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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
  • George_Johnson

    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

      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

        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

          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

            I try to be objective and factual.

        • Randy Martin

          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

            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

            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.

  • Randy Martin

    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

      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.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys WR Michael Gallup is Team’s Most Important Rookie

Jess Haynie

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Will Rookie WR Michael Gallup Make an Immediate Impact? 1

Almost any other season, a team's first-round draft pick is going to be the most important rookie on the roster. Often, they are drafted to the position with the greatest immediate need. But for the 2018 Dallas Cowboys, third-round Wide Receiver Michael Gallup is the guy that the team needs most.

Dallas drafted Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last April's draft. In the second round they took Offensive Lineman Connor Williams. The Cowboys hope both will have starting roles on this year's team.

But given the other talent at those positions, it's receiver where Dallas most needs a rookie to excel.

For Vander Esch in 2018, his ceiling is probably to start in the base 4-3 defense and then rotate in the nickel scheme. That means pushing Damien Wilson to the bench, but still having to push for reps with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith when the team only has two linebackers on the field.

That's no small role, and especially if Leighton end up as the starting middle linebacker. But Dallas, like most NFL teams, uses their nickel scheme more than any other.

Vander Esch's importance is almost more about potential injury to Sean or Jaylon, where he can hopefully step in and perform quickly. But if those two stay healthy, Vander Esch may not have a much bigger role than Damien Wilson did last year.

For Connor Williams, Being Shoulder to Shoulder with Tyron Smith is Nothing New

Dallas Cowboys G Connor Williams

Second-round pick Connor Williams is going to get the first crack at being the team's new starting left guard. You could easily make a case that that's more important than the role Vander Esch will have this year.

But Dallas has a lot of options if Williams doesn't immediately excel.

They could flip Right Tackle La'el Collins back to guard and try Connor at his college position of tackle. They might also start veteran Cameron Fleming at RT and make Williams a versatile reserve.

Dallas also has veterans Chaz Green, Joe Looney, and Marcus Martin on the roster competing at guard.

These options make Williams' success less critical to the 2018 Cowboys. As with Vander Esch, there's a cushion for if the rookie doesn't show up right away.

Given the state of things at receiver, Michael Gallup doesn't have that same cushion.

Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out 1

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

Without the rookie, Dallas has Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Deonte Thompson, as the only established players on the WR depth chart. Each one has a red flag.

Hurns has never succeeded as the top receiver in an offense. His best years in Jacksonville were when Allen Robinson was WR1 and Hurns could do damage with less attention. He needs other guys to keep defenses honest to be effective.

The same goes for Beasley, who had a strong season in 2016 but then wilted last year when teams realized he was the bigger threat than Dez Bryant or Jason Witten. Cole was effectively taken out by opposing defensive coordinators, dropping to the fourth on the team in catches.

Terrance Williams is the guy Dallas probably wish they could cut but whose contract makes it unprofitable. His recent personal issues, on top of years of underwhelming play, don't inspire confidence that he can help balance the offense.

Deonte Thompson broke out a little with the Buffalo Bills last year despite their overall passing issues, but he's 29 and didn't do anything between 2012-2016. He's a vertical threat who might help in some situations, but is doubtful as a major piece of the offense.

This is why Dallas needs Michael Gallup to show up right now. Without some new spark in the passing game, next season could be unfortunately similar to 2017.

While a full season from Ezekiel Elliott will hopefully make life easier for Dak Prescott this year, the Cowboys' quarterback still needs receiver who can make defenses nervous. None of the players we just talked about will do that, lacking the cache of Bryant or Witten from a few years ago.

 

While a full season from Ezekiel Elliott will hopefully make life easier for Dak Prescott this year, the Cowboys' quarterback still needs receiver who can make defenses nervous. None of the players we just talked about will do that, lacking the cache of Bryant or Witten from a few years ago.

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

Of course, we recognize that Michael Gallup is just a third-round draft pick. Expecting him to come in and immediately change the fortune of the offense could be asking way too much.

That doesn't change need, though. Dallas can afford for Leighton Vander Esch or Connor Williams to take a year to develop. But if Gallup doesn't show up right away, we could see a lot more of guys not getting open and Prescott getting flustered.

Hopefully, the absence of Dez and Jason this year will make the Cowboys less predictable. It will keep defenses guessing enough to help all of these players take advantage.

But nothing will help more than an infusion of new, exciting talent. If Michael can make an early impact, teams will have to adjust. That will open the door much wider for his teammates.

