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4 players already on the Cowboys roster that the team is counting on to fill roles in 2022

While you swoon over your draft crushes, don’t forget that there are a lot of players already on the roster who can contribute this season.

NFL: Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys
Chauncey Golston has a chance to make some noise.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As you peruse the 412th mock draft this year to try and suss out who the Dallas Cowboys are going to have in their rookie class, don’t forget that the team already has the majority of the 2022 roster already on hand. We know most of the stars they will be depending on. We can probably name 20 or so of the starters already. But there are plenty of places where they really need some of the backup players to step up, either as rotational pieces or to challenge the projected incumbent. Here are four to keep an eye on once the team gets to training camp.

DE Chauncey Golston

Currently Dorance Armstrong is the presumptive starter on the right side of the defensive line, with Micah Parsons expected to also be mixed in at times. This is also a place where they should be looking to add a player during the first two days of the draft, possibly even to contend for the starting job. Chauncey Golston may be a long shot to get into that competition, but there is definitely a need for a good depth player, including someone who can spell DeMarcus Lawrence on the other end.

Golston was taken with the extra third-round pick they got last year in the trade back with Philadelphia in the first. With DeMarcus Lawrence missing ten games during the regular season and Randy Gregory out for five, Golston wound up on the field more than he might have otherwise and appeared in 15 of the 17 games. Still, he only saw the fourth most defensive plays among ends. He did have 32 tackles on the season, but only one sack and four QB hits, low numbers for even a rotational DE. His biggest splash of the season came on special teams, when he recovered a blocked punt against the now Washington Commanders for a touchdown.

Now he needs to show improvement after a second year in the offseason program and training camp. With Gregory lost, there is a clear opportunity for all the DEs, and he is young with a strong collegiate history. Let’s see what Dan Quinn can get out of this one.

RB JaQuan Hardy

A UDFA last year, Hardy was mostly used on special teams, only seeing the field on offense for eight snaps. But the Cowboys need a backup for Ezekiel Elliott, and that should not be Tony Pollard. Pollard is very talented but is much more valuable as a change of pace back. Hardy is closer to Elliott’s size and can be that banger the team needs if Elliott has to sit out a while. Elliott is accumulating the inevitable wear and tear that comes with his position. Last season he played most of the year hurt, and the lack of a backup the staff trusted may have hurt the team down the stretch. The team also may have a decision to make about how long Elliott is with them after this season. 2023 is the first year they can release him and gain cap space. While they may not pull the trigger immediately depending on how this season goes, it is not too early to begin working on a fallback plan.

If they can do that with a UDFA, it would warm the cockles of Stephen Jones’ cap loving heart. Hardy has to prove himself, and so far all we have are some tantalizing flashes from last year’s preseason and one long touchdown run during garbage time. He should get plenty of chances in preseason as Elliott will be kept on the sidelines for most if not all of those games. Hardy is a true long shot, but that means he has nothing to lose.

S Malik Hooker

He came to Dallas as a free agent last year on a one-year prove-it contract. He did enough to merit a new two-year deal that will pay him $7 million if he plays it out. Last year, Hooker joined Jayron Kearse and Damontae Kazee in giving the Cowboys the best safety group we have seen in years. With Kazee still an unsigned free agent, Hooker should be slated to be a major part of the secondary and is in contention for a starting role. We all know that Dallas is not likely to invest much in draft capital at the position, so there is not likely to be much of a challenge to him from that quarter.

LB Jabril Cox

If there is one name on this particular list that the staff is hoping will really step up, it is Cox. With Parsons expected to be used at least part time rushing the passer, and the occasional need to field three linebackers, Cox is badly needed. His rookie year was marred by missing much of the season due to injury, but he did get some a little experience early in the season. Now he will be pushing Leighton Vander Esch for playing time. And with Vander Esch only on a one-year deal himself, Cox may be the long-term bet at linebacker. He was a fourth-round pick, which in the modern NFL should be a sweet spot for a true off-ball LB. This is his opportunity to show that he was good value at his spot.