While the Dallas Cowboys retained most of their talent from the 2017 roster, not all those players are guaranteed to make this year's team. Today, we're going to look at five returning guys who might not make it past final cuts.
This premise comes from a comment made by Executive Vice President Stephen Jones. According to an article from the Star-Telegram, Jones said that the talent level in 2018 was higher and that about five players who could have made last year's team wouldn't get on the 53-man roster this season.
It's not hard to see why. While the Cowboys had a few high-profile departures with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Anthony Hitchens, and Orlando Scandrick, they also added several veteran free agents and whole new draft class. There is also the development of players from last year's practice squad, such as Receiver Lance Lenoir or Tight End Rico Gathers.
I thought I would build on Stephen's comment today and actually look at five players from 2017 who will have a hard time making this year's squad.
This first one won't be much of a surprise.
Chaz Green, OT
Throughout history, only General Sherman caused more damage in Atlanta than Offensive Tackle Chaz Green. Last year, playing relief duty for an injured Tyron Smith, Green gave up a bevy of sacks to Adrian Clayborn in a game that felt like the end of the 2017 season.
It was the lowlight of an otherwise unimpressive three years for the former third-round pick. Chaz couldn't even establish himself as a quality reserve, let alone a potential starter like you'd expect from a guy taken so early in a draft.
That's why Dallas went out and signed veteran tackle Cameron Fleming this offseason. Fleming has started many games during his time in New England, some even in the postseason. He was brought in specifically to be what Chaz Green hasn't been able to provide; a reliable swing tackle.
Dallas hasn't cut Chaz yet. He should be here through final cuts, likely playing guard along with tackle as the team tries to squeeze some last use out of him.
But with Fleming now here and other veterans inside such as Joe Looney and Marcus Martin, Green will have a much harder time making the team. Dallas clearly lost faith in him by signing Fleming, and at this point he's little more than insurance against a preseason injury.
Blake Jarwin, TE
Even with Jason Witten and James Hanna leaving, new additions at the tight end position and a shifting offensive philosophy could make it harder to make this year's team than in 2017. If so, second-year prospect Blake Jarwin may be the guy left without a chair.
Dallas liked Jarwin, an undrafted rookie, enough last year that they signed him to the roster late in the season to avoid him being signed away by the Philadelphia Eagles. He returns as one of several intriguing players to form the 2018 depth chart.
The issue for Jarwin could be that Dallas may not need to keep four tight ends as they have in the past. If so, veteran Geoff Swaim, fourth-round rookie Dalton Schultz, and the Rico Gathers project all could claim roster spots ahead of Blake.
Dallas' reported move to a more spread offense lessens the need for multiple tight ends. What's more, players like Running Back Rod Smith, Fullback Jamize Olawale and Wide Receiver Noah Brown have the size and ability to do some blocking and fill both the offensive and special teams roles you might ask from your tight ends.
All of this makes life harder for a guy like Jarwin. He could still excel and earn his way onto the roster, either forcing the team to keep four guys or even beating Gathers for a roster spot. But it's arguably tougher this year than it was in 2017.
Charles Tapper, DE
Only appearing in two games so far during his two NFL seasons, Charles Tapper has been held back by injuries since being a fourth-round pick. He's healthy now, but increased depth at defensive end could be his ultimate undoing in 2018.
Tapper would have made the roster as a rookie if he'd been healthy. He made last year's team but went out in Week 2.
Now he's up against a far deeper group. DeMarcus Lawrence and Taco Charlton return, Randy Gregory has been reinstated, and new arrivals Kony Ealy and Dorance Armstrong will be in the mix. You also have defensive tackles who can play DE such as Tryone Crawford and Datone Jones.
Thankfully for Charles, it doesn't appear that Ealy is off to a great start. Dallas took a flier on the veteran and hoped returning him to the 4-3 would be a positive, but Kony hasn't impressed so far in camp.
