We are squarely in the middle of roster decisions for the Dallas Cowboys as last week saw the team trim from 90 to 85 players, while next week will bring the final decisions as they construct their 53-man roster ahead of the regular season.
This middle part of the sandwich though did involve a trim as well. The Cowboys worked their way down to 80 players on Tuesday by moving on from Lirim Hajrullahu, Jaquarii Roberson, Quandre Mosely, Christian Sam, and Jeremy Sprinkle.
None of these moves are surprising, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t start to draw conclusions about the respective position groups and try to read into what the Cowboys may be thinking with less than a week to go until showtime.
Part of what makes the trim down from 85 to 80 players tricky is that there is still a preseason game to be played. This is difficult in that not only does the game literally have to be played, but it is also an opportunity to continue to evaluate players across the roster for whatever position battles are going on.
As people began to try and guess who Dallas might move on from, neither kicker was a common choice just because it seemed like the Cowboys might want to see a little bit more from both Lirim Hajrullahu and Brett Maher.
There was at one point just recently another kicker on the roster in Jonathan Garibay. He and Hajrullahu were the two kickers who Dallas took to camp and neither one of them made it through the preseason. Heck, Garibay didn’t even make it to the preseason.
We have no idea if the Cowboys are truly prepared to roll with Brett Maher through the regular season or if he just a placeholder until someone from another team is made available. General consensus is that things are stable at best here and it is difficult to argue against that idea.
Last week’s cuts saw the Cowboys say goodbye to wide receiver Ty Fryfogle. With only one preseason game left there are not exactly many receiver spots up for grabs, and to make matters more complicated the team is likely going to have to carry Michael Gallup (more on him in a bit) and James Washington initially. Simply put, there is not a lot of room for down-the-roster receivers right now.
Time will tell which receivers manage to scratch out roster spots for the Cowboys. Beyond the line in the sand that seems to exist past Noah Brown and Simi Fehoko, Dennis Houston has made his case. T.J. Vasher came on strong at the beginning of camp but he has sort of faded as time has gone on. Sometimes it is just about the numbers.
A similar thing can be said about Quandre Mosely and the cornerback room. There are just so many players that we are not even sure what the status is with both Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright. You can’t rest everybody in the preseason finale, and it stands to reason that both of the top 100 picks from a year ago will get their fair shot to impress on Friday night against the Seattle Seahawks. It sort of feels like the Cowboys didn’t feel like prolonging the inevitable here.
There are still 80 players on this team and that is a lot, but we can clearly see most of what will be the final roster if we squint hard enough. Unfortunately it didn’t include Mosely on it.
It was right before training camp when the Cowboys signed both Christian Sam and Malik Jefferson, and many wondered whether or not they were trying to hedge their Micah Parsons bet at linebacker to allow him to roam around more freely. Obviously Parsons is very special, but if he is rushing the passer and playing up on the line of scrimmage then that is one less linebacker in the heart of the defense.
While that logic made sense on paper it was disrupted when the team signed Anthony Barr early on in camp. Injuries are also a factor that change the calculus of roster construction and Dallas did give Sam an injury designation.
One of the calling cards of Jeremy’s Sprinkle game is supposed to be his ability to run block and that just hasn’t been there to this point. He is a veteran and someone who the Cowboys have trusted in the past, but his apparent regression combined with the emergence of not just Jake Ferguson, but also Peyton Hendershot, seemed to make him expendable.
The injury designation means that Sprinkle cannot play for the Cowboys this year so this news does seemingly bode well for the aforementioned Hendershot. We will see if he ultimately winds up making the 53-man roster but the odds appear to be in his favor at the moment. Tight end is going to be a rather young room.
Obviously the Cowboys did not cut Michael Gallup on Tuesday, but they did not do anything with him at all and that is notable.
Tuesday marked the first day in which NFL teams could have applied the Reserve/PUP designation to players, which would have cleared up a roster spot, but also confirmed that the player in question would miss the first four games of the season. In case you missed it, the Washington Commanders did this with defensive end Chase Young and he will miss the game at AT&T Stadium against the Cowboys in Week 4. It will mark his third missed game in a row against Dallas in his career, by the way.
Back to Gallup, though, the fact that the Cowboys did not place him on Reserve/PUP could be read as encouraging. Gallup himself has already noted that he will not play in the opener, but it is possible that Dallas thinks he will be ready by Week 2, 3, or 4 and therefore do not want to automatically wipe him out.
Of course, this could just be a case of the Cowboys wanting more time to think and being prepared to make the cuts that they did without worrying about the Gallup thing. This is simply a possibility and not necessarily the truth, but it is worth mentioning.