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3 training camp battles that will determine who makes the roster and who gets cut

Three of these Cowboys players will make the 53-man roster, three will not.

NFL: AUG 21 Preseason - Texans at Cowboys Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In three months, the 53-man roster will be set. Before then, there will likely be injuries, signings, and training camp news that will add more clarity as to who will make the final roster.

But even three months away, there are already signs about the position battles that will matter. As of now, there are ninety players listed on the Dallas Cowboys depth chart. It is already clear that a few of these players will be fighting for the end of the roster. Listed below are three pairs of players who will likely not make the roster simultaneously. Thus making these camp battles that much more important.

Simi Fehoko vs. T.J. Vasher

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

Given the timeline of Michael Gallup’s injury, Dallas should carry a few extra receivers in the early weeks of the season. Players like CeeDee Lamb, Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, and to a lesser extent, Noah Brown and James Washington, should be safe to make the 53-man.

But they are likely not going to carry only five WRs, meaning that there will be a battle for the sixth spot. The candidates are Brandon Smith, Ty Fryfogle, Simi Fehoko, T.J. Vasher, and the other three undrafted free agent WRs they signed in 2022. But the battle seems to be between Fehoko and Vasher.

And these two players are somewhat similar. They both came onto the team in 2021. Both showed the ability to take the top off of defenses in college. Both are big-bodied receivers. And both, despite not being contributors in the 2021 regular season, still possess upside.

While Vasher was injured last season, Dallas still retained him as a rehab project. Now that he is presumably healthy for 2022, he will have to prove that he was worth keeping around. And as a similar athlete to Fehoko, this requires beating out the Cowboys' fifth-round pick from 2021.

We discussed this idea in greater detail on the latest episode of 1st and 10 on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

Fehoko came into the league as a better prospect than Vasher with a unique blend of speed, height, and weight. However, those measurables didn't convert to preseason success as he disappointed fans in these rehearsal games. While he played a total of 55 snaps last season, most of those came on special teams as he wasn't even targeted in the regular season.

So in 2022, this is the battle for the sixth WR. Can Fehoko live up to his draft expectations and shed the disappointing preseason performance of 2021? Or will Vasher come back from injury a better big-bodied receiver than Fehoko? Those two questions should determine the final WR spot.

Alec Lindstrom vs. Matt Farniok

NCAA Football: Colgate at Boston College Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

This one is somewhat obvious but still a camp battle worth noting. Dallas will not retain three centers on the 53-man roster. As Tyler Biadasz is a lock to make it, Farniok and Lindstrom are the two options to be the backup.

Farniok could make it as a guard. However, with Tyler Smith presumably shifting inside and Connor McGovern as the backup, he would have to prove that he is worth keeping as the fourth guard on the roster. His more likely option is to be retained as the backup center.

The Cowboys’ 2021 seventh-round pick received playing time last season. Playing both guard and center, he saw 23 snaps. He didn't allow a single sack, pressure, quarterback hit, or quarterback hurry. But with less than 25 snaps, it is still too early to make a judgment call on Farniok.

Lindstrom has an uphill battle to make the roster as an undrafted free agent. But he impressed at Boston College as a three-year starter, being a first-team All-ACC player his final two years. After the signing, there has been speculation he could even compete with Tyler Biadsz for the starting role.

There is a world where Farniok makes the roster as a guard and Lindstrom is the backup center. But the more likely outcome is that only one of these two players is on the 53-man, and the other is signed to the practice squad. Will the limited success of 2021 be enough for Farniok or is the upside of Lindstrom’s college production enough for him to earn the role?

Tarell Basham vs. Dante Fowler

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It would be unlikely that more than five defensive ends make the final roster. Especially with Demarcus Lawrence being the consistent left end, having more than four players rotating on the right side would be a misuse of resources.

Maybe the Cowboys decide to go incredibly deep at the defensive end and carry six. But last season, only six players received snaps at DE. And after week five, when Bradlee Anae was cut, five players composed the defensive end rotation for the rest of the season.

Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams, and Dallas’ third-round pick from 2021, Chauncey Golston, should be locked into the roster. That is four of the five that Dallas will presumably carry. The last spot will likely come down to Basham and Fowler. With both players carrying a dead cap hit of less than $1.3 million if cut, neither are safe.

Fowler and Basham saw similar playing time last season, with 508 and 627 snaps, respectively. Basham turned his opportunities into 36 pressures, four sacks, 25 quarterback hurries and a PFF run grade of 66.5. Fowler was similarly productive with 30 pressures, five sacks, 20 quarterback hurries and a PFF run grade of 63.4.

With both players making a comparable salary, contributing the same amount for their team last season, and their ages being less than a year apart, neither player has the presumed edge heading into camp. It will boil down to who impresses Dan Quinn more when working at the right defensive end position. Because unless Dallas carries six DEs, one will make it and the other will likely be out the door.

There is still a while to go before these decisions need to be made. A lot can change in the next few months that alter the landscape of these positional battles. But there already seem to be several competitions for the end of the roster.

These are the training camp and preseason headlines worth noting. While it is fun to hear that Ezekiel Elliott is already running at 22 mph, he will be the day one starter regardless. Instead, listen to how the coaches are describing these end-of-the-roster players. That will provide clarity about who gets to wear the star in 2022.