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Cowboys roster projection after the “dress rehearsal”

The fourth preseason game probably won’t change anything.

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys
Devin Smith has played his way onto the roster.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NFL cutdown day to 53 players is on Saturday. But as with most teams, the Dallas Cowboys probably have a very good idea of who is on the roster after the third preseason game. That 34-0 blowout of the Houston Texans allowed a handful of players to make their last meaningful attempt to prove they belong on the roster. Dallas still has one final preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it is going to be more about players putting some video out to try and catch on elsewhere, or for those eligible, to perhaps be considered for the Cowboys’ practice squad.

So it is time to do one more roster projection. You may recall that I did one following the first preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. This has a handful of changes, and I have highlighted them.

Cowboys roster projection (post “dress rehearsal)

Position Starter Backup 1 Backup 2
Position Starter Backup 1 Backup 2
QB Dak Prescott Cooper Rush
RB Ezekiel Elliott Tony Pollard Jordan Chunn
FB Jamize Olawale
WR1 Amari Cooper Cedrick Wilson
WR2 Michael Gallup Devin Smith
Slot Randall Cobb Tavon Austin
TE Jason Witten Blake Jarwin Dalton Schultz
LT Tyron Smith Cameron Fleming
LG Connor Williams Xavier Su'a-Filo
C Travis Frederick Joe Looney
RG Zack Martin Connor McGovern
RT La'el Collins
RDE DeMarcus Lawrence Dorance Armstrong Kerry Hyder
LDE Tyrone Crawford Taco Charlton Joe Jackson
RDT Antwaun Woods Christian Covington
LDT Maliek Collins Trysten Hill
WLB Leighton Vander Esch Justin Phillips
MLB Jaylon Smith Joe Thomas
SLB Sean Lee Chris Covington
LCB Byron Jones Anthony Brown Donovan Olumba
RCB Chidobe Awuzie Jourdan Lewis C.J. Goodwin
SS Jeff Heath Kavon Frazier
FS Xavier Woods Donovan Wilson
P Chris Jones
K Brett Maher
LS LP Ladouceur

Here are the explanations for the changes, and some further comments.

Jordan Chunn had a good game both running the ball and catching it, plus he saw the most snaps of any offensive player on special teams. That last is a big consideration, with that usage in the third preseason game often tipping the team’s intentions. Chunn edges out Darius Jackson because of that. Jackson has been a favorite, including for me, but roster cuts are about who helps the most.

Devin Smith has had two very good games in a row, and the player he replaces, Jon’Vea Johnson, has not. Smith simply has played his way onto the roster, and with Cedrick Wilson also having done quite well, forces the team to keep six WRs. Johnson should be a priority to get onto the practice squad. He has great speed and runs routes well, and may just need a year of work to improve his catching skills.

Joe Jackson has also been showing up regularly in the preseason, in a good way. That’s the good news. The bad news for him is that he will probably be the placeholder for Robert Quinn while the latter serves his two-game suspension. Still, it is a foot in the door, and other opportunities may open up as a result. It is impressive that he has inserted himself into the mix with the embarrassment of riches the Cowboys have on the defensive line. To make room for him from the earlier projection, Ricky Walker is getting dropped at DT to go heavy at DE with six. Tyrone Crawford and Kerry Hyder are DEs who can and will move inside in some situations, so that allows the team to only carry four DTs on the roster. Jalen Jelks is another name the team will be looking to sign to the PS.

Christian Covington has proven why the team signed him in free agency. He pushes Daniel Ross, who has been somewhat lackluster, off the roster.

Justin Phillips replaces Justin March at linebacker. Luke Gifford would likely have made the team if he had not been injured, but Phillips stepped up in his place. Gifford may be an IR candidate, or could also get a shot at the PS if he is healthy. In any case, I don’t think he is done in Dallas. Cutting March is the most painful decision for me, because he is a solid worker and a great human being. Also, it would not be a total surprise if Nate Hall managed to bump Phillips, because he has been very good as well.

C.J. Goodwin is the final new name added. His performance allows the team to go deep at CB, which is always a good idea. He costs Darian Thompson and an extra safety spot, which is also partly due to Donovan Wilson emerging as a ballhawking safety. Thompson would be another PS target if he is still eligible. I believe he is, but having missed a season on IR after joining the league in 2016 makes me uncertain.

One other change that I considered was for Kasey Redfern to take Chris Jones’ job as the punter and backup placekicker. If that should happen, it would not be a surprise, but there just isn’t enough data to make the call. It really depends on what the staff is thinking.

That is how I see it. The last preseason game may require a quick re-evaluation somewhere, but it is doubtful.

What do you think?

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