The Dallas Cowboys are in store for a long few days as they trim their roster down the league-mandated 53 players. Come Tuesday afternoon they will have made their initial “final” decisions with a few final touches to follow.
Obviously the Cowboys did not touch down in Oxnard for training camp with 53 spots on the roster totally and freely available. Every year a large majority of spots are taken up at camp’s beginning, but there is the occasional surprise or two.
We have been discussing plenty of angles as far as the pending Cowboys roster is concerned, and for the purposes of this conversation we are talking about players who have locked up a spot and should no longer be in contention. To be clear here, we are talking about players who were somewhat on the fringe when camp and the preseason began, not the certainties like Dak Prescott or CeeDee Lamb as examples.
When the Cowboys drafted DaRon Bland out of Fresno State, nobody really knew what to think. He seemed like a project pick at best with the Cowboys being relatively “deep” at cornerback. Bland started off behind Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and more specifically Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright.
Camp and the preseason have been kind to Bland though, or rather he has worked his tail off throughout this entire process. Poor play from both of last year’s top 100 cornerback picks by Dallas opened the door that Bland had absolutely no issue barging through.
Bland sewed up his spot a few weeks ago, but he continued to tighten his hold on the team’s fourth cornerback position with a great game against the Seattle Seahawks on Friday night.
Similar to Bland, it felt like Israel Mukuamu was starting off camp behind the proverbial eight ball. There is an argument to be made that he has had the best preseason of any player on the Cowboys roster. In any other year we would likely be talking about Mukuamu as a would-be starter for this team. Complicating matters immediately is the groin injury that he suffered, but despite that this team is somewhat deep at the safety position. Yes. Seriously.
Donovan Wilson may be entering a contract year but the Cowboys have top options in Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker. That doesn’t even mention this year’s UDFA steal in Markquese Bell, so again the math didn’t seem to benefit Mukuamu.
None of that held him back. He finished the preseason with interceptions in the final two games and had tremendous coverage throughout playing both as a safety and at nickel corner. We know that the Cowboys love position flexibility and he has made himself impossible to remove from the roster.
In a similar vein to Markquese Bell, it felt like Peyton Hendershot had a big chance at making this roster despite being an undrafted free agent. The door opened wider for Hendershot to stake his claim within the tight end room after the Cowboys gave veteran Jeremy Sprinkle an injury designation a few days before Friday’s game against the Seahawks, but Hendershot took full advantage of his opportunities with an impressive touchdown late in the game.
Obviously the future of this team’s tight end position is a bit in flux with Dalton Schultz playing this season on the franchise tag. Fellow rookie and fourth-round pick, Jake Ferguson, has also looked stellar throughout the preseason which makes the future of this position group exciting overall. But that future certainly includes Peyton Hendershot.
Maybe you don’t feel like this was ever truly in doubt, but Cooper Rush certainly put the backup quarterback position up for debate with the way he played against the Denver Broncos.
We have spoken before about how casually the Cowboys tend to treat QB2 so returning Cooper Rush for 2022 is a pretty chalk move for them, especially when you remember that he led the team to victory against the Minnesota Vikings last year.
This always felt like Cooper’s job to lose, and while he almost succeeded in that endeavor, Will Grier just never fully took advantage of the opportunity to supplant him. Dallas seemingly showed their cards here by barely playing Cooper against the Seahawks, an indication that they have made up their mind on who will be backing up Dak Prescott this season.
Ears perked as soon as the 2022 NFL Draft was over when Cowboys brass mentioned that they would be having Matt Farniok play center for them moving forward. Similar to Rush, it isn’t exactly like his position on the roster was in tremendous jeopardy, but his safety became more fortified in the aftermath of the Tyron Smith injury.
With the Cowboys expected to kick Tyler Smith out to left tackle, the resulting moves would be Connor McGovern starting full time at left guard which means that Dallas needs a new number one for interior depth. Enter Matt Farniok.
In a world where Tyron Smith is healthy maybe the Cowboys consider moving on from Farniok because Tyler Smith is at left guard and Connor McGovern is their interior depth. That is an impossibility now.