Again, it may be asking too much. We get that.

But that's reality for the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. They just lost two future Ring of Honor members from the passing game and the two most targeted players from last year's offense.

Do you really want Terrance Williams trying to fill that void? Of course not.

While Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, or even fourth-round rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz could make major impacts on the 2018 Cowboys, there is less risk if they don't. It's at receiver where Dallas suffers most if their rookie addition doesn't perform.

Therefore, for 2018, Michael Gallup is the most important rookie on the Dallas Cowboys.



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Dallas Cowboys

Is Cowboys ST Coordinator Keith O’Quinn Facing Most Pressure for New Coaches?

Sean Martin

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Is Cowboys ST Coordinator Keith O'Quinn Facing Most Pressure for New Coaches? 1

Amidst an overhaul on offense that's seen the Dallas Cowboys hire new positional coaches at every position but running back, and a potential change of philosophy on defense with Kris Richard arriving as Passing Game Coordinator, new Special Teams Coordinator Keith O'Quinn may be the new Cowboys coach under the most pressure for 2018.

O'Quinn has big shoes to fill with Rich Bisaccia now on John Gruden's Oakland Raiders staff, the Cowboys ST Coordinator from 2013-2017. O'Quinn arrived in Dallas as a scout first in 2007, joining the coaching staff in 2010 but not working on special teams with Bisaccia until 2014.

The University of North Texas alum has always been regarded highly around the NFL, as O'Quinn served as the Director of Pro Personnel in Cleveland prior to getting on the Cowboys coaching staff.

It's almost certain that O'Quinn will have to put his scouting and personnel background to the test when influencing the Cowboys roster decisions on special teams. His unit will be a needed destination for talented players on the roster bubble, of which the Cowboys have plenty of at wide receiver, running back, linebacker, and even cornerback.

Where Rich Bisaccia was known for having his way in the Cowboys roster building to maintain a strong special teams unit, O'Quinn will have to be just as assertive and perhaps more diligent.

Players like Lance Lenoir, K.D. Cannon, Trey Williams, rookies Bo Scarbrough and Chris Covington, Duke Thomas, and Marquez White could all rely on being put in position to succeed on special teams by O'Quinn.

Should a player like Scarbrough make the cut as the Cowboys' final pick of the AT&T Stadium hosted 2018 Draft, his role as a compliment in the backfield to Ezekiel Elliott is the perfect depth to receive from a special teams contributor.

This is just one immediate example of the players the Cowboys are looking at to replace the departed Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber, two key ST starters lost in free agency.

Cowboys Roster: Who Are the "Best" Players on the Bubble? 1

Dallas Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough

The Cowboys ranked 24th in yards per punt with Chris Jones last season, as the burden of turning around Dan Bailey's kicking misfortunes from 2017 also falls on O'Quinn. Bailey missed a career-high five kicks last year, a total he matched the year prior and in 2011.

In their own return game, it won't just be Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan trying to get the most out of Tavon Austin, as he'll serve as one possible replacement to Ryan Switzer.

Of course, it was Switzer's fumble against Austin's LA Rams in a week four loss that stands as a lasting image of the Cowboys shortcomings of 2017. Dan Bailey's missed fourth quarter field goal against the Seahawks, which all but assured that the season would end the following week in Philadelphia against the defending Super Bowl champions, is another special teams miscue for O'Quinn to think back to.

Is Cowboys ST Coordinator Keith O'Quinn Facing Most Pressure for New Coaches?

Dallas Cowboys P Chris Jones, K Dan Bailey (Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports)

This year's Cowboys are not about looking back however, determined to defy the odds and contend in the NFC East despite flipping so much of their roster and coaching staff. When the Cowboys finally arrive in Oxnard, the anticipation for training camp will likely be met with some tense moments early, as new players and coaches adjust.

A coordinator that can't afford to have his head swimming in a new role is Keith O'Quinn. Not only does his special teams unit have to be built with the Cowboys talent level in mind, but they must perform at the standard Bisaccia set in Dallas as not only the former Special Teams Coordinator but Assistant Head Coach as well.

Tell us what you think about "Is Cowboys ST Coordinator Keith O’Quinn Facing Most Pressure for New Coaches?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys 2018 Preview: Which Offensive Starting Jobs Are Open?

Jess Haynie

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Michael Gallup

We're still about a month away from the start of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Training Camp. However, even now, we have a good sense of what starting jobs are open and which ones have already been decided for the upcoming season.

