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Brian’s Projected 53 Man Roster: Preseason Week 1

Brian Leatherman

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Cowboys Blog - Brian's Projected 53 Man Roster: Preseason Week 1

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.

Offense:

Quarterback
Tony Romo
Brandon Weeden

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.

Halfback
DeMarco Murray
Lance Dunbar
Joseph Randle
J.C. Copeland

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.

Wide Receiver
Dez Bryant
Terrance Williams
Cole Beasley
Dwayne Harris
Devin Street

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.

Tight End
Jason Witten
Gavin Escobar
James Hanna

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.

Offensive Line
Tyron Smith
Ronald Leary
Travis Frederick
Zack Martin
Doug Free
Mackenzy Bernadeau
Uche Nwaneri
Darrion Weems

Two questions with this group:

  1. Who's the starting left guard?
  2. 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.

 

Defense:

Defensive Line
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.

Linebacker
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.

Cornerback
Brandon Carr
Orlando Scandrick
Mo Claiborne
Sterling Moore
B.W. Webb
Terrance Mitchell

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.

Kicker
Dan “Got’em” Bailey

Long Snapper
L.P. Ladouceur

Punter
Chris Jones

There’s my 53, like it or not? Comment below and let me know. You can also send me your thoughts on Twitter: @bleatherman2011



Brian has been a football junkie from the time he was 5 years old. He lives, eats and breathes the game. Brian is a college graduate living in the south who loves his faith, his family, and his Dallas Cowboys.

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Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?

Brian Martin

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How Much can RB Tony Pollard eat Into Zeke's 2019 Workload?

Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.

Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.

Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.

Tony Pollard

Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard

There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?

Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.

Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.

In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.

What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?



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Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable

Matthew Lenix

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Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Formidable

Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.

The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.

Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).

Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.

Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.

The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.



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CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season

Kevin Brady

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Seldom-Used CB Jourdan Lewis Could Play Big Role Against Saints

For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.

In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.

After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.

Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.

 "As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."

Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.

Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.

"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."

The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.

That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.

Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.



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