But even still, the numbers could work against Tapper. There are a lot of options to fill out the defensive line and the cache of being a fourth-round pick has worn off after so much missed time. Charles has to stay healthy this month, while also out-performing his competition, to remain a Dallas Cowboy.
Richard Ash, DT
Staying with the defensive line, Richard Ash became a regular rotation piece last year after Dallas signed him off their practice squad before Week 7. But with some guys returning from injury and other additions, Ash may not get his roster spot back.
Dallas acquired Jihad Ward, a second-round pick in 2015, via trade during April's draft. They also welcome back Brian Price, who had Ash's role in the first part of the year before he got injured.
Throw in Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Datone Jones, and hopefully David Irving and you can see where the numbers aren't great for Ash.
There are still question marks, though. Nothing says Ash can't beat Price this year with the experience he got in 2017. There's also the health of Collins, who's currently on PUP, and the personal struggles for Irving that currently have him out of camp.
Richard Ash got on the last year's team thanks to injuries and they can certainly happen again. But he is one of many guys on that precarious roster bubble.
Terrance Williams, WR
You'd think that the overhaul of the WR position this year would make a veteran like Terrance more valuable. But Dallas has added so many fresh faces, plus have some interesting younger options, and might be able to cut Williams loose this year.
The Cowboys signed Allen Hurns to be a new starter, plus veteran Deonte Thompson for depth. They also drafted Michael Gallup in the third round last April. Along with the returning Cole Beasley, prospects Noah Brown and Lance Lenoir should compete for roster spots.
That's six guys already, and I haven't even mentioned Tavon Austin. Though listed at RB now, Austin will likely see a lot of time looks at receiver.
Terrance's system familiarity and run blocking will help him stick around. But he's proven unable to be a difference-maker at WR and got in some personal trouble this offseason. Even with his bad contract, Dallas may be ready to part ways.
The Cowboys can eat the dead money on the salary cap. They also have other talent at WR, arguably deeper than they've been in a few years. It creates the possibility of Terrance Williams being released, which we didn't have last year.
Brett Maher’s 62-yard FG Gives Cowboys 6-0 Halftime Lead over Eagles
Brett Maher drilled a 62-yard field goal, a new Dallas Cowboys record, to give his team a 6-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles at halftime.
A holding penalty by Tyron Smith seemingly took the team out of field goal range, but Maher bailed him out with the monster kick.
The lead could be bigger it not for some Dallas mistakes. Dak Prescott threw an interception on an otherwise strong drive, and Maher ended another drive with a missed field goal.
However, the Eagles have also struggled. A strip sack by Tyrone Crawford ended their last drive of the half. Randy Gregory also got a sack on Carson Wentz earlier in the game.
Overall, though, Philadelphia just isn't converting downs and being stifled by this exceptional Cowboys defense. They only have 70 total offensive yards at the half.
Ezekiel Elliott is putting together a big day, already with 72 rushing yards and another 20 yards receiving. Rod Smith also has 24 yards of offense, adding to the major production from the RB position.
Speaking of position production, the Cowboys tight ends have already accounted for six catches for 37 yards. Blake Jarwin has four of those receptions, which is a new career high.
The Eagles will get the ball to start the second half.
Cowboys Vs Eagles Leads NFL in Playoff Leverage for Week 14
The Dallas Cowboys are certainly playing like a playoff team as of late, but aren't in the clear yet when it comes to holding off Sunday's opponent -- nor the Washington Redskins -- in the NFC East. At 7-5, the Eagles and Redskins sit a game behind the Cowboys with identical 6-6 records.
The Cowboys going 5-0 from their first win at the Eagles in week 10 to their third divisional game of this stretch would go a very long way in cementing the Cowboys mid-season turnaround. As has always seemingly been the case in this division though, the same is said of the defending Super Bowl champs.
With a loss, the Cowboys stand just over a 50% chance at the postseason. A win would add 42 percentage points to this figure, setting up the Cowboys favorably through a December schedule that features the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants.
