First, my final 53 is based on my observations thus far.
FB – Deon Anderson
LT – Flozell Adams, Doug Free
LG – Kyle Kosier, Montrae Holland
C – Andre Gurode, Duke Preston (finally someone who can replace Proctor's ability to be interchangeable at guard and center; Duke Preston was a starter at both positions for Buffalo last season, and actually did very well, despite their pedestrian finish)
RG – Leonard Davis, Duke Preston
RT – Marc Columbo, Pat McQuistan
I feel pretty comfortable with the above offense. I'd say the offensive line could afford injuries at the center and guard position, but we are an injured OT away from our offensive line being a turnstile. Outside of that, we have decent depth. Considering that since Stephen McGee's debut against the Raiders, we haven't seen much of him, I would not be surprised if the Cowboy's organization isn't trying to make the league forget about him, so they can sneak him past waivers, but we will know more if that's their strategy this coming Friday night against the Vikings. If we see more of Jon Kitna and Rudy Carpenter, that's exactly what the Cowboys are trying to do.
DT – Jay Ratliff, Junior Siavii
LE – Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher
ROLB – Demarcus Ware, Steve Octavien, Victor Butler
MLB – Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Bobby Carpenter, Stephen Hodge
LOLB – Anthony Spencer, Jason Williams (I actually had hoped Jason Williams would be converted to this position from the beginning; with the season-ending injury to Brandon William's, he may be the most ideal replacement)
CB – Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick, Mike Jenkins, Alan Ball, Mike Mickens (we will be watching the waiver wire very closely for this position; Mike Mickens is another who could use some time on the practice squad)
FS – Ken Hamlin, DeAngelo Smith (again, we will be watching the waiver wire for both Safety positions, as DeAngelo Smith and Michael Hamlin are not ready for pro football and could use some time on the practice squad)
SS – Gerald Sensabaugh, Pat Wakins, Michael Hamlin
I am more concerned about our defense than our offense, particularly in the Secondary. First and foremost, corner is my most significant concern. Terence Newman has been an injury waiting to happen the last few seasons, and behind Scandrick and Jenkins, the options are dismal. Next on my list of concerns is Safety. Ken Hamlin has been solid, but behind him is a whole lot of inexperience. Sensabaugh has been solid in coverage, but not as good as advertised against the run, taking poor angles and not wrapping up on potential tackles (not to mention the two major penalties levied against him in the last two games). Behind him, once again, the options are pretty weak. Linebacker is actually the least of my concerns. Bobbie Carpenter has done quite a bit to regain some of my confidence thus far. Granted, when he is headlining the second and third-string defense his production is pretty weak, but I think if he is surrounded by good players, he in turn will play well, as would be the case should an injury demand he step up.
K – Nick Folk, David Buehler
P – Matt McBriar
LS – L.P. Ladouceur
I would have liked to have seen Buehler have more opportunities to kick field goals. I love the clutch performances Nick Folk has given us, but if David can be solid in this area, it would be nice to have an extra position to offer a corner, safety, linebacker, or even receiver if we would like to see a little more of Isaiah Stanback. The same goes for L.P. Ladouceur: Once again, he has been solid, but if Matt Stewart can perform the position, the additional linebacker/special teams contributor would be nice. On the other hand, unless the coaching staff is absolutely certain in regards to Buehler and Stewart taking over for Folk and Ladouceur, it certainly is not worth a gamble.
Robert Brewster – Torn pectoral muscle
Brandon Williams – Torn ACL
Matt Stewart, Marcus Dixon, Jonas Seawright, Derreck Robinson, Keon Lattimore, Julius Crosslin, Asaph Schwapp, Rudy Carpenter, Manuel Johnson, Isaiah Stanback, Jesse Holley, Travis Bright, Ryan Gibbons, Cory Proctor, Greg Isdaner, Andre Douglas, Mike Jefferson, and Julian Hawkins.
The bolded players represent guys I would like to see make the practice squad. I would have bolded Stanback, but I don't think he is eligible.
For all the emphasis placed on playing perfect, you would think we would see improvement in the penalty area. 3 preseason games down and the Cowboys are the most penalized team in the NFL. But it's not just the penalties that are bothering me, as much as, when they are happening. On the offense, their favorite time to draw a penalty is to negate a 1st down or a score. The defense loves to commit penalties when the opposing offenses will have to punt or go for it on fourth down without the penalty that otherwise offers them a 1st down on a silver platter. The Cowboy's organization has also been telling us that they have focused on creating more turnovers via the secondary and thus far the Cowboys only have 1. In defense of the defense, the Titans and 49ers utilize ball control offenses, running the ball, and working the flats and zone is predominantly how they move the ball limiting the number of opportunities to create turnovers via interception.
Positions of interest on the waiver wire in order of need.
Corner – Newman has been an injury waiting to happen the last two seasons. Behind Scandrick and Jenkins (and Jenkins is still not what I consider solid) the pickings are slim. Alan Ball, Courtney Brown, and Mike Mickens are on the bubble, and were not for the lack of options, Ball would likely be the only one considered worthy of a roster spot.
Safety – I know many think linebackers should be 1st and foremost if not, at least, second. But as I said above, I am much more comfortable with our second stringers at linebacker than I am at Safety.
Offensive Tackle – The position of this concern is debatable. OT could even be considered a chief concern. But for all the penalties and mistakes, the QBs have actually had a pretty clean pocket throughout the first 3 games; though, they haven't exactly played defensive powerhouses either. We will know more about this offensive line once the regular season begins, playing our first two games against the Bucs and the Giants.
Linebacker – This probably wouldn't make my list, though, I know Wade will be keeping his eye's peeled for linebackers, because they are so crucial to the success of a 3-4. But ultimately, I've been moderately happy with the play from our 1st stringers down to our rookies.
Being the preseason, it's difficult to really gauge how much my confidence has changed prior to the season beginning. I knew the offense would be a match-up nightmare and could be much more balanced than they have been since Jason Garrett took over. I even said this team was built to dink and dunk; but I would have liked to see Romo take some more chances downfield (minus that duck he threw intended for Ogletree), to open the intermediate game up more, as the 49ers did have a tendency to sit on routes expecting the short game. I don't think using the go route to back a defense up shows too much of your offense's hand.
On defense, the Cowboys can be dominating. But I've noticed, the face of their intensity changes once a defender commits a series of continuing penalties. It is as if they really want these younger players to feel the sting of their mistakes, by pretty much allowing the opposing offense to do whatever it wants from that point forward. I really don't believe that's the strategy; I'm just saying, that is what it seems like.
All in all, I feel pretty confident this team is capable of having a 10 and 6 win/loss ratio by season end. But the bigger question is if that's going to be enough in a very tough NFCE.