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Cowboys 2017 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 2

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys 2017 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 2
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

With two preseason games and a lot of practices done, I thought it a fine time to post my next 2017 roster projection. The last one was done just as training camp began, and plenty has happened in the weeks since.

Before we get into who will be on the Week One roster, here's a quick recap of the suspensions that will make some of our players unavailable:

  • DE Randy Gregory, indefinite (substance violations) *CONFIRMED*
  • RB Ezekiel Elliott, 6 games (domestic violence) *CONFIRMED*
  • DL David Irving, 4 games (PED violation) *CONFIRMED*
  • DE Damontre Moore, 2 games (substance violation) *CONFIRMED*
  • CB Nolan Carroll, 2 games (DWI arrest) (probable)
  • LB Damien Wilson, ? games (Assault arrest) (probable)

There's still a lot up in the air about Elliott's situation. He is filing an appeal with the league that will be resolved within about two weeks.  Pending that outcome, he could then try to take it to the courts and that process could go on for some time. It's entirely possible that he will be available to play in Week One, but for now we're going to go with what we know.

The point is that the Cowboys' Week One roster may look a fair bit different from the majority of the season while these suspensions play out. Guys will make the team to fill out the 53 for those early weeks but then wind up on the practice squad or the open market. For now, here's my best guess at what the team will look like.

Cooper Rush

QB Cooper Rush

Quarterbacks (2)

Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore

CHANGES: None

Trust me, I saw Cooper Rush on Saturday and am as intrigued by him as anyone. I even thought he looked solid in the Hall of Fame game. However, I felt the same about guys named Matt Moore and Alex Tanney and saw what happened with them. One game isn't enough for me to create a roster spot.

However, if Rush has a couple more of these performances, things do get interesting. Dallas obviously values Kellen Moore for his contributions working with Dak in game preparation. He may even be our new QB coach sometime down the road. This is all well and good when Prescott is healthy, but the priorities change dramatically if QB2 has to come into the game. Who has more value then?

It's too soon to say there's been a change, but Rush is making good impressions and may be closing the gap. It's hard to see him pushing Moore off the roster, but he could make the Cowboys keep three quarterbacks if this keeps up.

Darren McFadden, Patriots

RB Darren McFadden (James D. Smith / Dallas Cowboys)

Running Backs (4)

Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Keith Smith (FB)

CHANGES: Removed Ezekiel Elliott (suspension), Added Morris

If Elliott is suspended to start the year then this one is easy to call.  Ronnie Hillman hasn't done anything to earn a spot so far, so the top three RBs are clear. Keith Smith appears to be expanding his offensive role with some new receiving opportunities and there's no question he's making the team.

The most interesting scenario is if Zeke's appeal makes him eligible to start the year but only defers the suspension. If Dallas fears losing him at some point during the season, they may have to keep all four RBs in preparation. Rod Smith could go back to the practice squad, but another good preseason game and they may not want to take that chance. We saw how quickly Darius Jackson got snatched up last year.

Noah Brown

WR Noah Brown

Receivers (6)

Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Ryan Switzer, Brice Butler, Noah Brown

CHANGES: None

Brice Butler had a nice game against the Cardinals and has always been likely to make the team anyway. It would take a tremendous showing from one of the other prospects to make him expendable, and we certainly haven't seen that yet.

However, Noah Brown has looked solid and is making a case for Dallas to go long at receiver. He would likely be inactive most weeks, so this will come down to how much the Cowboys fear risking him on the practice squad. A couple of big plays over the next three games could move the needle significantly.

Rico Gathers, Rams

TE Rico Gathers

Tight Ends (4)

Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers

CHANGES: None

Arguably the preseason MVP so far, Rico Gathers has delivered on over a year's worth of hype with two touchdown catches and signs of being a dangerous offensive weapon. Any thoughts of him not making the 53 are long gone, and the focus now shifts to what Dallas might do with the other two players.

James Hanna and Geoff Swaim are similar; strong blockers with solid passing game potential. If Gathers is ready to contribute now, Dallas may not need to keep both veterans. If a decision has to be made, Hanna's injury history and contract work against him. The Cowboys can save half of his $3 million cap it by releasing him.

For now, I'm keeping all four guys. With both Hanna and Swaim coming off major injuries, it makes sense to let them provide mutual insurance. It also keeps everyone around for next year after Jason Witten potentially retires.

