Although it is in the very preliminary stages, with the rookie minicamp the only practices that have been held, the Dallas Cowboys have started the long process of choosing their 53-man roster for 2022. While many players are locks, there look to be more spots that are less certain than in previous years. Part of the decision involves how to allocate the positions. At some point there must be tradeoffs between one position group and another.
Further, this can change week to week. Just to give an example, here is a comparison of how the initial 53 man roster at the end of training camp in 2021 evolved in a few weeks to the one shown for the team at Ourlads.com on the first of October.
2021 53 man Cowboys rosters
That is a lot of churn. Part of it was how the staff went light at both QB and RB coming out of camp. That necessitated some changes and they continued to a degree all season. However, with a very stable coaching staff, there should be some consistency from year to year. Still, things obviously change even in a matter of a couple of games.
It makes predicting how those precious roster slots will be used a bit dicey. Since everything is extremely uncertain at this date, let’s not let that stop us from taking a stab at things.
While we don’t know if the team will once again stash Ben DiNucci or perhaps a replacement for him on the practice squad, it does seem that the staff wants three on the game day roster every week. The only real question is if Will Grier will be able to hang onto the QB3 position, or be supplanted.
Running back: 4
Last year, the team did not carry a fullback. With the emphasis the team seems to have on revitalizing the running game this year, they will probably want to go a bit heavier here. They may go with a true FB like Nick Ralston, or perhaps use a player like Ryan Nall or JaQuan Hardy to fill that role on occasion. In any case, if they plan to run a lot, they need more depth than they carried early last season.
Wide receiver: 5
This is going to be hotly contested for all the spots behind CeeDee Lamb, although we know Jalen Tolbert will have a spot in this mix. Michael Gallup is anticipated to still be on PUP for the first few games, so they might expand this later in the year, but figure on sticking with five at least for the first few weeks of the season.
Tight end: 3
Just having two tight ends on the first of October was a bit of an aberration, as they carried three most of the time during the season. That should continue.
Offensive tackle: 4
Interior offensive line: 5
These are listed together, because there is not only a bit of trading between the two groups, but sometimes players can be considered depth in both categories. First-round pick Tyler Smith could well be one case if he develops the way the team hopes he does, starting at left guard but being something of an emergency backup for tackle.
That is 24 spots on offense, which means the defense should get 26, given that there will be three specialists unless the team does something really strange. One of those will be for C.J. Goodwin, the team’s special teams ace. Since he is nominally a cornerback, he boosts the defensive total. Even if he loses that job, someone else from the linebackers or secondary will be on the roster primarily for that role.
Defensive end: 5
It is tempting to put this at six, because just carrying five means one of Tarell Basham, Dante Fowler, and Chauncey Golston will wind up the odd man out. But the presence of Micah Parsons on the roster gives them a de facto sixth pass rusher, so this will probably be the way it shakes out.
Defensive tackle: 5
The long-term plan may be to give up one of these spots, but they will hedge their bets on rookie John Ridgeway, who may need a few weeks into the season to be a solid part of the rotation in the nose tackle role. When he is able to hold that down, they may release Quinton Bohanna and add another DE to the mix, or use it somewhere else. Just don’t expect that early.
Again, this is influenced by the unique dual role Parsons plays. They need depth here in case the team has to lean on him in the pass rusher job. Also, this is a prime position to beef up the special teams, so numbers are always good. The recent rumors about the team having some interest in Anthony Barr also could indicate they want to go a bit heavy here. While they started the year really heavy here, they went most of the way with six, so again that looks like the right number.
If they do drop a linebacker spot, it will probably go here. But to start the season, look for them to roll with six, given that Goodwin eats one of these spots.
This puts a lot of pressure on second-year player Israel Mukuamu, who has a group of UDFAs gunning for his job, as well as former UDFA Tyler Coyle. But even with Jayron Kearse playing more as a hybrid linebacker, this still seems like all they need to carry for the regular season.