Can you feel it? Football is nearly upon us. With training camp here, football season is so close to being back without actually being back that we might as well call it the Longhorns. And while training camp is where we’ll get a much better idea of which players will and won’t make the final 53-man roster, let’s take a moment to make one last roster prediction before then.
The only real question here is whether the Cowboys go with Cooper Rush or Mike White, or both, as their backup. With the desire to go deeper at other positions, as well as Dak Prescott’s durability, they go with just one backup. While White could secure the job with a good camp and preseason performance, the nod goes to Rush for now due to his experience with the team.
Running back (4)
This one seems to be etched in stone. While injuries or even a particularly long holdout from a certain player could change things, it seems likely that it’ll be Zeke backed up by Mike Weber, with Tony Pollard filling some sort of utility role and Jamize Olawale doing whatever a fullback does is Kellen Moore’s offense.
Wide receiver (6)
Cedrick Wilson Jr.
The first three are set, and we know that. After that, though, it’s anybody’s guess. Cedrick Wilson’s experience from Boise State could help him earn a roster spot, while Noah Brown’s standout ability as a run blocker could make him a valuable asset. Finally, undrafted rookie Jon’Vea Johnson could very well continue his hot streak from minicamp and secure a roster spot over the likes of Tavon Austin and Lance Lenoir.
Tight end (3)
These three are almost certainly going to make the final roster, but the question some have is if Rico Gathers will also make it. It’s possible that Gathers finds new legs in Moore’s offense, but with other talented tight ends and the need to go deep elsewhere, it’s hard to see Gathers hanging on this time.
Offensive line (9)
The starting five are set, with Cameron Fleming entrenched as the swing tackle. Joe Looney will be the backup center and Connor McGovern can play backup to both guards. The surprise here is Mitch Hyatt making it. After going undrafted, Hyatt became one of the most lauded undrafted players this year. He can be groomed into a starter in a few years at either tackle spot, and if the Cowboys don’t think he’d make it to the practice squad, they’ll hold on to him.
Defensive line (10)
Dorance Armstrong Jr.
Randy Gregory (SUSP)
The Cowboys have a lot of players to sort through on the defensive line. There are some obvious locks to make it, including rookie Trysten Hill. Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder are two that might be forgotten about by some fans, but they have the potential to make a big impact. The Cowboys will be picking between Dorance Armstrong and Taco Charlton, with the younger player having a slight edge. Daniel Ross was an underrated player last year and could snag the final spot on this line, with rookies Jalen Jelks, Joe Jackson, and Daniel Wise all intended for the practice squad.
Of course, a wrench could be thrown in here if/when Randy Gregory is reinstated. If that happens before the start of the regular season, see Hyder, Armstrong, and Ross are candidates to be cut in order to make room for him.
Leighton Vander Esch
As is the case at other positions, the starters are set here. Joe Thomas is a valuable backup with special teams skill, and Justin March-Lillard offers similar potential. The final linebacker spot is Chris Covington’s to lose right now. An undrafted rookie like Nate Hall or Luke Gifford could get it, but for now the money is on the player who has a year’s worth of experience in this defense.
Yet another position group that seems squared away. The top four are known commodities, and unless Jourdan Lewis gets traded or something, it’ll look this way. Rookie Michael Jackson won’t see much playing time, but he’ll be groomed for a bigger role soon with the pending contract situations of the top four in the next two years.
Xavier Woods solidified himself as the starter at free safety last year, while Jeff Heath and George Iloka should compete for the strong safety role. Kavon Frazier offers depth and special teams ability, and rookie Donovan Wilson should be able to contribute on special teams as well.
Special teams (3)
After what happened to Dan Bailey last year, don’t be too confident in this prediction. Maher wasn’t perfect last year but he was reliable most of the time. Chris Jones had a down year so hopefully the competition with Kasey Redfern pushes him back to his old ways. And while LP Ladouceur has been a model of consistency, he’s 38 years old, so there is technically a chance that younger Drew Scott beats him out, although it’s unlikely.