Cowboys Right Tackle: Who Replaces Recently Retired Doug Free? 1

OT Emmett Cleary

Offensive Tackles (3)

Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Emmett Cleary

CHANGES: Moved Chaz Green to guard, Added Cleary

Based on practice reps, Emmett Cleary is looking like the lead dog for the swing tackle position. It could still go to Chaz Green, but he's currently limited with a shoulder injury and Cleary has been getting the first-team reps while Tyron Smith has been resting his back.

Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Players To Watch In 2017 1

G Jonathan Cooper (64) in practice. (James D. Smith via AP)

Guards (3)

Zack Martin, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green

CHANGES: Cut Byron Bell, Added Green

Left guard is still open and that will become more concerning if it doesn't change closer to the start of the season. All three of Cooper, Green, and Bell has had first-team reps and so far there's no clear indication of who's been the most impressive.

In a seemingly tight race, bad days are harder to overcome. Bell certainly had one on Saturday when he drew two holding flags on a single drive. As the most experienced player, Byron should be held to a higher standard and those mistakes could cost him.

Dallas Cowboys: Ranking Top 5 Most Indispensable Players 1

C Travis Frederick (AP Photo/James D Smith)

Centers (2)

Travis Frederick, Joe Looney

CHANGES: None

No surprises here. The only potential change is if prospects Ross Burbank or Ruben Carter can somehow force Looney out, but Dallas won't lose the veteran lightly. He can play center or guard and now has a full year in the system.

In fact, don't sleep on Looney as the potential starting left guard.  If that happens, we will probably have to address backup center with one of the young guys or a free agent signing. Jonathan Cooper has been tried at center, though, so that could become his new role if he doesn't get the starting job at guard.

Defensive Ends (5)

DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper, Taco Charlton, Lenny Jones

CHANGES: Removed Damontre Moore (suspension), Added Jones

The Cowboys are still experimenting with who plays where, and this may not really matter with how much Rod Marinelli will mix things up throughout the season. Other than Lawrence getting a heavy number of snaps as his health and performance allow, it's hard to predict who will get more playing time from this group. Damontre Moore will further deepen the rotation when he returns.

Right now I'm giving the open spot from Moore's suspension to Lenny Jones, who had a good game against the Rams and has been talked about throughout camp. He has competition in Lewis Neal, though, who has been favorably compared to Maliek Collins by one camp observer. There may even be two roster spots open if the Cowboys want ten total defensive linemen, allowing both to potentially make it while Moore and Irving are suspended.

Maliek Collins

DT Maliek Collins

Defensive Tackle (4)

Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Cedric Thornton, Stephen Paea

CHANGES: None

 

This top four is set. Prospects like Richard Ash, Jordan Carrell, and Joey Ivie are battling for practice squad spots.  The only way one of them makes the roster is if injuries, plus David Irving and Damontre Moore's suspensions, pull Tyrone Crawford more over to defensive end. For now, though, I think Lenny Jones and Lewis Neal would get that spot before the true defensive tackles.

Damien Wilson

LB Damien Wilson (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Linebackers (7)

Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Anthony Hitchens, Justin Durant, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha, John Lotulelei

CHANGES: None

It is entirely possible that Damien Wilson's situation will not be resolved before the season starts, which means simply putting him in over Lotulelei if the league hasn't made a ruling. It's hard to imagine the NFL treating an assault arrest lightly, though. Unless they just have their hands full with Zeke, I imagine a decision to be announced in the next two weeks.

One prospect to keep an eye on is Joseph Jones, who is listed at linebacker but can also play safety. He's shown up a little in the preseason and that hybrid ability could be useful. Lotulelei was the front-runner coming into camp but Jones could be in contention now.

Orlando Scandrick

CB Orlando Scandrick

Cornerbacks (6)

Anthony Brown, Orlando Scandrick, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Marquez White, Duke Thomas

CHANGES: Removed Leon McFadden, Added Thomas

We are assuming that Nolan Carroll will be get a suspension to start the year after his DWI arrest last May. That means the Cowboys will be relying heavily on their young guys, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis, to take on major responsibility.  Thankfully, veteran leader Orlando Scandrick is still around and appears to be fully healthy as the season gets closer.

It's possible that Dallas would want to keep on other experienced guy, like Leon McFadden, on the depth chart at least until Carroll comes back. But that would mean having to choose between two intriguing young prospects in Duke Thomas and Marquez White. As long as Carroll only gets the two-game ban, I think they may lean toward youth and hope that neither has to play much in the first two weeks.

