The Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL have gotten back to their facilities, and it's looking more likely that games will be played in 2020. The when and the how are still questions to be answered, but as the United States begins to open up, the biggest sport in North America will find a way to get its teams on the field.
Around the NFL world, many are making 55-man roster projections, and while in a sense it's accurate that teams can expand week-to-week to 55 players on the active roster, in reality, teams will still carry just 53 players on their active roster.
New rules will go into place in 2020 that will allow teams to promote two players from the practice squad each week to the active roster without having to make a corresponding release. This will enable them to grow from 53 to 55 men in a given week. If a player is promoted for a given week, once the new week starts on Tuesday during the regular season, the player reverts to the practice squad without having to pass through waivers as in years past. After the third promotion, the player then is forced to go through waivers before reverting to the practice squad, or the team has to release a player to keep them on the active roster.
So, for this exercise, we'll continue to look at the active roster as 53 players.
- Dak Prescott
- Andy Dalton
Dak Prescott's contract is going to get done. Everyone involved wants it to happen, and they want it to happen before the July 15th deadline for Prescott to sign his franchise tag.
With all due respect to Ben DiNucci, I don't see a reason for the Dallas Cowboys to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster moving forward. With Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton solidified as the top two options at the position, they're set. Now, had Cooper Rush been the primary backup heading into the season, I could see a scenario where they might have kept three, but now with two established veterans.
Running Back (3)
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Tony Pollard
- Jamize Olawale (FB)
Three running backs seems light on a 53-man roster, but with how little they use a fullback, it makes sense that they'd only go with three backs.
Ezekiel Elliott is going to see 350 touches or more. Tony Pollard is going to be more than a change of pace or backup option for the Dallas Cowboys in year two. Recently, I argued that Pollard could see a Ty Montgomery type usage under Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore.
While Jamize Olawale didn't get much run under the previous regime, there's a much better chance he sees enough playing time to warrant a roster spot. In 2019, Olawale only saw more than 11 offensive snaps in one game in 2019, and that was the week one opener when he saw 16. In John Kuhn's last season with the Packers under McCarthy in 2014, he saw 15 or more snaps six times. In 2013, Kuhn saw 15 or more snaps 11 times.
Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore will have a better vision for how to use Olawale in the offense.
Wide Receiver (6)
In recent years, the Dallas Cowboys have opted for six wide receivers on the 53-man roster. I don't foresee that changing much this season.
Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup both went over 1,100 yards in 2019 and averaged 15 yards per reception. The two of them combined with CeeDee Lamb will make for a fearsome threesome. Add in speedster Devin Smith and the Cowboys have a dynamic group of players that will put a ton of stress on opposing defenses.
Devin Smith, Noah Brown, and Cedrick Wilson will have to fend off, Ventrelle Bryant, Jon'vea Johnson, and Aaron Parker for the final two or three spots.
Tight End (3)
- Blake Jarwin
- Blake Bell
- Dalton Schultz
Sean McKeon and Cole Hikutini could upset the apple cart at tight end, but Blake Jarwin, Blake Bell, and Dalton Schultz have the inside track at the tight end position. It's Dalton Schultz that should be the most worried at this point. His spot is tenuous at best, with a new coaching staff in place.
Blake Jarwin will get an opportunity to show that his performance as the backup tight end in 2019 could translate to starter snaps in 2020.
Blake Bell brings playoff experience to the young tight end group. Though he's not the most dynamic player at the position, he can help the Cowboys in both the run and pass game.
Offensive Line (9)
- Tyron Smith, LT
- Connor Williams, LG (possible Swing Tackle)
- Joe Looney, C
- Zack Martin, RG
- La'el Collins, RT
- Connor McGovern, G/C
- Tyler Biadasz. C
- Brandon Knight. G/T
- Adam Redmond, C
The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of versatility on the offensive line. Connor Williams, Connor McGovern, and Joe Looney each provide some flexibility for the Cowboys. Even Brandon Knight can help the Dallas Cowboys at both guard and tackle.
The biggest question is who will start and left guard and center. However, veterans Connor Williams and Joe Looney have the inside track at their respective positions with the abbreviated offseason. Center Tyler Biadasz and guard Connor McGovern will be the biggest competition to Williams and Looney, but even if they don't win the job, their talent will be welcomed additions to the depth chart.
