The first week of training camp has come and gone for the Cowboys, with the biggest storylines being contract-related. Position battles haven’t quite heated up just yet, but there was enough in the first week to potentially impact where certain players stand in their quest for a roster spot. With that in mind, let’s take another stab at predicting a final 53-man roster.
The Cowboys only have three quarterbacks on their roster for training camp, a likely sign that they’ll stay with those three on the full roster. This offseason, the NFL instituted an emergency quarterback rule that makes it advantageous to have three quarterbacks on the roster, as opposed to just calling one up from the practice squad every week.
Perhaps nobody celebrated the rule more than Will Grier, who now looks to be in a good spot to make the roster. He’ll still put up a fierce competition with Cooper Rush for the right to back up Dak Prescott in the regular season, but the pressure isn’t quite as high now.
Running back (4)
Tony Pollard is going to be the top dog in this running back rotation, and the first week of camp put to rest any worries about his health after suffering a high ankle sprain and fractured fibula in the playoffs last year.
Behind him, though, will be a committee approach. Malik Davis and Deuce Vaughn both have the burst to function as valuable change-of-pace backs for Pollard, and Davis showed last year he can be a frequent contributor on special teams.
Hunter Luepke makes the roster, and effectively votes Ronald Jones off the island, because of his ability as a short-yardage back who can pass protect. He also has plenty of experience doubling as a lead-blocking fullback, as well as playing tight end (more on that in a moment). When it comes to these numbers crunching moments, players like Luepke tend to win out if they have enough positional versatility.
Wide receiver (6)
We know the starting receivers already; CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks have looked the part, and more, in camp so far. And Michael Gallup has looked to be back to full health with another year removed from his ACL injury.
This really comes down to the race for the WR4 spot. After the first week of training camp, Jalen Tolbert is in pole position there. The second-year pro has turned plenty of heads so far, looking noticeably more comfortable out there.
Simi Fehoko was the unfortunate star of a video where the ball bounced off his hands and was intercepted. That’s never good, especially coming off a season where those types of plays happened all too often. Other than that, Fehoko has looked solid, but he’ll need to rebound to surpass Tolbert in the race for WR4, as well as to avoid any challenges from the likes of Jalen Moreno-Cropper, David Durden, or Dennis Houston.
KaVontae Turpin is a shoo-in here too, even though he’s primarily a return specialist. It remains to be seen how much work he’ll get at receiver, but Turpin doesn’t appear to be in danger of losing a roster spot any time soon.
Tight end (3)
Operating under the assumption that rookie Luke Schoonmaker is activated from the NFI list before cuts, these three are likely to be the guys at tight end. Jake Ferguson is in perfect position to win the starting job, though Schoonmaker will likely get thrown into the mix as soon as he’s cleared. Peyton Hendershot reclaims his TE3 role, for which he’s perfectly suited.
Sean McKeon gets the bump here, though he’s likely to be a prime practice squad candidate that will be called up a handful of times. As mentioned above, Luepke’s ability to pitch in at tight end - he lined up there on at least a third of his snaps each of the last two years in college - makes him a bit more valuable; in this scenario, the Cowboys effectively get two players (Jones and McKeon) for the price of one (Luepke), allowing them to go deeper elsewhere.
Offensive line (9)
Terence Steele’s positive developments in his recovery from a torn ACL has given us a clearer picture of the starting offensive line for this year. All that’s left now is getting Zack Martin’s contract situation figured out.
The question, though, comes down to depth. What happens if/when Tyron Smith goes down? Or any number of other possibilities? It appears, for the moment, that Chuma Edoga is the top guy at both left tackle and left guard, with Matt Farniok the top backup for center and right guard, while Matt Waletzko is seeing plenty of reps at right tackle.
Josh Ball is also getting a lot of work at right guard, moving inside from tackle this year, with Martin’s absence. He has a lot of ground to make up, though, and Dallas may opt to go with rookie Asim Richards in the final spot just due to his potential and youth.
Dorance Armstrong Jr.
There really aren’t many surprises here. Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence will be the top two edge rushers, and the biggest question is how Dan Quinn divvies up snaps for the trio of Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler, and Sam Williams, all of whom flashed brilliance at various points last year.
Interior defensive line (5)
Johnathan Hankins and rookie Mazi Smith figure to carve out roles as the Cowboys’ top two run stuffers, while Osa Odighizuwa is looking to build off a strong finish to last season. Chauncey Golston and rookie Viliami Fehoko profile as two versatile players who can line up outside or inside, something Quinn has prioritized since getting to Dallas.
That means both Neville Gallimore and Quinton Bohanna will be cut. Gallimore was starting to show something a couple years ago, but hasn’t been able to manifest the flashes into anything consistent. Meanwhile, Bohanna has been solid on early downs but the team hasn’t really trusted him to hold a bigger role. The presence of both Smith and Hankins seems to be a bad sign for Bohanna.
Leighton Vander Esch
Nobody in their right mind would even consider cutting Leighton Vander Esch, but the question of who starts alongside him is one of the more interesting storylines to watch in camp. Damone Clark has flashed the most in this first week, and appears to be the frontrunner for that second linebacker spot.
Jabril Cox is hoping to regain his form that once made fans so excited about his addition in the draft, but rookie DeMarvion Overshown has gotten off to a blazing start in camp thus far. The Cowboys seem to envision Overshown mostly playing on special teams as a rookie - a role Devin Harper is likely to lock down as well - but he could surpass Cox in the pecking order if he keeps it up.
Eric Scott Jr.
Just like the receiving corps, we know the starters here. Trevon Diggs just got locked up for the next five years, and Stephon Gilmore will be locking down the field on the opposite side. DaRon Bland is in great position to become the full-time starter in the slot with Jourdan Lewis on the PUP list.
Behind those three, though, it’s a tight race. Nahshon Wright and rookie Eric Scott Jr., the first two defenders to pick off a pass in camp, are off to strong starts and in the best position to beat out Kelvin Joseph and others. The Cowboys may decide to only go five deep here with the knowledge that safety Israel Mukuamu can provide depth as a slot corner now.
The bigger question is who will get bumped when Lewis does return from the PUP list. For now, the assumption is he’ll begin the season there, but Dallas will want to get him back at some point. How they free up a roster spot for him will be something to watch as the season progresses.
The first day of camp brought a couple of injury scares here for both Donovan Wilson and Mukuamu, but neither appears to be serious. Wilson may get covered in bubble wrap for the rest of camp, but nobody was questioning his value anyway after signing a three-year extension in the summer.
Quinn has gotten a lot of production out of his starting trio of Wilson, Jayron Kearse, and Malik Hooker. Mukuamu and Markquese Bell offered quality depth last year and figure to hold those same roles again in 2023.
K Brandon Aubrey
P Bryan Anger
LS Trent Sieg
Bryan Anger is a known commodity at punter by now, and Trent Sieg has no challengers at the long snapper spot. But kicker is once again a question mark, with former USFL kicker Brandon Aubrey currently the frontrunner for the job. However, Jonathan Garibay debuted last year’s training camp in the same boat. We’ll give Aubrey the nod for now, but nothing is safe.
Of note: C.J. Goodwin becomes a cut in this projection, with Nahshon Wright filling his role as the special teams ace. Goodwin is the second oldest player on the roster right now, and Dallas opts for youth here after watching Wright put up quality reps in a primary special teams role last year.