The Dallas Cowboys will be making their 53-man roster announcement Saturday afternoon. While there still should be some last-minute maneuvering going on as the team combs the waiver wire for guys that can help them, making the initial roster will be the first step towards being a member of the ball club in 2018. For some players, their journey will end. Some will travel around to other teams looking for opportunities. But for this new Cowboys team, it all begins with this 53.
Here is my final attempt at trying to nail down the roster.
The locks consist of 41 players, so that leaves 12 spots remaining. Keep in mind that Robert Quinn is suspended the first two games of the season for violating the league’s drug policy so he won’t count against the roster until Week 3. That means one of those 12 spots will likely only be occupied temporarily until Quinn returns.
Rookie guard Connor McGovern is a lock to make the roster, but the team may choose to place him on injured reserve, designated to return. For that to happen, he must stay on the roster for one-day.
Recently, the staff over at the Mothership discussed which bubble players round out the last spots on the roster.
GOTTA LIKE THEIR CHANCES
RB Jordan Chunn - If someone would’ve told me at the beginning of camp that Chunn would make the team, I would’ve scoffed as he’s never really shown much to get excited about. But word around camp is that he does a little bit of everything and the coaching staff loves players like that. He could end up being released initially as he could be the guy the team feels is the lowest risk of being picked up on waivers, but if that happens - don’t be surprised if they add him back once a spot opens up after they IR McGovern.
WR Cedrick Wilson - An injury derailed his 2018 season, but the Boise State star receiver has played extremely well these last couple months. He’s been a reliable target and can even contribute as a punt returner. Most people have Smith ahead of him, but it the team goes with just five receivers, my money is on Wilson.
WR Devin Smith - Even though Wilson has made a strong case to make the team, the former second-round pick from Ohio State isn’t going away. He’s been able to match Wilson’s strong play with some great plays of his own. It would be hard to let this former second-round pick walk after he’s finally healthy and showing off his upside.
OL Xavier Su’a-Filo - He’s been filling in for Zack Martin with the first team, so that should be an indication of how the coaches view him. Su’a-Filo is solid, but there are times where he gets washed in the trenches. Even still, he’s a big body who has demonstrated he can provide some serviceable depth if called upon.
OL Adam Redmond - The team claimed him off of waivers after final roster cuts last year to shore up their depth. The offensive line is in much better shape this year, so it’s tough to say if Redmond’s services are still needed. He still might be too good to just let him get away and with McGovern shelved for the first part of the season, it’s nice to hang on to extra depth.
DE Joe Jackson - Speaking of that deep DE group, Jackson has been all over the plays this preseason. He made PFF’s list for top rookies this preseason, finishing 12th. Jackson is still young, but the way he’s been playing, it would be too risky to try to sneak him on the practice squad.
DE Taco Charlton - The Cowboys 2017 first-round pick has finally flashed some of that talent we’ve been waiting for. The team would have to take a dead money hit and it seems that they would just ride this thing out at the very least; however, roster spots are precious and their defensive end group is really deep this year.
LB Chris Covington - The team essentially just stashed him in on the roster to retain his rights, even though he was extremely raw. Covington has shown a lot of improvement and has a good chance to fill out the linebacker depth on this roster.
LB Luke Gifford - The undrafted free agent from Nebraska has been impressing quite a bit in camp and he wasted no time making fans aware of his presence with a great showing against the San Francisco 49ers. A high ankle sprain has sidelined him since, but that shouldn’t stop him from making the cut.
CB C.J. Goodwin - The team lost two of their top special teams aces in Damien Wilson and Rod Smith, so Goodwin now becomes their top dog. His play on defense has been solid, further entrenching himself as a guy they need to keep around.
CB Donovan Olumba - The undrafted free agent spent last year on the practice squad and has made all kinds of plays in training camp. Will it be enough to be promoted to the big leagues? He had a pick-six against the Bucs Thursday night, which certainly doesn’t hurt his case.
S Darian Thompson - The coaching staff appears to like the veteran safety, and he can help out on special teams, but you just haven’t heard that much about him in camp.
SORRY, THINGS JUST AREN’T WORKING OUT
RB Alfred Morris - While the veteran running back knows the system and is about as great as a human as you could come across, that might not be enough to keep him on the roster unless the Ezekiel Elliott holdout lingers into the regular season. Don’t be surprised to see Morris released initially, and then brought back as Zeke’s roster spot won’t count against the 53 if he’s holding out.
