We are just over 24 hours from when all 32 NFL teams will have to reduce their roster down to 53 players. That means a lot of tough decisions across the league, including some spots coming down to the wire for the Dallas Cowboys.
Being the prognosticators we are here at BTB, my colleagues and I have each assembled our own 53-man roster predictions. Before we begin, we must first explain that these are our predictions on what we believe the Cowboys front office will do, not necessarily what we ourselves would do if we were running the circus. Additionally, we are also not including all the roster tricks where players are temporarily released to free up a spot for an eventual injury designate, only to return shortly thereafter. The names below are the players we expect the team to roll with come Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dennis Houston, John Ridgeway, and Peyton Hendershot have all been fan favorites at some point during camp, but as good as they’ve looked, I don’t have these lower-cost investments making the team. And I feel their chances of making the practice squad are probably better than some realize.
For Houston, the WR group is just too crowded and he doesn’t offer anything to warrant making the active roster. Hendershot has flashed here and there, but he’s still too raw. And while Ridgeway cost the team a draft pick, he hasn’t shown enough to earn a spot.
My biggest snub is leaving off Nahshon Wright, but he’s just been so bad and despite going against conventional wisdom, I can’t muster myself to put him on my list. Instead, I gave my last spot to special teamer and seventh-round rookie Devin Harper as I go a little long at linebacker.
Let’s just address the elephant in the room here, which is my prediction of cutting Leighton Vander Esch and only going four deep at linebacker. Simply put, Vander Esch doesn’t offer the versatility of the other three LBs included, and the Cowboys know that both Jayron Kearse and Markquese Bell can play in the box as a de facto linebacker as well. I also fully expect this move to be done with the intent of getting Vander Esch on the practice squad, since teams can carry up to six veterans on it now, which means Vander Esch really isn’t going anywhere but just won’t be as high a priority as guys like Parsons, Cox, and Barr will be.
Ultimately, putting together any 53-man roster is a challenge for any team but it feels like it’s more challenging this year for the Dallas Cowboys. A season where the holes are glaring and some positions are so deep means they are bound to lose quality players. It’s not absurd to think the Cowboys may look to move players to improve their weaker spots like the offensive line or wide receiver room. Could a guy like Trysten Hill be on the move in the next few days? It remains to be seen.
The hardest decision I made was to not have Dennis Houston on the roster. I think there is a chance I could be wrong about this one as he is a favorite of Dak Prescott’s, however, looking at the wide receiver room it was tough for me to justify removing anyone else to fit him on there. Could the Cowboys carry seven receivers? There look to be more questions than answers at this time.
I went long at cornerback thinking the Cowboys would hold on to both of the younger cornerbacks as they will look to continue their development. DaRon Bland looks to have solidified the fourth cornerback spot, but I don’t see the Cowboys quitting on Kelvin Joseph’s potential, or removing Nahshon Wright’s special teams ability as he looks for more consistency as a cornerback
For me, it was not about ranking the players within position groups that I found challenging. As most years, it was about how many of each to have on the team. Where to go deep? Where will the team be content with being light? The hardest ones in my mind were RB and TE because they seem to have more NFL-caliber players than they can all get on the 53.
I feel like they have no choice but to go with an extra OL, and deep at WR. On defense, the linebacker position got shorted on my projection because of the way they use multiple players, and that let me add a defensive lineman and a DB. Now I will find out how close I got. Probably not very.
This feels like one of the easier years to put together a final 53. I struggled to leave John Ridgeway off, but sometimes that’s just the way that things tend to go. I wouldn’t be stunned if one of Kelvin Joseph or Nahshon Wright doesn’t make it but can understand how some feel it is too early to say goodbye to either of them. Doing this exercise highlights how poor the depth is along the offensive line so hopefully, the team addresses that soon.
You can watch our discussion of the roster and our thought process behind our decisions in a special BTB Roundtable on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel.