We now have the initial 53 man roster for the Dallas Cowboys! It’s the regular season, and a bunch of questions have now been answered. However, there will be changes before the season opening game on SNF at the New York Giants. But the bulk of these names are now set. There are some interesting things here. I was one of the horde of writers who took a shot at a 53-man projection after the final preseason game, and as usual for those exercises, some things were right, some wrong, and one move no one saw coming at all. Here’s a look at how I did, and some other things to mull over.
Nailing the offensive skill positions
I was right on the numbers and names for all sixteen of these players. This didn’t seem hard to figure out, but there was disagreement among some more experienced and knowledgeable people.
The name that stands out here is Hunter Luepke making the team. The game against the Las Vegas Raiders really tipped the team’s hand for me. They unleashed Luepke in an H-back role, and he excelled. I’m a little surprised they put that out there for the rest of the league to see, but it’s possible they needed a bit of proof of concept before making the final call.
This is one of those cases where I saw something from the very beginning in a player, and the staff saw it the same way. Luepke was easily my favorite UDFA signing, and I have been rooting for him to make the cut ever since. I certainly hope he isn’t part of the roster gymnastics the team is going to use to manipulate things to get to the season opening roster. If he can bring some of the same things he did to the final preseason game, he is going to be fun to watch.
There is a potential fly in this particular ointment, however. That is the suspension of Ronald Jones. He will be eligible to join the team in Week 3, but he may be released. There might not be room for him on the practice squad, either, as Malik Davis seems headed there ahead of him.
Luepke’s retention made the TE room easy to figure out, as it always looked like a choice between that group and the RBs as to which would carry four, with the other only having three.
There was also some debate about how many WRs the team would carry. It was pretty obvious who the top five were for at least a couple of weeks now, but would Mike McCarthy want to have six for depth? That seems to be the plan. The last spot came down to Jalen Brooks or Simi Fehoko, and Brooks seemed to have a better camp and preseason.
The QBs were a no-brainer after the Trey Lance trade.
The offensive line look light, plus there is a move coming
I was not very accurate on my projection here. I got the starting five right, plus had both Asim Richards and T.J. Bass making the team. But I also had Brock Hoffman and Matt Farniok making the squad, and both have been waived.
Reports have Chuma Edoga as a temporary release with plans to bring him back in the next few days. And Matt Waletzko is also reported to be headed to IR. Edoga is the logical way to replace him.
Eight OL still seems too few, especially without a clear backup for center Tyler Biadasz. This could well be something the team intends to address from outside the organization. It would mean bumping someone else, but there are some easy possibilities to spot for who takes the fall.
Initial allocation between offense and defense
This first draft of the roster has 24 offensive and 27 defensive players, continuing a trend since Dan Quinn became the defensive coordinator. Long-snapper Trent Sieg was released in what has to be a temporary move, which gave the team 51 slots to fill. That obviously will change at some point, although they could use the PS gameday call up rule to buy some time. That can be done three times before they would have to bring Sieg back full time. Given that the team may well be looking to add something on the offensive line and could also be looking to get to a balanced 25 each on offense and defense, the most likely cut when Sieg is fully elevated would seem to be from the defense.
The defense has an hourglass figure
This first roster has eleven defensive linemen and twelve in the secondary, with only four linebackers. One move I didn’t see coming was moving Markquese Bell to linebacker, allowing the team to waive Jabril Cox. Bell earned the opportunity with a great camp.
Two players I missed on were Dante Fowler and Neville Gallimore. I thought both veterans would be released. Fowler makes a ton of sense. Gallimore is a bit more puzzling, as he was coming off a lackluster 2022 and didn’t particularly stand out, but I’ll trust the staff on the call. I was right about them keeping Viliami Fehoko, I just missed that he was being considered a DT rather than a DE.
I will say that three letters keep coming to mind when I look at the defensive line: LFG!
The secondary can’t stay this big
It is also reported that Nahshon Wright might be headed for IR as well. The reason they are carrying him and Waletzko on the 53 at the moment is that putting them on IR now means they can be reactivated, unlike DeMarvion Overshown and John Stephens, who both have to miss the entire season by being put on IR before the cutdown. That is one defensive back slot that will open up, and it could be for Sieg or special teams ace C.J. Goodwin to rejoin the roster.
Kudos to Juanyeh Thomas for playing his way onto the roster. He was a standout from the beginning of camp and I certainly hope he is not a short-timer.
One thing no one apparently saw coming was the last-minute trade, sending Kelvin Joseph to the Miami Dolphins for another cornerback, Noah Igbinoghene. It seems puzzling at first, as neither has exactly been successful so far. But some think Igbinoghene may be a better fit for Dan Quinn’s scheme. We will see.
Also, if they do need to waive or release someone to make room for someone like Sieg or Goodwin, Igbinoghene or Eric Wright might be the one on the chopping block.
I did get all twelve of the names on my projection right in the secondary, but Bell was an unintentional hit with the move to LB. I did not expect Jourdan Lewis to be ready to go. Still, I thought he would be back at some point. Just not so soon. Joseph was the glaring error.
Rolling the dice with the kicker
We kept waiting and waiting for the team to bring in competition for Brandon Aubrey. It never happened, and it would be surprising for them to do so before the first game. His two kicks against the Raiders seem to have confirmed their decision, with one made 59-yarder after narrowly missing his first try from the same distance. Here’s hoping the inexperienced kicker thrives!