Before we get into the open positions, let's look at the ones that appear to already set. Barring injuries or some other unpredictable occurrence, here are the guys who you can bet on starting this season:

OFFENSE

Even with these probable and assured starters, there are a few considerations to be made.

For example, Allen Hurns may be the team's highest-paid receiver and the assumed replacement to Dez Bryant. But he's still brand new to this team, so chemistry with Dak Prescott and system familiarity make him a little risky early one.

La'el Collins will be a starter, but are we sure it's at right tackle? If nobody impresses at left guard, Dallas could still elect to move Collins back inside and start veteran Cam Fleming at tackle.

Still, these aren't likely. So, of the 22 primary positions on both sides of the ball, we have 12 players who are safe bets to start. What about the other 10 spots? What's are the possibilities and probabilities there?

Today, we'll focus on the offense.

Dak Prescott, Cole Beasley

QB Dak Prescott and WR Cole Beasley (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Wide Receiver

Given his previous success and chemistry with Dak Prescott, Cole Beasley could seem an easy bet for the WR2 position. But there are several factors to consider.

Third-round rookie Michael Gallup is more of an all-around receiver and his play already in OTAs and minicamp has impressed. He also gives the Cowboys a young WR to form a new trio with Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott; an offensive nucleus they would hope to build on for years to come.

If Gallup keeps excelling, Dallas won't hesitate to give him a starting job. Beasley is a free agent next year and the rookie is locked up for four seasons.

There's also Terrance Williams to consider, all of his recent personal shenanigans aside. He offers system familiarity and exceptional run blocking, which is good for a starting role. You want Williams on the field when the ball is going to Ezekiel Elliott on early downs.

This speaks to the reality that being the starter may not necessarily lead to getting the most targets. Beasley could be the slot receiver and still easily get more passes than the WR2 by the end of the season.

The good news is that the Cowboys have options, which should also mean depth once things shake out.

Blake Jarwin

Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin (Kevin Terrell via AP)

Tight End

Arguably the most wide open position on the whole roster, tight end is a massive crater in the offense with the impact of Jason Witten's retirement. Who will fill the void?

While veteran Geoff Swaim is getting the early deference, he's hardly locked in as the starter. Swaim's nine career catches give him hardly any cache over rookie Dalton Schultz or prospects Rico Gathers and Blake Jarwin.

It truly is a four-man race for the starting role, which makes things fun but also tense for the next two months. The reality that none of these guys will likely be able to perform on Jason Witten's level is also scary.

Thankfully, though, they may not have to. Dallas appears to be moving to more of a spread offense better suited to Dak Prescott's style, which may reduce the expectations of the TE position from the last 15 years of Witten.

As we mentioned before with Terrance Williams, Geoff Swaim is a proficient run blocker. Couple that with his experience and he's the best bet to start, but we could see a steady rotation throughout the year as Dallas tried to figure out which guy is best suited for the long term.

For Connor Williams, Being Shoulder to Shoulder with Tyron Smith is Nothing New

Dallas Cowboys G Connor Williams

Left Guard

Second-round pick Connor Williams will get the first crack at being the new starter at left guard, but rookies rarely have a guarantee when it comes to any first-year role. Throw in that he'll be transitioning from tackle to guard, and Connor has some clear question marks.

As mentioned already, Dallas could decide to flip La'el Collins back to LG and start someone else at right tackle. Ironically, that could also be Connor Williams. The Cowboys might decide that the rookie is better at his college position. It could also be the aforementioned Cam Fleming.

Also competing for the job at guard will be veterans Joe Looney and Marcus Martin. Both have position flex as centers or guards, meaning one could start and the other could be your top interior reserve. That versatility is nice for them and for the Cowboys, allowing the best man to win.

Chaz Green is also still hanging around, and surprisingly got first-team reps ecently when Zack Martin was missing camp. The Cowboys have invested a lot in Green and are understandably desperate to still get something for their trouble. He may get more of a chance to compete here than we'd have guessed.

But still, this should be Connor Williams' job to lose. A second-round pick is no small thing, especially for a guy expected to play interior line. Those picks are made with the goal of finding a starter, and Williams will get every chance to prove if he can handle it or not.

~ ~ ~

As you can see, there's going to be some real turnover in the Cowboys offense this year. But this is only half the roster, and there's even more opportunity on the other side of the ball.

Come back tomorrow for a breakdown of the open starting jobs on defense.



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