It happens every year around this time: a hyper-focus on the rookies that the Cowboys have just added, either through the draft or undrafted free agency. That’s a good thing because it’s important to get to know these new players as much as possible. But sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in the new players that we forget about the ones currently on the roster.
Sure, the hope is that every draft pick ends up being good enough to make the final 53-man roster, because that reflects well on the front office who picked them. But the narrative prior to the draft was that Dallas had done a lot to fill out their roster already and didn’t have any glaring needs in the draft, allowing them to take the best player available regardless of position (see: Connor McGovern). With that in mind, here are six Cowboys that shouldn’t be forgotten about just yet.
DT Daniel Ross
The Cowboys signed Ross off of the Chiefs’ practice squad near the end of the 2017 season. He saw limited action, but showed some promise that carried over into 2018, as he became a solid contributor in the defensive line rotation. He hasn’t seen a ton of snaps, but Ross has managed 19 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in his short career thus far. And there’s this video of him from voluntary workouts this year that’ll have you surrendering your lunch money:
The Cowboys added Christian Covington earlier in free agency, who figures to rotate with Antwaun Woods at the 1-technique spot. Then they drafted UCF’s Trysten Hill 58th overall and signed UDFA Daniel Wise of Kansas, both of whom are athletic 3-techs who were misused in college. The DT room seems crowded now, but Ross was very valuable in his minimal role last year. Don’t be surprised if he beats out a guy like Covington or pushes Wise to the practice squad.
RB Darius Jackson
So, the Cowboys went ahead and drafted not one but two running backs in the draft. Memphis’ Tony Pollard figures to be used more like Tavon Austin, seeing reps as a runner, jet sweep option, and as a receiver, but Ohio State’s Mike Weber is a more traditional running back who can serve as Ezekiel Elliott’s main backup. Add in fullback Jamize Olawale, and it seems like the Cowboys have their four running backs for the final 53 set in stone.
But in the words of Lee Corso: Not so fast, my friend! Darius Jackson is liked by the Cowboys coaching staff - he’s currently on his third stint in Dallas. Despite being waived by the team twice before, he’s always found his way back. He saw extensive action in the Week 17 game last season against the Giants, although his 16 yards on six carries wasn’t great. Still, Jackson has familiarity with the team that could help him out. Remember, this time last year we all assumed Bo Scarbrough was a roster lock. Pollard and Weber aren’t safe yet, and Jackson could still surprise us.
LB Chris Covington
The Cowboys may be planning to send out the trio of Sean Lee, Leighton Vander Esch, and Jaylon Smith in their base packages in 2019, but don’t be surprised if second-year player Chris Covington starts seeing some action. A sixth-round pick out of Indiana last year, Covington made the roster but was much of the year. That’s mostly because until his sophomore year in college, Covington was playing quarterback. While he was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, Covington is still learning the position.
Given his unique skill set, Covington can be coached up in just about any way the staff sees fit. They likely want to see him blossom into their SAM linebacker in base packages, given that Smith and Vander Esch seem to have the MIKE and WILL spots, respectively, locked down for the foreseeable future. Joe Thomas and Justin March-Lillard are the top reserves, but Dallas might look to get Covington on the field for a few snaps to see his growth.
CB Donovan Olumba
The Cowboys didn’t surprise anyone when they took a cornerback in the draft, and Miami’s Michael Jackson offers more than some lame puns (although I will continue to make said puns, because I’m bad). There is some very legitimate reason to be excited for Jackson’s future, although he won’t be free of a competition for the fifth cornerback spot on the roster.
Donovan Olumba was on the practice squad last year and his frame has a lot to do with that. Olumba is 6’2” and 205 pounds with 32 7/8” arms, and his ultra-competitive attitude made him a pet cat for some last season. Olumba is back and has a year of experience in this defense, something Jackson doesn’t. It’s possible the Cowboys decide to keep six corners on their roster, but if they go five, it might come down to Olumba and the rookie from Miami.
WR Cedrick Wilson Jr.
The Cowboys didn’t draft a receiver, though they did sign two UDFA’s in Jalen Guyton and Jon’Vea Johnson. They also held onto Tavon Austin and brought in Randall Cobb to replace Cole Beasley. Add in Allen Hurns, Noah Brown, and Lance Lenoir and it’s a crowded room. But don’t forget about second-year player Cedrick Wilson Jr., though.
A sixth-round pick last year from the Cowboys’ favorite school, Boise State, Wilson is the son of Cedrick Wilson Sr., a receiver who played for the 49ers and Steelers and won a Super Bowl. The younger Wilson came into the league with great athleticism and versatility to play all three wide receiver positions. Early on, he was impressing coaches with his route running abilities, but tore a shoulder labrum in training camp. It was starting to look like Wilson could become a minimal contributor last year before the injury. While the Cowboys will likely feature Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup alongside Cobb, Wilson has an opportunity to earn some snaps in the passing game as well - and don’t overlook his potential in the return game, too.
DE Dorance Armstrong Jr.
There was no position that Dallas paid more attention to this offseason than defensive end. On top of extending DeMarcus Lawrence, they traded for Robert Quinn, signed Kerry Hyder, and drafted both Jalen Jelks of Oregon and Joe Jackson of Miami. Randy Gregory’s status is still unclear with his suspension, but it seems like there is very tough competition for Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong.
Armstrong was a fourth-round pick out of Kansas last year and was, at one point, expected to be involved to a modest extent in the pass rush. But the return of Gregory foiled that, and Armstrong saw limited snaps, logging just 13 tackles and half a sack. Armstrong flashed some promise, especially as a run defender, but clearly it wasn’t enough to deter the team from drafting more defensive ends. Still, Armstrong will get a full offseason in the strength and conditioning program, which is vital to linemen. That and the indefinite unavailability of Gregory might help Armstrong emerge somewhere on the defensive end rotation behind Lawrence and Quinn.