RB Darius Jackson - The speedy running back keeps coming back, but hasn’t been able to secure a permanent residence on this team. No longer possessing practice squad eligibility, this could be the last hurrah for this epic 2016 draft class member.
RB Mike Weber - The team had him high on their board, but the Ohio State rookie has been relatively quiet. He’s had a couple nice runs, but doesn’t offer up any other way to contribute and the team just doesn’t have a need for extra running backs.
WR Noah Brown - A late-round pick in 2018, Brown always finds his way on the team even though many aren’t quite sure why. His blocking ability and contribution on special teams pads his resume, but his inability to stay healthy is starting to work against him. With Wilson and Smith having great camps, Brown could be on the outside looking in this time around. He is projected to start the season on PUP.
DT Daniel Ross - When you watch Ross on tape, he’s not bad. In fact, he shows up here and there, which explains why he made the team a year ago. Unfortunately for Ross, the DT group is stronger this year and there are a couple new guys who have gotten more attention recently.
LB Justin March - Speaking of special teams ace, March is a valued member of the unit. While he hasn’t shown much at the linebacker position, the team is pretty set at LB so he wouldn’t be asked to log many snaps on defense unless the get hit hard with injuries.
S Kavon Frazier - The veteran safety was once a special teams ace himself, but he’s cooled off and doesn’t offer the team much on defense.
S George Iloka - The veteran free agent was a nice add to keep a safe floor for the depth at this position, but he hasn’t made very much noise in camp.
SECOND CHANCES...PRACTICE SQUAD CANDIDATES
QB Mike White - Camp may have started with two quarterbacks battling it out for the backup spot, but Cooper Rush has run away with that honor. Now, the question begs - can White survive waivers and make it to the practice squad?
QB Taryn Christion - With Jameil Showers no longer practice squad eligible, the Cowboys may turn to another utility knife-skilled player to help them prepare each week.
WR Jon’Vea Johnson - This once fan-favorite fell out of favor after an epidemic of dropped passes in the preseason. It serves as a reminder of how raw he still is, but his upside should still intrigue the staff enough to stash him.
TE Cody McElroy - The tight end situation has been set in stone for quite some time, but injuries have surfaced to where the door has opened just a tad. Unfortunately, one of those injuries belong to McElroy, so his best chances no appear to be the practice squad.
OL Mitch Hyatt - The Clemson tackle has gone from sleeper to make the 53, to flat out snoozer. He’s struggled in preseason to where he’s no longer in the running to make the team, but he started to show some improvement down the stretch. Hyatt may still be in the mix down the road.
OL Brandon Knight - An injury has slowed him down, but there’s still a lot to like about Knight. One of those things is his nastiness, but the big draw that could punch his ticket on the roster may be his position flex to swing outside to tackle. The team has plenty of depth on the offensive line, but most of it’s on the inside. Keeping Knight in their back pocket could give them a little help on the outside, as well as a potential swing tackle for the future.
DE Jalen Jelks - The Oregon edge rusher has had a good camp and really started to show up on tape a lot in the team’s last preseason game against the Texans. It should be interesting to see how the team proceeds with him as Jelks is a guy that could easily get claimed off of waivers. The team is just so deep, so they can’t keep everyone, but don’t be completely shocked if the Cowboys keep Jelks and stash him in their back pocket.
DT Daniel Wise - It was such a steal to get this Jayhawks star defensive lineman as a priority free agent, and he hasn’t disappointed. If the team went deep at DT, Wise could be the guy they keep, especially after a nice showing in the preseason finale, but he should at least be a strong candidate for the practice squad.
LB Justin Phillips - While Gifford was the undrafted free agent to turn heads first, Phillips wasted no time taking advantage of his opportunities. He’s made some noise to where he could hang around on the practice squad.
CB Mike Jackson - Fans were excited when the Miami cornerback was first drafted as he had the size and traits Kris Richard looks for in his corners. He had a rough outing in the preseason opener against the 49ers and an injury has limited him recently. Has he shown the coaches enough or will he be left out in the cold?
Final 53-man roster prediction with locks in navy, bubble players that make the cut in light blue, and practice squad players in yellow (orange represents IR designate and selected replacement player added back to the roster).