Cowboys first depth chart … Tyler Smith is the No. 1 left tackle. Of course Michael Gallup listed as starter at moment too and he’s not playing this week. pic.twitter.com/NUJXxFnjgG— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) September 6, 2022
The operative term here is “unofficial.” Still, this gives us some interesting things to chew on, since it should reflect the thinking of the staff. Here are some that stand out.
Quinton Bohanna as the starter over Neville Gallimore
This one is not about who is the best player. It is almost certainly a reflection of how the two players will be used based on down and distance. Bohanna is a big, run-stopping 1-tech. Expect him to see a lot of first downs when the other team is most likely to hand the ball off. Gallimore will be the preferred option on passing downs, and over the course of a game will probably see more snaps than Bohanna. We know Dan Quinn loves to rotate his linemen. This is just one more way he can use that to good effect.
Three starting safeties
We have known for a long time that the nickel (four linemen, two LBS, and five DBs) was the real base defense for the Cowboys, but what does it mean that the depth chart now shows not only three starting corners but also three starting safeties? I think it just means we are going to see a lot of mixing it up from Quinn, including what is called a dime package. We could see them rolling out six DBs and using one or more in a linebacking role, as they did with Jayron Kearse so well last season. Mostly, this makes it really hard on the quarterback to read his keys, because the personnel in front of him doesn’t fit much of anything he is prepared for. We already have Micah Parsons to confound offenses. Perhaps they could go with just three down linemen and bring Parsons off the edge, and then blitz someone else. We have to see if this carries through the season, but the possibilities are certainly intriguing.
KaVontae Turpin ahead of Dennis Houston
Michael Gallup is obviously going to be inactive for one and probably at least two games. That still leaves six wide receivers on the roster to handle on Sunday. They are going to have a hard time getting targets for all of them when you also factor in tight ends and running backs. It looks like Houston is at the end of the pecking order, despite having been a bit of a darling all camp. But it also makes a lot of sense to have Turpin a step above him, because they have to make Turpin active so he can return kicks and punts. If they only keep five receivers active, which was often the case in the past, Houston would be the odd man out. That is not a knock on him, and if one of the receivers ahead of him stumbles, he will get his chances as the season progresses.
That offensive line still looks nerve wracking
Until Jason Peters is ready to go, the team has to rely on Matt Waletzko and Josh Ball as backups. With Ball showing more competency on the right side than the left and Waletzko missing so much of camp, they have little choice. Meanwhile, Matt Farniok is the only depth they have for the interior of the line short of moving pieces around to get Tyler Smith back at left guard. In the past, the team has often gone with only two backup linemen on gameday. and they might keep Waletzko active.
Predicting week 1 inactives
In order to make things work with the way they are handling QB2 and kicker by calling Cooper Rush and Brett Maher up from the practice squad, there will have to be seven inactives for the first game. Here is my prediction:
Michael Gallup - The obvious one.
Josh Ball - As mentioned, they keep Waletzko. Left tackle is more important to have to be ready to cover. They could keep both of the two active, but it is hard to figure out who else they make inactive.
Dennis Houston - Again, they have to keep Turpin active.
John Ridgeway - There is really only room for one true NT the way Quinn uses his linemen, so the rookie gets to stay on the sidelines.
Chauncey Golston - It is likely down to him or Sam Williams, and they will want to get the second-round pick on the field.
Nahshon Wright - This is purely a performance based call. DaRon Bland outplayed Wright in the preseason. There is always a chance they go with seniority here, but that would not be the wise move.
Markquese Bell - The last one was the hardest. Luke Gifford might seem like a more obvious choice, but they might see more value in his special teams contributions. Bell also represents little investment as a UDFA, and it shouldn’t, but they do let that shade their decisions at times.
Outside of Gallup, there are no certainties here. Part of the issue is just how much to read into that depth chart. The actual inactives this weekend will also inform us as to just how real it is.