In the fifth, and final part of our week one preseason series on a projected 53 man roster, Brian joins Paul in going deep on the defensive line and takes a new approach to full back - J.C. Copeland as a running back / fourth tight end. And as always, check out the first four parts of the week one staff projections: Mike Harlos - Jonathan Day - Christopher Mak - Tarheel Paul.
No need for a lot of talk here, Romo is the man. Weeden is proving what he can do with a good offensive line blocking for him. Caleb Hanie has shown why he’s been in the league as a backup for a few years now, but he isn’t going to be here in Dallas. Dustin Vaughan keeps improving; he could find himself a spot on the practice squad.
Murray and Dunbar - of course - are the locks of this group. I was rather surprised to see them keep Dunbar out of the first game, and it wasn’t because he was hurt. The coaches kept him out like they did the rest of the important pieces to the offense.
Randle has shocked me, there I said it. And I’ve said from the start of the offseason that Randle would have to become a special teams demon or just turn it up a notch as a running back to make this team, and I didn’t think he would or could do either. Turns out that he might not have reached demon status in special teams (he has improved greatly) yet, but he sure has taken it up a notch in his overall game as a running back. Ryan Williams would have been a nice story had he been able to beat out Randle, but as of right now, Randle could be making a push for carries when the games start to mean something.
Copeland’s biggest competition isn’t from Tyler Clutts for the full back position, his competition is going to come from another position - tight end. Jason Garrett has never been afraid to keep an extra tight end over a fullback, and that could be the case again this year.
No real big surprises here, although at one point I thought of keeping up to six WRs. LaRon Byrd and Dezmon Briscoe would have had a good shot at one of the last WR spots on the roster but because of injury on the defensive side of the ball, it just won’t happen. However, do look for Chris Boyd - the undrafted rookie free agent out of Vanderbilt - to make the practice squad, along with Jamar Newsome.
So far in camp and in the first preseason game, both Hanna and Escobar have shown drastic improvement in their run blocking. And Jason Witten is being Jason Witten.
Two questions with this group:
- Who's the starting left guard?
- Who's the backup tackle?
Bernadeau has the lead so far at the starting left guard spot, and the swing tackle is still up in the air, although I will give the edge to Weems. Versatility is the name of the game here. Bernadeau has shown he can play center and Martin can play either tackle position. I think Jermey Parnell has reached his ceiling and a younger, cheaper player like Weems - who is already at the same talent-level - gets the nod as the new swing tackle.
Anthony Spencer DE
George Selvie DE
Jeremy Mincey DE
Tyrone Crawford DE/DT
Henry Melton DT
Kenneth Bishop DT
Davon Coleman DT
Terrell McClain DT
Caesar Rayford DE
Ken Boatright DE
DeMarcus Lawrence DE
Going deep on the D-line here. Some of the reasoning behind that being injuries to some of the players now, and the team wanting to keep sending in fresh players to rush the QB later. It basically means it will be the deepest position on the team. A surprise name not on the list is Nick Hayden. He was pushed all over the place in the Charger game and that was pretty much what we saw out of him last season. He has a cool nickname, but I would rather have younger guys with more upside on the team. Would love to have seen what Ben Gardner could have done, and hopefully we still might get that chance, but as of right now he will go on the practice squad.
Justin Durant MLB/OLB
Rolando McClain MLB
Anthony Hitchens MLB/OLB
Bruce Carter OLB
Kyle Wilber OLB
DeVonte Holloman OLB
Will Smith OLB
The only tough choice I had here was picking between Will Smith and Cameron Lawrence. Smith adds more speed and athleticism, even though Lawrence has the experience. This pick could change a time or two before it’s all said and done.
I feel they keep six here, mainly because of Orlando Scandrick’s suspension. They need someone to cover the slot while he’s gone and I sure wouldn’t leave that to one of the safeties. Mitchell has shown enough promise and Webb has improved enough from last season to give them both an edge over their competition.
