s going to be released and we can all get closure and move on. But that’s wishful thinking because there’s a third option - the Cowboys will hang on to Gathers, only to make him inactive several times during the season, leaving fans frustrated as why he is still not being used.

Gathers has shown progress and with the tight end position in as bad as shape as it is, the team will hang on to him. He doesn’t have to make the 46-man active roster every week so he can still work on developing his game. And he could alternate with Schultz as the team continues to try to sort out what they have at tight end.

Rico may never amount to anything in Dallas, but I’m not ready to cut him loose just yet.

Result: Keep him.


So, what does my final 53-man roster look like?

The team will still look to add a couple players from the outside as the safety position as well as additional offensive line help could be brought in. And don’t be surprised if they went even deeper at tight end as they are still searching for answers there (they kept five tight ends in 2013).

Which of these bubble players do you think make the cut?