You’ve read the title of this post, so you’re fairly sure the Cowboys’ leader in preseason snaps is a down-roster player you probably haven’t heard much of, probably a guy with a boatload of special teams snaps.
But do you think you can at least figure out which position that player is playing?
Perhaps it’s a down-roster linebacker with a knack for special teams? Perhaps a defensive lineman who’s been forced to play extra snaps because of all the injuries? Or is it a wide receiver doubling as a special teams regular?
It’s not a quarterback (even though Ben DiNucci has seen quite a bit of action with 89 snaps over three games), it’s not a running back, and it’s certainly not a fullback.
The player leading the Cowboys in preseason snaps is OT Terence Steele, with 157 snaps over three games (148 on offense, nine on special teams). And he just edged out fellow OT/G Brandon Knight, who has tallied 156 snaps so far ( 147 offense, nine special teams).
The unofficial depth chart lists Steele as the backup RT behind La’el Collins, and shows Knight as the third guy at LT behind Tyron Smith and Ty Nsekhe. But with Smith playing all of 16 snaps over three games, and Collins adding just 43, it’s no surprise the backups are getting a ton of snaps.
Whether playing a lot of snaps has any correlation to a 53-man roster spot remains to be seen. But in any case, here are the top nine players as ranked by total snaps, and you’ll notice that seven of the nine players are either offensive or defensive linemen:
|Most regular snaps|
|Name||POS||Regular Snaps||ST snaps||Total|
That picture changes a bit when we look at the top players by total snaps, a ranking which is utterly dominated by young players.
|Most total snaps|
|Name||POS||Experience||Regular Snaps||ST snaps||Total|
|T Steele||OT||1 year||148||9||157|
|B Knight||OT||2 years||147||9||156|
|R Carter||DE||1 year||122||25||147|
|L Gifford||LB||2 years||115||22||137|
|A Kamara||LB||1 year||93||29||122|
The preseason is not the place for veteran players to get a lot of snaps.
By themselves, preseason snap counts probably don’t mean all that much. Neither Terence Steele nor Brandon Knight are suddenly going to be starters (though both started a combined 23 games last year), but sometimes these snaps can give you an early hint of how the depth chart may be filling out.
It’s not yet clear how many players the Cowboys will keep at each position, but whoever that last player at a given position is, he’d better bring it on special teams. So here’s a look at the leading special teams players with at least 20 special teams snaps:
|Most Special Teams snaps (min 20 snaps)|
A high special teams snap count is by no means a guarantee for a roster spot, but it certainly can’t hurt. A better indicator would probably be the number of first-team special teams snaps, but it’s very painstaking to tally them, so we’ll stick with the snaps that we have.
Be that as it may, some players on this list, like Jabril Cox and Nahshon Wright, are roster locks due to their draft pedigree. For others, like fullback Nick Ralston or DE Ron’Dell Carter, their special teams ability may just be the ticket for one of the last roster spots on the team.
As David Helman writes in the Tweet below, the Cowboys would like to have five core special teamers that can play on all four special teams units.
John Fassel says that, ideally, he’d like to have five “core four” special teamers who excel at all the teams in order to build a unit that wins matchups.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) August 10, 2021
File that away for Labor Day weekend.
Which players would you pick to make the roster as one of those five core special teamers?