Strong Safety/Free safety
Barry Church SS
J.J. Wilcox FS
Jeff Heath FS
Ahmad Dixon SS
Jakar Hamilton FS
Even though Jakar Hamilton as shown some versatility in training camp, covering the slot if asked, I don’t feel it’s enough. However, with suspension to Scandrick , Hamilton still makes the team for now. Heath is a special teams demon and he can cover, he just has to locate the ball better. Ahmad Dixon had the reputation of being around the ball and knocking the slobber out of people when he was drafted out of Baylor, and he lived up to that reputation in the first preseason game. When a player goes from fighting for a spot on the team, to running plays with the first and second team in a week's time, I think he's a lock to make the team.
Dan “Got’em” Bailey
There’s my 53, like it or not? Comment below and let me know. You can also send me your thoughts on Twitter: @bleatherman2011
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook
Let me start this article with a strong opening statement: The Cowboys will be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. There's been a lot of talk about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But when we break it down, the current setup will most likely play out better for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.
The Dak Stats
Certain quarterbacks shine when they have that go-to playmaker. We're talking about guys like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Dez Bryant. But other QBs do better at reading the defense and quickly adapting to what is given. Dak Prescott is the latter breed of QB.
Let’s do a quick numbers exercise to prove this.
When Prescott is targeting 8 or more receivers throughout the game, his passer rating jumps from 86.1 (targeting less than 8) to 104.5. He passes for almost 50 yards more per game and his touchdown to interception ratio drastically improves from 21-13 to 24-4.
Most importantly, when he targets at least 8 different receivers, the Cowboys are 14-2. When he targets less than 8, the team is just .500 at 8-8.
Without a doubt, Prescott is much better at adjusting to what the defense is giving him. He just isn’t one of those guys who can successfully "force" the ball (like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees). Not feeling the pressure of having to get the ball into the hands of the star playmaker will give this offense a new kind of depth in 2018.
Yes, losing Jason Witten hurts, much more so in my opinion than not having Dez.
Questions Still Loom
This is still the Cowboys' biggest concern on offense. There is some great depth. We have Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, and the young stud out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz. But between the three who have any NFL experience, there are only 9 catches between them. I must say that Dalton, with his 4.75 40-yard dash, has a legitimate shot at seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie campaign and could become an impact player with his size (6’5”, 244-lbs) and speed.
But despite the battle for TE being wide open, and debates about whether or not the team needs a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys are still expected to give the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East. Here are the odds on the defending NFC East champions and how (although early) it is expected to shake out:
- Philadelphia Eagles -167
- Dallas Cowboys +350
- New York Giants +650
- Washington Redskins +750
NFC East Week 1 Predictions
The Cowboys open the season in a difficult road game against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been listed as 2.5-point favorites (follow the Cowboys NFL Odds here all season long) which isn’t surprising considering they are a tough team playing at home. You might be thinking, "crap, we're opening up as underdogs?" Don’t worry too much; it actually bodes fairly well because the lines-makers generally give a 3-point advantage to the home team. This means that they actually handicap the Cowboys to be a half-point favorite on a neutral field and a 3.5-point favorite in Arlington.
The Redskins open their season in Arizona against the Cardinals. The line is set at a pick ‘em (meaning there is no point spread; it's anyone's game). But, looking at the 'Skins and Cardinals, I think Washington gets disappointed in Week 1 and starts their season with a loss.
The Giants get to test their new offensive line and see if they were right in continuing to place their faith in Eli Manning against the best defense in the league. The Jags are 3-point favorites at MetLife stadium. This means the Jags are actually 6-points better. I do think that the Giants will be vastly improved this season, but they are also going to open with a loss.
The Eagles don’t have it easy either, but they will probably pull out the win at home as 4-point favorites against the Dirty Birds on Thursday Night Football. Their defense is just too good. Atlanta's road offense scored just 21 points per game last year while Philly scores 28 on average at home. The Eagles' home defense has been downright nasty, only allowing 12 points per game in Philadelphia.
This will be a two-horse race for the division between the Eagles and Cowboys. And even if the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will wildcard into the playoffs.
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