Kavon Frazier

S Kavon Frazier (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Safeties (4)

Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, Xavier Woods

CHANGES: None

With Frazier and Woods both looking good last Saturday, things are not looking good for veteran Robert Blanton. He didn't seem like more than an insurance policy because of the young depth, but the youngsters are doing well and that roster spot can be better used elsewhere.

L.P. Ladouceur

Long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur in his natural position. (AP Photo/James D Smith)

Specialists (3)

Dan Bailey (K), Chris Jones (P), L.P. Ladouceur (LS)

CHANGES: None

There's little doubt about these three. Bailey is under contract until we start colonizing Mars and Chris Jones got a new four-year extension. They do have long snapper Zach Wood back here for a second offseason, but this is likely just to give L.P. Ladouceur some rest. There's almost zero chance of the veteran being ousted.



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!

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. George_Johnson

    August 17, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Rush has played well in his first two preseason games. Who would you rather have enter the game if something happened to Dak Prescott early in the season; Rush or Moore. I will take K Moore, hands down. K Moore is like a veteran, he knows the offense backwards and forwards, he knows the game plans and Linehan’s thinking, he has Linehan’s confidence, he should be very ready at this point to play. He is outstanding at pocket passing especially the short to intermediate game where his arm is strong enough. He is a game manager type QB and will not make a lot of mistakes and will help to maintain field position or move the ball. I still expect him to play well in the preseason games overall.

    • Randy Martin

      August 17, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      All these great mental capabilities and yet falling short in the category “physical talents of an NFL QB!”. I say move Moore to coaching intern and give me Cooper Rush. He has shown poise, composure, and accuracy.

      • George_Johnson

        August 17, 2017 at 9:48 pm

        Good thing your not the coach. Remember Cooper Rush is playing against 3rd and 4th team players many who will be working at a hardware store in about a month. Cooper Rush might be really good some day but he is not ready at this point. He has also been taking 3rd team reps in practice and K Moore has been taking 2nd team reps. My understanding is K Moore has been doing really well and better than C Rush. There is a big difference between 2nd team reps and 3rd team reps. As a little data point I think K Moore has two interceptions and Dak Prescott has about eight. The coaches are really impressed with K Moore and what he is able to do. He didn’t look too good in the last preseason game and he kept checking down, but how much of this had to do with the defense and the pressure Moore was getting from the left side of the offensive line? We will see how he does in the next preseason game.

        • Jess Haynie

          Jess Haynie

          August 18, 2017 at 9:00 am

          Cooper Rush is also playing WITH 3rd and 4th-team players. He didn’t have Frederick and Martin out there blocking for him. It goes both ways. There’s no denying that Rush was a better QB last Saturday night than Moore was.

          Now, if he a better QB overall? Is he more ready to play real NFL football if needed in Sep-Jan? That I don’t know. But there are three more games and we’ll see plenty of both guys. If Rush keeps outplaying Moore then is there no part of you, George, that would be willing to consider him as the better option moving forward?

          • George_Johnson

            August 18, 2017 at 10:55 am

            I try to be objective and factual.

        • Randy Martin

          August 18, 2017 at 9:13 am

          Your right…probably is a good thing I’m not the coach and I seriously doubt that staff would consider Rush over Moore due to his longevity in the league, and relationship with Linehan. It makes me no difference that Moore is a mental giant when it comes to football. I only care what happens between the lines and I haven’t seen anything that makes me feel good including his 400+ yard performance 2 years ago. I have dissected that game in past posts and there is a reason he was allowed to have such a game. I have zero trust in him to win. There was a certain inexperienced last year that played lights out from the first time he stepped on the field. His name is Dak Prescott. Not saying Cooper is Dak but with a great line in front of him I’ll take a guy that doesn’t need a step ladder to look over his lineman! Some guys just have it and Rush might be that guy.

          • George_Johnson

            August 18, 2017 at 11:19 am

            You evidently don’t realize it but K Moore is more than a mental giant when it comes to football. Instead of me telling you what I know and have read, let me tell you what S Linehan has said. S Linehan SHOULD BE ONE OF THE TOP QB EXPERTS IN THE WORLD so we should be able to rely on his credibility. Here is what S Linehan has said (paraphrased): ” K Moore can play in the NFL. His arm is strong enough. He compensates for his physical limitations with his outstanding pocket passing skills/abilities to get the job done. He is very accurate and has uncanny anticipation. He recently said he is like a machine. He also said he is like a veteran even though he hasn’t played much because of his knowledge and knowing exactly what to do. He also knows his limitations and will not try to make throws his arm will not allow him to.”

