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Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 3

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 3 2

 

Another week and another preseason game have come and gone. Friday’s win against the Miami Dolphins did much more to confirm my projections than cause any adjustments to be made.

However, there have been a few updates with roster moves and injuries that have led to some changes. You can click here to reference last week’s projection.

Here’s where we are as of now:

QB: Tony Romo, Dak Prescott (2)

CHANGES: None

The Dak Prescott Experience, so far, is more wonderful than any of us could have imagined. It’s too early to talk about him being the future franchise QB, but it’s certainly not early to say he’s cemented the backup job for 2016.

These two weeks couldn’t gotten better for the Cowboys. Not only has Prescott been a sensation but Jameil Showers has stayed under the radar. I think Showers has done the best he can with poor offensive line play and sub-par receiving talent to work with. It works out great for Dallas as they can likely get him to the practice squad and save a roster spot.

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 3 1RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris
Lance Dunbar, Darius Jackson (4)

CHANGES: None

The only reason Dallas keeps four running backs is to hang on to Dunbar. Darren McFadden, either by trade or by release, is a goner with the way that Morris is playing.

Dunbar still could fill a unique role. He gives you a different kind of back who can also go line up at receiver. Unless Dallas really wants to hang on to a sixth WR, I think they go with Dunbar for versatility and a less predictable option.

FB: Rod Smith (1)

CHANGES: None

Keith Smith, a converted linebacker, had a solid night while Rod sat out with an infection issue. Although Keith had a solid night, I still see Rod as the front-runner for now. He has more experience playing out of a backfield and should be the better weapon as a receiver.

However, ultimately this will come down to who does a better job as a run blocker. Dallas doesn’t utilize the fullback enough to be that worried with versatility. They will use the guy who does the best job with the primary function of the position.

Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Breakout Candidates: Brice Butler 1WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams
Cole Beasley, Brice Butler
Lucky Whitehead (5)

CHANGES: None

At this point there doesn’t seem to be any other receiver who could push for a roster spot except Andy Jones. After a bad night in Los Angeles, the undrafted rookie had a better night on offense and also made a nice play in punt coverage.

As said earlier, I think right now Dallas would rather hang on to Lance Dunbar then open a spot for Jones. However, that could change quickly if Dunbar has any kind of injury setback. Jones would do well to keep showing up on special teams.

TE: Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers (4)

CHANGES: Removed James Hanna (PUP)

Given that he had knee surgery early last week, James Hanna seems likely to start the year on the PUP list. He will certainly be back at some point as he’s the best blocking TE on the team.

For now, this allows Dallas to protect Rico Gathers. Even if they have to cut him later to make room for Hanna, a mid-season cut can often go unnoticed better than during the league-wide cut days this time of year. The spot could also go to Austin Traylor, who may be the team’s next-best blocking TE after Hanna.

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 3

Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

OT: Tyron Smith, Doug Free
Chaz Green (3)

CHANGES: Removed Cam Bradfield

Thing went much better for Green against the Dolphins than the previous week. Starting again at left tackle, Green’s only clear blunder was a holding penalty that brought back an Alfred Morris touchdown run. Otherwise, he was holding up well in pass protection and doing as much as anyone to make the run game productive.

Consistency has been Green’s problem, though. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt now and say that he keeps building on Friday night and earns the swing tackle job. However, if he falters, then Dallas will quickly work to bring in a veteran journeyman to handle the role.

G: Zack Martin, La’el Collins, Ron Leary (3)
C: Travis Frederick, Joe Looney (2)

CHANGES: None

We can go ahead and lock this group in until someone gets injured or maybe Leary gets traded. With three first-round talents starting and two solid veterans in reserve, Dallas easily has the best interior line group in all of football.

~ ~ ~

Just to quickly recap, we’ve used 24 of the 53 roster spots on the offense. Your biggest questions marks are:

  • Lance Dunbar (RB) vs. Andy Jones (WR)
  • FB: Rod Smith vs. Keith Smith vs. No FB at all
  • TE: Rico Gathers vs. Austin Traylor
  • OT: Chaz Green vs. Veteran Free Agent TBD

So, let’s move on to the defense.

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Post-Draft Edition (Part 2)

AP Photo/Brandon Wade

DE: Jack Crawford, Benson Mayowa
David Irving, Ryan Russell
Charles Tapper, Shaneil Jenkins (6)

CHANGES: Moved J. Crawford from DT to DE

Guys like Crawford and Jenkins are tweener players; they are just as likely to line up inside as on the ends. However, I felt it was necessary to move Crawford to DE as I think he could be emerging as a starter for at least the beginning of the season.

Jack Crawford seems to always make an impact. In the Rams game he hustled downfield to recover Mark Nzeocha’s fumble after an interception. He was there to help clean up Tyrone Crawford’s sack on Ryan Tannehill against Miami. I think he may wind up starting at DE for at least the four weeks that DeMarcus Lawrence is injured, especially with guys like Mayowa and Irving banged up right now.

Shaneil Jenkins keeps showing up in preseason games and, for my money, has cemented his roster spot for at least Weeks 1-4.

DT: Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, Cedric Thornton, Maliek Collins (4)

CHANGES: Added Maliek Collins

It was previously unclear when Collins would come back from his broken foot. The Cowboys brought him off the PUP list last week and he’s being eased back into practice. He did not play on Friday night.

Collins being able to contribute by Week One would help the Cowboys to cover whatever issues may linger at defensive end. They could focus Jack Crawford and Shaneil Jenkins’ attention there while other guys are missing.

LB: Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Kyle Wilber, Justin Durant
Andrew Gachkar, Mark Nzeocha, Damien Wilson (7)

CHANGES: None

Keeping seven linebackers isn’t that unusual or “going long” by some perspectives. It appears to be especially necessary for the Cowboys given the current health and general concerns of some key players.

Gachkar was already out with a thumb injury but should be back for Week One. Now Nzeocha has an Achilles strain that could limit him for a few weeks. It’s giving young guys like Derek Akunne and James Morris chances to make noise but nothing that I expect will cost someone a roster spot.

Cowboys Blog - Looking Ahead: Free Agents that Need Cowboys Remaining Games

Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY

CB: Orlando Scandrick
Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr
Deji Olatoye, Anthony Brown (5)

CHANGES: None

This is another position where I don’t expect any changes. The top three are locked in. Olatoye has shown up well in preseason play and brings a unique size and physicality to the group.

Brown has been out with a hamstring issue but before that was getting a lot of positive reports from training camp. He will likely be the main backup to Scandrick as the slot corner.

S: Byron Jones, Barry Church, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier (4)

CHANGES: None

I’ve had J.J. Wilcox not making the team for a while now and he only keeps making it easier with missed tackles and blown coverage. It’s too bad he’s not playing better and could potentially be trade bait; the guy does have a lot of experience and was a former third-round pick.

 

Cowboys Draft - Beyond the Clock: Undrafted Wonder, Dan Bailey 2ST: Dan Bailey (K), Chris Jones (P)
L.P. Ladouceur (LS)

CHANGES: None

These last three spots are always easy. The Cowboys have the luxury of a solid punter, a perfect long snapper, and the best kicker in NFL history.

Not too shabby.

~ ~ ~

Like last week, I don’t really have any big questions about the defense. There’s nobody who I’ve left off this roster that I feel bad about. It would take some pretty huge leaps by one of the prospect players, or an injury, to change any of these picks going forward.

I will be releasing a new projection each week following the preseason games. The first round of cuts are due on August 30th and the final deadline is September 3rd.  Dallas will play their fourth preseason game in between.

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Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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