We have only one preseason game to go (at the time this was written) for the Dallas Cowboys. While all the players involved will be trying to make their case to either find a spot with the Cowboys, including on the practice squad, or catch on elsewhere in the NFL, things are down to the wire. Most of the decisions have been made about the 53-man roster for Dallas. You will see those players standing and watching during this game. But a few spots could still be claimed by players who have a strong performance against the Houston Texans.
Still, most of the important data has been gathered. The way players were used in the first three games (or, for starters, not used) has already given us some clear signals. And for the Cowboys, special teams can be a major indicator of who is in and who is going to be waived. In light of that, this was an interesting bit of information to see.
Meaning these guys aren't "on the bubble." https://t.co/9sDveywcfg— Ari Temkin (@arisports) August 30, 2018
The conclusion reached is almost certainly dead-on. Those five names look to be the core of the special teams unit. Of course, Jourdan Lewis was always a given, no matter whether he or Anthony Brown wound up as the nickel corner. And there was no doubt Joe Thomas, who was signed at least in part for his ability to fill a special teams role, was going to make the roster. Blake Jarwin has the protection of having been with the organization a year, and has had a decent if not spectacular preseason. And Justin March-Lilliard has had a solid camp and preseason, using the extra reps available as Leighton Vander Esch nursed an injury to good effect.
But one of these names is not like the others. Namely, Tyree Robinson. He was not a veteran, a draft pick, or a free agent acquisition, all factors the Cowboys take into account in making the last few roster decisions. No, he is that longest of long shots, an undrafted free agent. The Cowboys almost always have one or more UDFAs survive to be on the initial 53-man roster, and this year, it looks like Robinson is going to continue the tradition.
He could well be more than just a guy who is on the field while the ball is being kicked, as well. The safety position is shallow, and Xavier Woods is still a question mark for the season opener against the Carolina Panthers. Barring the acquisition of a player not currently on the roster (yes, we know, but Earl Thomas ain’t happening unless the Seattle Seahawks say he’s happening), Robinson could be the third safety on the 46-man active roster. Fortunately, he has not just been a special teams guy so far in camp and preseason, but has shown some real ability on the field.
If you are looking for another UDFA who might have a shot, Charvarius Ward has seen his playing time follow a similar arc as Robinson’s. He was on the field more with each passing preseason game, and his special teams snaps also increased. He is not as clear a case as Robinson, really only getting a good amount of ST work the third game, but he might have a real chance. Just another name to keep in mind as the cutdowns start coming out.
Soon, we’ll know. All the cuts have to be made by 4 pm (ET) on Saturday. And the claiming period for those players subject to waivers ends at noon ET on Sunday, which will open the opportunity to sign players to the practice squad. The shape of the Cowboys roster will be known then, although there will be other moves made throughout the season, including in the week leading up to the first game. Stay tuned, we will be working to keep you up to date here at BTB.