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Next man up: Examining the Cowboys top bench player at each position

NFL teams have to have a strong bench to survive a long season of attrition, so just how good are the Cowboys reserves?

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The 2023 version of the Dallas Cowboys will be one of the deeper teams we’ve seen in a long while. They are front-loaded with talent but also contain quite a bit of depth across the board. Sure, some positions are in much better shape than others, but collectively they have a very talented roster. The sky is the limit for these guys.

To get a better feel for this depth, we’ve decided to look at the best reserve player at each position to see where they are strong and where things could get a little dicey. The choices for starters and top bench players are subjective in some cases and were made by the author. We welcome any different opinions in the comments.


Starters: Dak Prescott

Next man up: Cooper Rush

This is rather straightforward. The veteran Rush exceeded everyone’s expectations when he helped the Cowboys go 4-1 in Prescott’s absence last year. There is nothing flashy about how he plays, but he does what you hope for in a backup quarterback and that’s giving his team a fighting chance.


Starters: Tony Pollard

Next man up: Malik Davis

This one is still up for grabs as new additions Ronald Jones and Deuce Vaughn have opportunities to earn a role on this team. With no Ezekiel Elliott around anymore, Pollard will inherit the lead-dog role, but he’s going to need some help to share the workload and keep those legs fresh. The incumbent Davis could be the back who surprises people this season.


Starters: LT Tyron Smith, LG Tyler Smith, OC Tyler Biadasz, RG Zack Martin, RT Terence Steele

Next man up: Matt Farniok

This one is so difficult to predict as it’s not even clear who the starting left guard will be or who’s healthy and who’s not when the season begins. We’re going to lay up short and play it safe and go with Farniok as OL6 as we know the coaches like him and he’s the backup who has the most experience with the team. The flexibility of Tyler Smith means that Smith could again slide outside to tackle if Tyron or Terence gets hurt (like he did last year) if their next best OL is a guard. However, tackles like Matt Walezko, Asim Richards, and Chuma Odoga also have a shot to be the next man up.


Starters: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker

Next man up: Peyton Hendershot

Last year’s UDFA surprise helped the Cowboys secure a reliable three-headed monster tight end group along with Ferguson and the recently departed Dalton Schultz. Not much should change this year except that instead of Schultz the team will have the rookie Schoonmaker in his place. Hendershot had a great rookie campaign, so don’t expect him to just lie down and settle in a backup role as there should be some real competition at tight end this season.


Starters: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup

Next man up: Jalen Tolbert

Fingers are crossed that Tolbert takes a big step forward this season after a disappointing rookie year. With another year of camp and some additional veteran mentorship, the table is set for a better showing in 2023. However, the talent of the big three won’t present many opportunities barring injury, so he’ll need to make the most out of any chance he gets. Third-year receiver Simi Fehoko could also be in play as a possible WR4 as well as some UDFA pet cat like say, Jalen Moreno-Cropper.


Starters: Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence

Next man up: Sam Williams

The Cowboys are super deep and Dan Quinn will employ an assortment of pass rushers along the edge. This spot belonged to Dorance Armstrong last year with Dante Fowler right behind him and it could very well go in that direction again this year. However, we are banking on an uptick in playing time for last year’s second-round pick Sam Williams as his splash plays last year are just the tip of the iceberg.


Starters: Osa Odighizuwa, Mazi Smith

Next man up: Johnathan Hankins, Junior Fehoko

We are listing two players here as the next man up depends on whether it’s the 3-tech or nose tackle spot. The rookie Smith and veteran Hankins should give the team a nice battle for playing time at the nose spot as both are fun options. Odighizuwa is the clear starter at the 3-tech spot with other reps coming from a couple of tweener options starting with third-year player Chauncey Golston and rookie Villiami Fehoko. The high character/relentless pursuit of the rookie makes him our top choice of backup behind Odighizuwa.


Starters: Leighton Vander Esch, Damone Clark

Next man up: DeMarvion Overshown

This will be a fun group to watch in training camp as big things are expected from both Clark and Overshown. The team has been fortunate enough to see LVE hold up well these past two seasons, but we know how quickly that could change. Some might still be holding their breath that former LSU star Jabril Cox turns a corner and the team likes last year’s late-round pick, Devin Harper. Depending on the health of the veteran and the play of the youngsters, this could be anything from a position of strength to a liability for the Cowboys' defense.


Starters: Trevon Diggs, Stephon Gilmore, DaRon Bland (slot)

Next man up: Eric Scott Jr.

This will be one of the most difficult groups to predict as there are so many uncertainties with the depth guys. Some might be wondering why Jourdan Lewis isn’t the next man up. The inside/out flex of second-year corner DaRon Bland means Lewis could move into the slot regardless of who gets hurt. However, some also wonder if the front office can justify his $4.5 million base salary for a player who is best case a CB4. Other candidates could make Lewis a cap casualty and one of them is the rookie Eric Scott Jr. While it might seem optimistic to put that kind of faith in a late-round rookie, the Cowboys have a good track record when it comes to trading up in Day 3 of the draft. They’ve done this before with players like Xavier Woods and Tyler Biadasz, both of which turned into reliable starters. If the Cowboys are that excited about a certain player, then so am I.


Starters: Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson

Next man up: Israel Mukuamu

We are listing three safeties here because the Cowboys employ a lot of three-safety looks. Plus, all these guys are quality starters. The corner/safety hybrid Israel Mukuamu is their next-best guy and showed some promise as a slot defender against Chris Godwin in the playoffs last year. Overall, the Cowboys have six really good defensive backs with a couple of young prospects with potential. That’s a good spot to be in.

Who do you think is the team’s top bench player? And which “next man up” gives you the most anxiety?

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