Brandon Knight looks like the leader in the clubhouse at this point to be the swing tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. He was solid in two games for the Cowboys and will look to improve.
Defensive Line (10)
- DeMarcus Lawrence, EDGE
- Gerald McCoy, DT
- Dontari Poe, NT
- Antwaun Woods, DT
- Neville Gallimore, DT
- Tyrone Crawford, DT/DE
- Trysten Hill, DT
- Randy Gregory, EDGE
- Aldon Smith, EDGE
- Bradlee Anae, EDGE
One of the strengths of the Dallas Cowboys in 2020 is going to be the depth they have along the defensive line. The interior is incredibly well fortified with the additions of Dontari Poe, Gerald McCoy, and Neville Gallimore.
While Antwaun Woods has been solid in his two seasons with the Cowboys, he's not been good enough to hold down the 1-technique defensive tackle spot. Now the Cowboys have another legit 1-technique in Poe for Woods to share time with.
The 3-technique additions of McCoy and Gallimore put a bit of a damper on the hopeful breakout of 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill. McCoy will start at the 3-technique spot, leaving Hill and Gallimore to battle it out for snaps in the defensive tackle rotation.
With Randy Gregory (presumably) and Aldon Smith reinstated, and the addition of Bradlee Anae in the draft, the Dallas Cowboys have some pretty impressive pass rush depth behind DeMarcus Lawrence.
Because new Special Teams Coordinator Jon Fassell prefers to use defensive players on special teams, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Cowboys go long at linebacker and defensive back.
In Mike Nolan's defense that wants to play in a multitude of fronts, having a versatile linebacker corp will help. Having players that can play both on the outside and inside in three or four linebacker formations will be huge for the defense. Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, and Joe Thomas each fit the bill.
Luke Gifford was having a promising preseason in 2020 before suffering an injury that held him out of the first five games of the season. He was relegated to special teams snaps and recorded six tackles in six games.
The Dallas Cowboys need bounce-back seasons from Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch in 2020. A defensive scheme that hopes to use size to occupy interior offensive linemen will help both Smith and Vander Esch more space to run free.
The Dallas Cowboys made a concerted effort to overhaul their cornerback group this offseason by adding four new faces to the cornerback room.
Gone, either by trade or as an outright release is Jourdan Lewis. Lewis has the talent to be a capable corner in the NFL, but in limited opportunities with the Cowboys has been up and down through the years. We remember the big plays, of course, but when called upon to play significant snaps in 2019, he struggled.
It's a contract year for Chidobe Awuzie, who needs a solid camp to hold off rookies Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson II in the starting lineup. Awuzie has often been hurt by perfect ball placement and incredible catches by opposing wide receivers. He's generally in the right place but has had a hard time getting his head around to play the ball with much consistency. The talent and athleticism are still there for him to put together a solid fourth year, and hopefully, a new coaching staff and scheme will allow him to shine.
Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson will have a shot to earn significant snaps out of the gate, though they'll have to unseat players with several years of NFL experience.
Speaking of Robinson, his ability to play on each of the special teams units will leave C.J. Goodwin expendable.
There's been talk of cornerbacks providing some depth at safety, and Awuzie, Robinson, and Daryl Worley could all see snaps there depending on how the cornerback group shakes out.
- Xavier Woods
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
- Darian Thompson
- Donovan Wilson
The safety group is pretty solid, if not spectacular.
Xavier Woods and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix provide versatility on the back end. Both players can play single high in cover-3, cover-2, and help in the box in run support. Woods likely sees most of the snaps as the box safety and his coverage skills will be used to take away tight ends.
One of my favorite players on the team, Donovan Wilson, may find himself with an opportunity to earn more playing time in 2020. Defensive Backs Coach Maurice Linguist knows Wilson from their time together at Texas A&M. To unseat Woods or Clinton-Dix, he'll have to put together another strong training camp and preseason (if there is one).
Special Teams (3)
The special teams battle will come down to Greg Zeurlein, signed in free agency, and Kai Forbath, who relieved Brett Maher last year and was a perfect 10 of 10. If Zeurlein is healthy, expect him to win the job out of training camp. However, if he's not Forbath is a reliable second option for the Cowboys to employ at placekicker.