The Dallas Cowboys have a 53-man roster. Many of the names on it are players we expect to see. Some are not. With a working roster in place, is there anything we can learn? What questions still need answered? Here are some conclusions we can draw from the decisions the team made over the weekend.
THREE THINGS WE ALREADY KNEW
1. They were always going to keep Mike White
The Cowboys made their roster commitment towards rookie quarterback Mike White when they drafted him in the fifth round of the draft. Sure, fifth-round draft picks don’t have immunity in year one, but quarterbacks are different. The Cowboys have said he was a development project and they were going to be patient with him.
Stephen Jones said he doesn't expect new QB Mike White to play this year. Cowboys plan to develop him behind starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) April 28, 2018
After an underwhelming showing during the preseason, fans weren’t jumping for joy about White being on the team, but it was really never about that.
2. The Cowboys feel good about their edge rushers
Both Charles Tapper and Kony Ealy didn’t make the cut (although Tapper was signed to the practice squad). At the start of camp, fans liked the chances of both these players to solidify the team’s depth at defensive end, but over the duration of camp, things changed. First, Randy Gregory returned as the league reinstated him after serving almost two years worth of suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Not only that, but rookie fourth-round pick Dorance Armstrong was quick to show off his skills. Between those two guys and DeMarcus Lawrence and Taco Charlton, the team suddenly looks strong at defensive end.
3. The team is still sorting out the tight end position
The Cowboys are still scrambling to figure out their tight end position. With nothing great at the top and not much separating them from the rest, the Cowboys decided to keep all four of their tight ends. For a while, it looked like Rico Gathers was on thin ice and the team was just looking for any reason to cut him loose, but even after news broke about his marijuana possession on Friday night, Gathers still made the team.
It’s still unclear if the team is standing pat with what they have or if changes are coming.
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. The Cowboys are worried about the offensive line
The news that Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome really threw a heavy-duty wrench into the Cowboys offensive line situation. Joe Looney has been performing well as a backup, but he will now assume the role as the everyday center. The team now needs to have a backup for their backup.
The team traded for Parker Ehlinger and then claimed Adam Redmond off of waivers to help shore up their offensive line. We don’t know a whole lot about these players, but clearly the Cowboys didn’t like what they had and shook things up a bit.
2. The Cowboys don’t need a RB3
It looked like a neck-and-neck battle between 2018 draft pick Bo Scarbrough and returning 2016 draft pick Darius Jackson for the team’s last spot on the running back depth chart. Fans were torn on which one would win the job. As it turns out, the Cowboys kept neither of them (although Jackson returned to practice squad).
When you think about it, it kind of makes sense. I mean, neither player was running away with the job. Neither player is going to be able to carve out a role with Ezekiel Elliott firmly entrenched as the team’s work horse and Rod Smith the clear-cut no. 2 back. It seems like this third running back is just a wasted spot that can be addressed as needed.
3. The team doesn’t need to go heavy at WR
Whether you supported the youngster Lance Lenoir or the veteran Deonte Thompson, many thought at least one of them would crack the roster. Lenoir had a great training camp and at one point looked like a roster lock. Thompson, on the other hand, had a strong rapport with new receivers coach Sanjay Lal and figured to be a great candidate from the moment he was signed in free agency. But to the surprise of many, neither Lenoir or Thompson made the initial 53-man roster. Noah Brown was kept, but He’s now going to IR, and the team will bring back Deonte Thompson.
THREE THINGS WE STILL NEED ANSWERS TO
1. What drove the Bailey decision?
To the shock of everyone, the Cowboys released veteran kicker Dan Bailey and have put their field-goal-kicking faith in Brett Maher. That’s right, the league’s second-most accurate kicker in NFL history is out of a job.
Maher first emerged in Dallas in 2013 when the undrafted free agent (from the Jets) was signed just as a preseason leg to allow Bailey to recover from an injury. He was cut at the end of preseason. After spending a few years in the Canadian Football League, he’s once again back in Dallas. It looked like deja vu all over again as he was just around to keep Bailey fresh. But that wasn’t the case this time as Maher is now the Cowboys regular kicker.
It’s still a mystery as to why the Cowboys decided to cut Bailey loose as nobody saw this coming. Had Bailey declined that much? Was his on-field performance not worth premium level salary for a kicker? Hopefully, the organization will shed some light on this decision soon because inquiring minds want to know.
2. What are the Cowboys doing in the secondary?
Charvarius Ward was traded. Duke Thomas and Donovan Olumba was released. The Cowboys only have four cornerbacks.
The team initially only kept four safeties as well, but have since added Ibraheim Campbell off of waivers.
If you’re doing the math at home, that’s a very raw secondary group. Byron Jones is the only defensive back the Cowboys have that held down a starting job prior to last season. Six of the nine defensive backs on their roster are either late-round picks or undrafted free agents.
Needless to say, this makes many uneasy about the state of the secondary. Do the Cowboys have something up their sleeve?
3. How will the defensive tackle position shake out?
The team has a lot of good players on the interior line, but it’s still unclear how this whole thing will play out. From top down, there are questions. When it comes to the starters - who’s starting where? Tyrone Crawford is now in the mix in looks like a good 3-tech candidate. But then what do you do with Maliek Collins? I guess he could play 1-tech, but Antwaun Woods has been playing well at that position. And that is not even taking into account that David Irving will be coming back after he’s done serving his suspension.
When it comes to the reserves, that’s unclear as well. Jihad Ward and Brian Price have been released, but Datone Jones and Daniel Ross are still there.