The Dallas Cowboys are just a little over a week away from finalizing their 53-man roster. With two preseason games under their belt, some players have solidified their spot on the roster as others have climbed their way up the ranks. These next several days will loom large in shaping out the rest of the roster, but which players are sitting in good shape at this point in time?
Here is a 53-man roster projection if the season started today...
[Note: blue = roster locks, green = front runners, and purple = practice squad players]
Locks: Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush
Practice Squad: Mike White
It is pretty clear that Cooper Rush has won the backup quarterback battle. The only question now is whether Mike White will make it back to the Cowboys practice squad. It’s certainly a possibility but he has done very little to impress this preseason. Another team would have to overlook his struggles and have a greater sense of belief that the player they saw in Western Kentucky still resides within him to pick him up.
RUNNING BACKS (3)
Locks: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, and Jamize Olawale
Practice Squad: Mike Weber
You may have been expecting more players to be listed here, but I’m not so sure it turns out that way. Frankly, there isn’t anyone I would want carrying the ball other than Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. And while you might think the Cowboys need to hang on to someone just in case of an injury - is there anyone left from the group that has separated themselves from the rest? If something happens where the team needs another running back, it shouldn’t be hard to find a serviceable free agent, so there is no point in burning a roster spot for a talent that is easily replaced.
Mike Weber is my choice as the next best guy and he could be a practice squad candidate. The team had a high grade on him which means his upside could be worth keeping around.
TIGHT END (3)
Locks: Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz
Practice Squad: Codey McElroy
This position group has been set for a while as this trio should provide everything the team needs. Jason Witten is a nice possession receiver that can move the chains. Blake Jarwin has looked good on deeper plays down the seam. And Dalton Schultz continues to develop both as a blocker and receiver. Even Codey McElroy has looked pretty good with the targets he’s gotten.
The only question at this position is health. The team can afford to go lean here if they have three guys they can depend on. If there becomes any uncertainty with availability, McElroy could be one of those surprise players to make the roster, although he is dealing with an injury of his own.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
Locks: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb
Front runners for last spots: Tavon Austin, Cedrick Wilson and Devin Smith
PUP: Noah Brown
Practice Squad: Jon’Vea Johnson
This is a position group that many expected the Cowboys to go long at. Most of the debate has been around who will be that no. 6 guy as players like Tavon Austin and Noah Brown were penciled in with the three locks to round out the top five. Jon’Vea Johnson has been a fan favorite ever since he signed as a priority free agent. Cedrick Wilson has been buzzing around camp and then followed it up with a nice preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. Now, Devin Smith has thrown his name into the hat will two strong preseason performances.
I have the Cowboys using PUP for Brown and still going long at the position as both Wilson and Smith are players I’m not willing to give up. Wilson provides consistency in the receiving game, and Smith offers up some nice upside with his draft pedigree. There’s still two more games to go, which means there is plenty of time for this thing to sort itself out.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
Locks: Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Connor Williams, La’el Collins, Cameron Fleming, and Joe Looney
Front runners for last spots: Xavier Su’a-Filo and Adam Redmond
Injured Reserve: Connor McGovern
Practice Squad: Jake Campos and Brandon Knight
This is going to be one of the toughest position groups to weed out. The team has a lot of good depth here. Last week, we talked about how talent in the trenches is hard to find and the team could go deep here. Joe Looney has gone from so-so backup to reliable fixture to a strong backup in less than a year. It’s hard to pick between Xavier Su’a-Filo and Adam Redmond as both have demonstrated that they’re roster worthy. And with Zack Martin’s back issue a little bit of a concern, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys hoard their talent along the offensive line.
Not only is it hard to choose who to keep on the roster, but they’ll have some tough decisions to make with the practice squad as well. Jake Campos is coming along pretty well and still has future swing tackle potential. Mitch Hyatt and Brandon Knight are a couple of the new crop UDFA’s who should make a push for the practice squad. While Hyatt is the bigger name, Knight is my deep sleeper guy who possesses enough grit to catch the attention of the coaching staff.
DEFENSIVE END (6)
Locks: DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Dorance Armstrong, and Kerry Hyder
Front runners for last spots: Joe Jackson and Taco Charlton
Suspended: Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory
Practice Squad: Jalen Jelks
From the moment the Cowboys signed Kerry Hyder, we were excited about what he adds to the depth of this group. Some have tossed him aside as younger edge rushers have flashed some good play in camp, but there is no doubt in my mind that Hyder makes this team. Taco Charlton has shown improvement and done enough to earn a roster spot. Yesterday, we threw out the idea that the Cowboys should look to trade him. The Cowboys drafted two young pass rushers and both have impressed. Jackson has flashed a little bit more and gets my vote for a roster spot with the team moving Jelks to the PS.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4)
Locks: Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, Christian Covington, and Trysten Hill
Practice Squad: Daniel Wise and Ricky Walker
Just like Hyder was a great free agent signing, the same is true for Covington who has shown why the Cowboys were interested in him. He might not get the notoriety, but Covington has been a disruptive force in the middle. He’ll be a great backup who will push for extra snaps on this defense.
Both Daniel Wise and Ricky Walker have had some good moments, but their lack of consistency should mean the practice squad for them.
Locks: Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, and Joe Thomas
Front runners for last spots: Chris Covington and Luke Gifford
Practice Squad: Justin Phillips
Last month we made training camp bold predictions and one of them was that a UDFA would steal a job from a veteran. Well, that UDFA will be Luke Gifford and that veteran will be Justin March. Gifford has been great and probably would be all the craze in training camp had it not been for his high ankle sprain. Conversely, March has offered up nothing to be excited about. In fact, another UDFA Justin Phillips has made more plays and given himself a fighting shot to make the team.
Locks: Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis
Front runners for last spots: C.J. Goodwin, Donovan Olumba, and Mike Jackson
This position is stacked up front, but it has some pretty good pieces in the back as well. There is no clear-cut corner for the no. 5 spot, but the team may choose to go long at this position to preserve depth for the future. Goodwin is a solid special teams player, and Olumba has been breaking up passes like they were going out of style. Rookie Mike Jackson still has some work to do, but has the potential to be a good corner down the line.
Locks: Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, Donovan Wilson
Front runners for last spots: Darian Thompson
It has been a dogfight for every safety after Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath, but the rookie Donovan Wilson has given the team a lot to like. He is a safe bet to make the roster. Between the veterans Kavon Frazier, George Iloka, and Darian Thompson - my nod goes to Thompson to grab the last spot.
Locks: L.P. Ladouceur (LS)
Front runners for last spots: Brett Maher (K) and Kasey Redford (P)
There will be another special teams surprise this year, but it won’t be at the expense of Brett Maher. Instead, Kasey Redford will edge out veteran Chris Jones for the punter job. We touched on this a couple weeks ago and nothing’s changed to feel any different.
Which decisions do you agree with and which ones do you think will go differently?