Cowboys 2017 Roster Math: Offense ⋆
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Cowboys 2017 Roster Math: Offense

Cowboys 2017 Roster Math: Offense

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 2017 Roster Math: Offense

Cowboys 2017 Roster Math: Offense

There is no exact blueprint for a NFL roster. Every year, teams are put together with different circumstances and philosophies that change the numbers at each position. The Dallas Cowboys are no exception, and 2017 is likely to have different math from last season.

Here is a quick look at some of the positions where you can expect change on offense. We’ll see where roster spots are opened up, but also where they may be consumed.

You can read about the changes on defense here, or using the link at the end of the article.

Kellen Moore

QB Kellen Moore

Quarterbacks

Last year, Dallas carried three guys as they worked through Tony Romo‘s injury situation. Even once Romo became healthy, Mark Sanchez remained on the 53-man roster for the rest of the season.

There is little doubt right now that the Cowboys will have just two QBs in 2017. Dak Prescott is the clear starter and Kellen Moore, re-signed in March, is expected to be his backup. There is no young developmental player who projects to earn that third spot, which would only be used if Dallas didn’t want to risk losing someone on the practice squad.

Granted, things could change between now and Week One. Injuries can change the landscape quickly. Also, some young guy could wow us more than Alex Tanney or Dustin Vaughan ever did to force his way onto the roster. However, if that happens, he might be good enough that Dallas decides they don’t need Kellen Moore after all.

Still, the most likely scenario is that Dallas will keep just two quarterbacks. That opens a roster spot for another position in 2017 which we didn’t have last year.

Running Back

Dallas opened 2016 with four halfbacks and two fullbacks on the 53-man roster. That is highly unlikely this year, which should open up at least one or two spots for other positions.

One big change is the role that Lance Dunbar occupied. At this point, receivers like Lucky Whitehead or Ryan Switzer are likely to get the looks on offense that Dunbar did, which came primarily as pass catcher. You will see how this may push Dallas to keep a sixth receiver in 2017, using up one of these RB roster spots.

At fullback, Keith Smith seems to be entrenched now as the starter. Rod Smith is still around and made the team early in 2016 to compete at FB and play special teams, but he should only make the squad now as a halfback.

With Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden looking solid as the top two guys, a third halfback should be all the team needs. They only carried Darius Jackson last year as a drafted player who they didn’t want to risk on the practice squad, never actually playing him in a real game. That is unlikely to happen again.

Ryan Switzer

WR Ryan Switzer

Receivers

Dallas only kept five receivers in 2016: Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Brice Butler, and Lucky Whitehead. All five are back and the Cowboys just added two more in the 2017 Draft.

It is highly possible that Dallas will keep six receivers in 2017. The top four guys all have roles to play and bring their own element to the offense. Rookie Ryan Swizter is a virtual lock to make the team, already being seen as the front-runner to be the return specialist and to have a niche role on offense.

Noah Brown, drafted in the seventh round, could be carried as a gameday inactive to protect him from practice squad poachers. He could be good enough to push Brice Butler off the roster, but it’s too soon to project that. The same can be said for Andy Jones, a promising undrafted player from last season.

It’s also too soon to dismiss Whitehead from making this year’s team. Many assume that his roster spot will go to Switzer, but both could make the squad depending on the roles they’re best suited to fill.

However it shakes out, receiver is looking like a position where Dallas can easily go longer than last season. Here comes another one.

Rico Gathers

TE Rico Gathers

Tight Ends

Dallas only kept three TEs last year. Would they have kept four if James Hanna hadn’t been injured?  It’s hard to say; Gavin Escobar might have been released if Hanna and Geoff Swaim were both active.

Regardless, the Cowboys could easily be keeping four guys this season. Jason Witten’s back to play his 27th season, or something like that, and you have the experienced backups in Hanna and Swaim. The fourth man is Rico Gathers, the highly intriguing draft pick from 2016 who spent last year converting from basketball to football on the practice squad.

If Gathers was able to develop enough, and there is plenty of chatter that he has, then Hanna and Swaim might be fighting for one spot. However, 2017 could easily be Jason Witten’s last season. Dallas may be using this season as a year-long audition for all of these guys to show who might be able to start in 2018.

Camp and preseason will hopefully give us some clarity here. For now, I’m betting on Dallas going long and keeping the options open as the season progresses.

La'el Collins

OT La’el Collins

Offensive Line

Dallas opened 2016 with just eight offensive linemen on the roster. They had more stability then, though, with veterans Doug Free and Ronald Leary in the mix. The exit of those two players has potentially created the need for some additional bodies.

The move of La’el Collins from guard to tackle appears to be final. That leaves a starting spot at left guard open with several contenders: Byron Bell, Emmett Cleary, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green, and Joe Looney.

It’s too early to say there’s a favorite. How all of these guys continue to compete should be the story of training camp for the offense.

However it unfolds, though, you could have some players with troublesome injury history in key positions. Collins had a foot injury which cost him most of last year. Cooper, a former first-round pick, has had his NFL career nearly derailed by health problems. Green has battled injuries the last two years.

These question marks could easily prompt Dallas to keep some extra depth, at least nine players over eight, at the start of the year. Even if health isn’t the concern, they may still not be settled at left guard or with some of the reserve spots and want to keep evaluating guys into the regular season.

~ ~ ~

Click here to read about the Cowboys Defense.

Jess Haynie

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!

5 Comments
  • Daniel Helms

    It is silly to claim that Dak is the “clear” starter when so far Moore has looker better in OTAs. That is why the reports that Dak never practices well hav been springing up. Not to mention you never see article talking about his actual skill set, instead they decide to fluff up Dak like a teddy bear on intangibles. There needs to be an open competition so that both QBs can get quality practice reps so they will both be ready and so that the coaches can put them on equal footing in evaluation.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      “Dak doesn’t practice well” isn’t new. That’s from last year, from the coaches, media, and Dak himself.

  • Travis Diggs

    Kellen moore looks better in OTA , really lol !!! This Daniel guy must be on drugs , Kellen moore is on the cowboys because of Scott Linehan, thats it. U cant trust him to win games if you need him. The haters gone hate on Dak because they praying on his down fall like a bunch of low lifes Its hilarious!!!

    • Daniel Helms

      The passes that are standing out are Kellen’s. Dak has not been reflected on in the same way. Instead all we are hearing is how mature he is. Who cares? That had nothing to do with his ability in the pocket. Secondly, unlike the NBA practice is very important marker on competition, and if the trend continues then we will need to start being honest with ourselves for changes. Finally, we need to stop viewing the competition between Moore and Dak through a kaleidoscope of the the situations being equal. Dak had every advantage: Moore didn’t get any practice, Moore played when the Cowboys were losing on purpose to secure draft position, and he played without the best WRs. No excuses, but he would have a better TD/InT ratio is he would have practiced with the Team equally. He clearly moved the ball better. He second start 435 yrds and 3 TDs, but Dak fans refuse to accept those results even though he never had more than 325 yards in any game.

      • Jess Haynie

        Moore’s Week 17 stats came against Washington backups. They treated the game like preseason after locking up their playoff spot. You can’t throw those numbers out there and then conveniently leave out that fact.

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