NFL playoff leverage week 14
The only team with more at stake today is the visitors of AT&T Stadium. The Eagles gain 47 percentage points on their playoff hopes with a win, though even this marginally moves the needle over 50% for them. An Eagles loss all but ends their chances of repeating as NFC East winners.
Though the Redskins are reduced to their third quarterback in Mark Sanchez, their early kickoff at the 4-8 Giants provides hope that they'll remain in contention through the regular season. In a division that will be dictated by the moves made at the trade deadline, it sure feels like the Cowboys and Eagles are pulling away however - with Dallas in prime position to lap the competition starting Sunday.
If the Cowboys and the Giants win today, Dallas would have to lose out, and the Redskins or Eagles would have to win out in order for the Cowboys to lose the division. In other words, Dallas and NYG winning today would mean one more victory and the Cowboys clinch the NFC East.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper has made a bigger difference than Dallas could have ever hoped for. With the Eagles secondary banged up again for their meeting with the Cowboys, a home team with sights set on playoff football could begin to fine tune their offense to match a defense that set the tone against Philadelphia last time out.
National pundits may be forecasting a "classic" late season collapse for the Cowboys, but fans know better than this. It was in fact early season losses that dug the hole the Cowboys are viciously fighting out of. Asking for this opportunity against the Eagles is as good as it gets for Jason Garrett's young team, once 3-5 after eight weeks that feel like ages ago.
So does any dominant stretch of football from the Eagles, though the Cowboys shouldn't be quick to find out just how much Philly wants to play spoiler.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dak Prescott Exploits Eagles’ Secondary
It's rivalry weekend for the Dallas Cowboys as they get ready to host the Philadelphia Eagles. It will undoubtedly be a special game since the Eagles are practically playing to save their season this time around. Tables have turned for these two teams with now the Cowboys as home favorites for this fun matchup.
As always, here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist. Enjoy!
Wish #1: Get Jourdan Lewis Playing Time
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis did a fantastic job versus the New Orleans Saints last week and I'm intrigued to see if the Cowboys will continue to find a job for him and get him on the field. Lewis had an interception and some other key plays in just eight snaps. Lewis has been an interesting narrative this year.
He's a good player and getting him more involved could result in good things for this team. We'll see if the Cowboys use him in this important divisional game.
Wish #2: Get The Early Big Lead, Rest Elliott
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has done an amazing job for the Cowboys over the past four weeks. Both in the passing and running game, Zeke has been able to consistently move the chains as he's received a huge workload to carry the offense and control the time of possession. He currently leads the league in touches per game.
If the Cowboys are able to get a big lead early, I wish we get to see a lot of backup RB Rod Smith. As much as we all love to watch Zeke be fed, this time Cowboys Nation should appreciate seeing him on the sideline a bit more than usual. For that to happen, though, an early considerable lead is required.
Wish #3: Improve on Red Zone
So far, the Dallas Cowboys have been able to efficiently move the ball and get first downs. What they have struggled with though, is the red zone. Many times, we've seen the offense settle for three instead of getting seven.
This Saturday I argued why, if the Cowboys are able to improve on red zone, this could be a playoff caliber unit. This team shouldn't struggle as much in this area. With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, Amari Cooper lined up and a mobile QB, Scott Linehan's squad simply needs to do better.
Wish #4: Dak Prescott Gets 300 Yards
The Philadelphia Eagles have placed CB Jalen Mills on IR. With Ronald Darby out already, the Cowboys are about to face a very injured secondary. Philadelphia ranks 26th in passing defense. Dak Prescott's stats have greatly improved since week 7.
However, a big 300-yard performance has yet to occur. I wish he gets just that against the Eagles. For this, he'll certainly need help from his receivers, including Amari Cooper, who has been outstanding with a Star on his helmet.
What are your wishes for this week's matchup versus the Eagles?
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