          • Randy Martin

            August 18, 2017 at 4:13 pm

            I am not arguing with you and I know all about Linehan’s love for Moore. I just don’t happen to agree with his ringing endorsement. I also know there is no middle ground with Moore. You either love him or dislike him. It’s nothing personal…he never played in Detroit, he is 0-2 as a starter, 58 pct. Completion, 4 TD’s, 6 INT’s and a QBR of 29 pct. Again, I don’t care what Linehan thinks of him until I see him do something on the field, I do not want him as my #2.

  2. Randy Martin

    August 17, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    I’m pulling for Joe Jones to nail down a LB spot. He still has work to do but he has looked good, especially in the HOF game. I’ve also had Ivie as my pet cat and hoping with suspensions we can go long there. I think this was a pretty good crack at this Jess.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      August 18, 2017 at 8:54 am

      Thanks, Randy. I would definitely put Jones in the #54-60 range right now in terms of roster rankings, and there’s plenty of time for him to move up. If nothing else, he seems like an excellent practice squad candidate.

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Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator

John Williams

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It Is Time for the Dallas Cowboys to Move on From Tony Romo

The pipe dream has been going on since former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback-turned CBS Analyst Tony Romo hung up his cleats for the black blazer. Fans from all corners of Cowboys Nation have clamored for a return to the field or at worst the sideline as the Cowboys offensive coordinator.

Let me stop you right there. It's not happening.

First of all. He's never been a coach at any level of football, so to assume that he could leave the broadcast booth and step into coaching an NFL offense and doing so at a high level is a huge leap of faith in number 9. Sure, Jon Gruden left the Monday Night Football booth for his lucrative deal with the Oakland Raiders, but he had won a Super Bowl and had been an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL for years before joining the broadcasting ranks.

Tony Romo has an excellent understanding of football. He displays it on a regular basis during the CBS broadcasts. But doing from the broadcast view, seeing what the defense is trying to do, and calling the plays to counter what the defense is trying to do are very different things.

Secondly, the coaching job would be a major time commitment that at the moment he doesn't have. Even if he's working a 40 hour work week in preparation for his three-hour time slot, the demands on NFL coaches are easily twice that with many coaches putting in 100 hour work weeks in preparation for Sundays. Tony Romo has a family that even he's talked about as part of the reason that he went into broadcasting instead of looking to hop on with another NFL team.

Finally, the job would mean a significant pay cut from what Romo is already making. It's estimated that the former Cowboys quarterback is making anywhere from $5-10 million dollars a year with CBS. Jason Garrett is making $6 million per year as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, so even if the Jones family was willing to pay first-time NFL coach Tony Romo a ton of money to come out of the broadcast booth, there's zero chance they pay him what he's making as a broadcaster. To do so, would be to undercut the head coach. Jason Garrett is Jerry Jones' guy. The owner and general manager wants Garrett to be the guy that leads the Cowboys to Super Bowl success, so there's zero chance he'd pay a coordinator close to Garrett's money, which would lead to constant speculation about the head coach and his future with the organization.

I love Tony Romo. His jersey is one of only two Cowboys jerseys that I own -- along with Darren Woodson -- and I think he could make a good coach one day, but I'd be hard pressed to see him come out of the coaching booth to take a coordinator job and have immediate success. The guys that are offensive coordinators in the NFL have been grinding for years to earn their jobs. Most started as position coaches -- see Sean McVay as Redskins TE coach. The Dallas Cowboys will spend the next few days, and perhaps weeks, identifying their replacement for Scott Linehan, but let's put to bed the dream of Romo as offensive coordinator.

It's just not going to happen.



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Player News

Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

Jess Haynie

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Devin Smith

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.

Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh

Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.

Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.

The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.

For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!



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Dallas Cowboys

Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways

John Williams

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Scott Linehan Acknowledges Need for New "Wrinkles" in Cowboys Offense

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.

Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.

The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.

Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.

Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.

In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.

This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.

Mike Garafolo on Twitter

Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan

Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.

The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.

Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.



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