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2020 Dallas Cowboys 53-man Roster Projection

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.

Quarterback (2)

  • 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.

2020 Could be a Monster Year for Cowboys' RB Ezekiel Elliott
FOXBOROUGH, MA – NOVEMBER 24: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys walks through the tunnel before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2019, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

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)

  • Amari Cooper
  • Michael Gallup
  • CeeDee Lamb
  • Devin Smith
  • Noah Brown
  • Cedrick Wilson

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.

Could Connor Williams Be Option at Tight End for Cowboys? 1
Cowboys guard Connor Williams

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.

Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith
Dallas Cowboys LBs Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith

Linebacker (7)

  • Jaylon Smith
  • Leighton Vander Esch
  • Sean Lee
  • Joe Thomas
  • Luke Gifford
  • Justin March
  • Francis Bernard

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.

Cornerback (6)

  • Chidobe Awuzie
  • Trevon Diggs
  • Anthony Brown
  • Daryl Worley
  • Maurice Canady
  • Reggie Robinson II

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.

Safety (4)

  • 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)

  • Greg Zeurlein, K
  • Chris Jones, P
  • L.P. Ladouceur, LS

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.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

Comments

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  1. I agree with the majority of your roster, I just don’t see Redmond beating Erwin on the OL and Dorance Armstrong being left out.

  2. I agree with most of this except for two players. I completely disagree on Jourdan Lewis being released or cut. He may have missed some reads, but his talent alone and his age will keep him on the roster for at least one more year. I think Maurice Canady will be the odd man out. There is little guarantee money and he was picked up before the draft as the Cowboys didn’t think they would Diggs.

    I believe Dorance Armstrong will make the team. I think you went heavy on DT and Antwaun Woods will be the expendable player to fit in Armstrong. I could also see Tyrone Crawford being released due to salary cap, if there is another player they potentially trade for (e.g. Jamal Adams).

    • With all of the additions at Corner, I just don’t see them all that interested in playing Lewis. I could see a trade for a late round pick or a release. Love the guy, but he just hasn’t earned the chance here.

      • How can Lewis (who may have single-handedly won the 2018 NO game) not have “earned” a chance here, but Awuzie has? Simply by virtue of draft position? If that’s the case, how has Robinson “earned” anything. I’m fine with you thinking Lewis won’t make the team, but I have a hard time of your justification/reasoning of not having earned the chance?

      • I don’t understand how you can say Lewis hasn’t earned a job on this team!! That’s just crazy!! He’s the best corner on the team!! He’s been the best corner on this team for a long time now!! I even liked him better than Byron Jones!! And I really don’t understand how you can have Maurice Canady ranked better than him!! That’s just insane!! And there’s other stuff on here that’s terrible too, but the Canady over Lewis is the worst one I’ve seen!! Smh!!

  3. I don’t agree with any of it for one it’s 55 this year not 53 you some players specially from UDFA they pick up like WR Roger’s, WR Guidry, WR Parker,than Carter DE, Armstrong 92 DE Jackson 56, DE Westby CB 39,Kirk SS, Steele OT Garcia OT Erving OT Olonilua RB/FB,M’cKeon TE, QB Dinucci You be surprised

    • No it’s 53 players on the active roster. It expands to 55 on game day but those other two are players on the practice squad who are added just for the game then revert back to being on the practice squad afterwards.

    • It’s 53.

      Read the explanation at the top Mr. Wahl.

      Teams can expand to 55 by promoting two practice squad players each week. A practice squad player can be called up and then moved back to the practice squad twice before having to pass through waivers after a third call up. So the active roster week-to-week is still just 53. The expansion is allowed in the event of an injury so you aren’t having to release a player to replace the injured player.

  4. No mention of Erving (OT) at all? Did you just forget? Great article, but an edit seems to be in order here. Peace

  5. Lol. The fact that you left off Jordan Lewis off the whole depth chart speaks volumes.
    He’s easily #2 CB on the roster and I would argue better than chido. So what if he’s a couple inches shorter.
    But Diggs will become #1 eventually.

    • He’s not easily CB2 on the roster. He hasn’t found a way to get on the field consistently aside from injury. While I like the player, I just don’t see a path forward for him here. Apparently those couple inches matter.

  6. I totally agree on Jourdan Lewis he is not bad but wasn’t our best CB and is not better than Awuzie. One thing people need to get this multiple front thing out there mind McCarthy already said we will be a 4 man front no we will not run the Patriots scheme.

  7. IMO
    10 OL
    6 LB

    add Cam Erving at swing tackle
    move Francis Bernard to the practice squad.

    Otherwise – yeah.

  8. They said it on the article. He will be traded or released. But why? Mike Fisher said he was the Cowboys #1 as of right now. Makes no sense to trade your best asset. Or worse release him. Even with Lewis they are not a threat in the secondary. You need another vet at corner like Logan Ryan.

    • I really think people are overrating Jourdan Lewis. He’s a fine depth player, but he hasn’t been so much better than Anthony Brown or Chido.

      Logan Ryan is not the answer. No corner gave up more receptions in 2019, than Ryan did.

      • Quick, name a single person who has shown himself as any modicum of a “playmaker” on defense. Right … Lawrence and Lewis. And now you want to remove one from your team … a defense that already doesn’t make plays? It’s the Jimmy Johnson philosophy … keep the playmakers on the field, they make a difference.

  9. I just cant see Ervin, Armstrong, & Lewis not making the team. I think we will carry 11 dlineman and only 6 LB’s. Canady and Worley are long shots. 1 of them makes it but not both.

  10. Awuzie is a lousy bum trying to be an NFL starting cornerback. Getting beat for big plays all the time should get you released or traded without much thought. Maybe Garrett and the former coaches liked him, but I trust that this current staff will take a hard look at him and act accordingly.
    Jourdan Lewis is smaller, but appears to be smarter and plays the game harder. I’ll take a good little guy everyday, instead of a sorry big guy!!!

  11. Yes Erving, Armstrong, Joe Jacckson and Jourdan Lewis makes the team. What a about Jelks. I don’t want to lose him either. Could he make it to the pracrice squad again

  12. Good roster! I don’t understand keeping Trysten Hill over Dorance Armstrong and getting rid of Jordan Lewis who is arguably the best corner on the team.

  13. I’m still not sold on Poe as a stalwart and definitive part of this final roster. If I recall, his contract isn’t going to guarantee him making it (but maybe I’m wrong?). If Gallimore flashes, Hill improves, and both Gregory and Smith earn spots … now it could come down to Poe and a healthy Crawford. I get that he’s beefy, but watch Poe and McCoy play together at Carolina last year, and I think you’ll come away unimpressed.

  14. Don’t forget the name Westry! ” Big sleeper”! This team makes it off their defense. The ” O”; is going to be off the charts! Lewis makes this team. Brown is already hurt! Lol. The odd man out is Crawford! Joe Jack, Jelks, Carter! Will see time on Field!

  15. The Best Dallas cowboys could Do is just sing Dakota Prescott to A one year contract Then search in the Draft for another Quarterback or Make some kind of Deal with Patrick Mchome In 2021 Because Dek Prescott will Neaver Get The Cowboys to A Super bowl win

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