Yesterday we projected the Week One offense, using up 25 of the 53 available roster spots. Use the above link to check out who made the cut.
We know that three of the remaining 28 spots will go to a kicker, punter, and long snapper. Barring injury, those players will be Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur. Last week I wrote an article which detailed how fortunate the Cowboys are to have such stability at these positions.
So, that means we have 25 spots for the defense.
You can use this link for my last 53-man roster projection, which will show you what changes have been made since early May.
Ready? Yes? Good? On we go!
DE: Benson Mayowa, Ryan Russell, Charles Tapper, David Irving, Jack Crawford (5)
You're tired of hearing it, but we have remind everyone that DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are suspended to start 2016. Lawrence is only out four games, while Gregory could be out for 10 or more.
Given the $2.75 million that Dallas was willing to pay Mayowa annually in his new contract, one would expect that he will be a starter. Anyone could emerge from the other four players, though my money would be on David Irving.
There is also a strong possibility that Dallas will add some veteran help between now and Week One. Dwight Freeney is the name getting tossed around right now, but it could come from anywhere depending on other teams' roster cuts and surpluses.
DT: Tyrone Crawford, Cedric Thornton, Terrell McClain, Rodney Coe (4)
CHANGES: Removed Maliek Collins, Added Coe
The starters are obvious. Behind Crawford and Thornton, it would be nice for McClain to actually give Dallas something after two years of injuries. He's looked good in preseasons but can't seem to make it to September.
Third-round pick Maliek Collins isn't on here only because I expect him to start the year on the PUP list. He was have to make rapid progress from May foot surgery to get back for any portion of training camp or preseason. Given that he's a rookie, Dallas would probably like to ease him back into things and the PUP list offers six weeks of additional rest.
That opens the door for Rodney Coe, who went undrafted in April more for character concerns than football ability. Coe bounced around colleges due to some behavioral issues. Though they've been burned lately by taking chances on guys with red flags, Dallas will hope that Coe is ready to be a professional.
LB: Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Justin Durant, Damien Wilson, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha, Andrew Gachkar (7)
CHANGES: Removed Rolando McClain,
Keeping seven linebackers on a 4-3 defense may seem like excess, but not when you consider the tumultuous situation Dallas has right now. Their one constant is Sean Lee, who may never be far from Injured Reserve. Everything else is in disarray following Rolando McClain's 10-game suspension and training camp no-show (as of the writing of this article).
Dallas brought back Justin Durant, who was with them from 2013-214, as veteran help to an otherwise young and semi-experienced group. Right now I project that Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber will be the starters as the middle and strongside linebackers, but we have over a month for that to change.
CB: Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Deji Olatoye, Anthony Brown (5)
There are several young CB prospects in Oxnard right now, but until someone makes noise in practice this group seems set. Your top three are clear, Olatoye is a promising prospect from last season, and Brown was a sixth-round steal who the team is high on.
Dallas did re-sign veteran Josh Thomas to a minimal one-year-deal. He did not appear in any games last season but they must simply have liked having one experienced guy among their young reserves. I don't expect him to stick around.
S: Byron Jones, Barry Church, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier (4)
CHANGES: Removed J.J. Wilcox
You could make a case for keeping Wilcox. In the final year of his rookie deal, Wilcox's salary is low enough that he's okay for a bench role. He would give you great experience and insurance.
Unfortunately for him, Dallas seems to already have their primary backup in Jeff Heath. They just gave Heath a four-year extension, rewarding him mainly for his special teams play but also for their comfort level with him as a reserve safety.
Like with Anthony Brown, Dallas feels they got a steal in Kavon Frazier. He had a fourth-round grade on their board according to Stephen Jones. That gives you two starters, a veteran backup, and a rookie prospect all in place; no room for Wilcox.
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And that does it! I will updating the roster projection after the first preseason game on August 13th and then weekly up until final cuts.
Please comment with your likes and dislikes from my projections. Even if I think you've lost your mind, I'll be happy to reply!