The Dallas Cowboys depth chart at wide receiver has been discussed tirelessly this offseason, but this time there's some real news to delve into as the team prepares for tonight's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Not only have the conditions changed rapidly for these receivers, with Quarterback Dak Prescott, Center Travis Frederick, and Right Guard Zack Martin all sitting out, but their chances to make the final roster have increased — according to Cowboys VP Stephen Jones.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on with @BenandSkin: “Traditionally we've kept 5 or 6 receivers. But if I'm a betting man, I think that ends up being more than 5 or 6” on the 53-man roster to start this season.
The Cowboys can be hopeful the environment they've created for this ongoing competition at wide receiver will result in the best possible group of pass catchers for Prescott to enter year three with.
As many as six receivers are already virtual locks for the Cowboys roster. Finally healthy and contributing in practice again, the Cowboys don't seem at all ready to move on from FA acquisition Deonte Thompson. He joins Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin and Terrance Williams on my list of six.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, these are also the receivers that have proved themselves the most. Opening things up for a seventh spot does muddy the waters a bit, but also could allow a (not so) hidden gem like Lance Lenoir to breakthrough.
Lenoir certainly has an edge on Dres Anderson, Darrien Carrington and Ricky Jeune, who were all signed in the midst of training camp by the Cowboys. Lenoir has shown significant progress as a second-year player, using a strong camp performance last year to become a consistent threat all over the field.
Perhaps Lenoir's best trait over the next two weeks of the preseason will be his demeanor to make plays regardless of who is throwing him the ball. The Cowboys offense is going to have their share of struggles with Cooper Rush and Mike White behind a patchwork offensive line, but this shouldn't phase a competitor like Lenoir.
This leaves Noah Brown and K.D. Cannon as receivers that match Lenoir in experience, both lacking the level of play this preseason to warrant a roster spot. Cannon has played just 27 snaps through the Cowboys two games, failing to record a single reception in either.
Brown has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since the Cowboys last week in Oxnard. The former seventh round pick is not a great scheme fit for the team's new-look offense, with less of a focus on size on the outside and more emphasis on route running and versatility.
It's become easier by the day to imagine Brown missing the Cowboys roster since the team returned to Texas.
The Cowboys entered Oxnard expecting their wide receivers to take some time sorting out the depth chart. Now back at The Star for the final stretch of the preseason, the team's depth on the offensive line has failed them, while receiver is surprisingly a relatively set position.
As I always say, “life comes at you fast in the NFL,” and the time is coming for a few of these Cowboys receivers to realize just that.
It's important to remember that just because Stephen Jones sees the club keeping more than six receivers, it doesn't mean that first-year WR Coach Sanjay Lal will win this numbers game when the team decides on the necessary bodies to survive injuries on the OL and at safety.
If it is indeed Lance Lenoir that has the edge for an extra spot at WR, the Western Illinois product can sleep a bit better knowing he has other fans in the building other than his position coach Lal.
He will still have to play his way onto the roster through the Cowboys remaining two preseason games, which feel much more burdensome than meaningful for many — including a few of these long shot receivers, who have been distanced by standouts like Gallup, Beasley, Austin, and Lenoir.