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2021 Dallas Cowboys depth chart: Hard cuts ahead to reach 53-man roster limit

The first ‘unofficial’ depth chart from the Cowboys hints at some tough cuts ahead.

Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Cowboys released their first unofficial depth chart of the 2021 season in large part because the NFL requires all teams to do so prior to each preseason game. Unfortunately, what the league wants and what the league gets can be two completely different things. So if you were hoping that this depth chart was put together by Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff after hours of debate and hand wringing, you’re bound to be disappointed.

The depth chart probably originates from somewhere in the PR department, but it is something the Cowboys have put their name to, so even if you may want to take it with a grain of salt, it is still worth a look.

RJ Ochoa already provided a topline review of the depth chart earlier, so I’ve decided to color-code the chart for improved legibility. Returning players are marked in green, rookies are marked in yellow, and free agent additions are marked in orange:

OFFENSE
POS First Second Third Fourth
WR1 Amari Cooper Noah Brown Johnnie Dixon Osirus Mitchell
LT Tyron Smith Ty Nsekhe
LG Connor Williams Connor McGovern Eric Smith
C Tyler Biadasz Matt Farniok Braylon Jones
RG Zack Martin Brandon Knight Isaac Alarcon
RT La'el Collins Terence Steele Josh Ball
TE Blake Jarwin Dalton Schultz Jeremy Sprinkle 4. Sean McKeon
5. Artayvious Lynn
6. Nick Eubanks
SWR CeeDee Lamb Malik Turner Simi Fehoko 4. Brandon Smith
5. T.J. Vasher
6. Reggie Davis
7. Brennan Eagles
WR2 Michael Gallup Cedrick Wilson Aaron Parker
QB Dak Prescott Garrett Gilbert Ben DiNucci Cooper Rush
RB Ezekiel Elliott Tony Pollard Rico Dowdle 4. Brenden Knox
5. JaQuan Hardy
FB Sewo Olonilua Nick Ralston
DEFENSE
POS First Second Third Fourth
LDE DeMarcus Lawrence Tarell Basham Bradlee Anae Azur Kamara
LDT Neville Gallimore Justin Hamilton Osa Odighizuwa Austin Faoliu
RDT Carlos Watkins Brent Urban Trysten Hill Quinton Bohanna
RDE Randy Gregory Dorance Armstrong Ron'Dell Carter Chauncey Golston
OLB Micah Parsons Francis Bernard Anthony Hines
MLB Jaylon Smith Keanu Neal Jabril Cox
OLB Leighton Vander Esch Luke Gifford
LCB Anthony Brown Kelvin Joseph Reggie Robinson
RCB Trevon Diggs Nahshon Wright C.J. Goodwin
NB Jourdan Lewis Maurice Canady Kyron Brown
SS Donovan Wilson Jayron Kearse Israel Mukuamu Stephen Parker
FS Damontae Kazee Darian Thompson Malik Hooker Tyler Coyle
SPECIAL TEAMS
POS First Second Third Fourth
K Greg Zuerlein Hunter Niswander
P Bryan Anger
LS Jake McQuaide

Notes/Observations from the initial depth chart:

Color by numbers: You’ll notice that almost all projected starters are marked in green, indicating that they are returning players from 2020. The three exceptions are rookie Micah Parsons at linebacker, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and free safety Damontae Kazee. All of this could obviously change as the preseason progresses, and could change during the season as well. But overall, most of last year’s (planned) starters are this year’s starters as well. How comfortable are you with that?

Hard cuts are coming: There are already 69 players listed on offense and defense in the First, Second, and Third column, and that excludes the three special teamers bound to make the roster. That probably means that very few, if any, of the players in the Fourth column will make the team, and that at least 19 players in the column marked “Third” still need to be cut. There will be some very hard cuts to be made this year.

Undrafted free agents: The Cowboys have traditionally been a team where UDFAs have done well. In early practices Osirus Mitchell generated some positive mentions, and other UDFAs may push for a spot over the coming weeks. For a team that already has to make some painful moves, signing extra UDFAs will result in more hard cuts somewhere else.

And what about all the 2021 draft picks? Micah Parsons is the only rookie penciled in as a starter, Matt Farniok (OC), Kelvin Joseph (LCB), and Nahshon Wright (RCB) are the only other draft picks showing up in the Second column. All others are ranked third or lower, but would the Cowboys really cut third-rounders Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Gholston? What about post-draft favorites Jabril Cox (4th round) or Quinton Bohanna (6th)? And can they really stash Josh Ball (4th), Simi Fehoko (5th), or Israel Mukuamu (6th) on the practice squad.

72 players in the first three columns, 53 open spots. Plus some draft picks that will make the team on pure draft pedigree. Plus possible a UDFA or two. Hard times are coming for many of the players marked in green and orange in the table above.