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Cowboys 2017 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 4

Jess Haynie

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Joseph Jones

Some weeks bring major changes to our roster projections, and some weeks only confirm what we already believed. The last two preseason games have definitely provided more confirmation than new evidence, meaning that this updated projection has very little difference from the last one.

Once again, here is a quick recap of the Cowboys’ suspension situation:

  • 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)

Elliott’s appeal is scheduled for April 29th and the NFL will almost surely rule on his status before Week One. At that point it will be up to Zeke if he’s going to seek an injunction and take it to the courts. While this is a very real possibility and perhaps even the most likely scenario, we’re going to work with the current information.

Even though we don’t have anything official yet on Carroll or Wilson, their situations don’t leave much room for clemency. It’s not a matter of if, but when, for them to get their suspensions. In Wilson’s case, it’s possible the legal situation will have to play out more before the league takes action. That means he may be available for Week One, but then goes away mid-season.

Cooper Rush

QB Cooper Rush

Quarterbacks (3)

Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore

CHANGES: Added Cooper Rush

At this point there’s no question that Cooper Rush will make the Cowboys 53-man roster. He has been one of the league’s best quarterbacks this preseason and would be snatched up immediately if Dallas tried to get him to the practice squad. While there may be some recency bias here, I can’t remember guys like Matt Moore or Alex Tanney looking as good as Rush has.

The real question now is what Dallas does with Kellen Moore and the backup position. They could still keep Moore as QB2 and just secure Rush with a roster spot. They could make Rush the primary backup and keep Moore around for his experience and the way he helps with game preparation. They even have the surprising option of putting Moore on the practice squad.

Indeed, the Cowboys may still decide to go with just two quarterbacks on the roster. If that happens, it won’t be Cooper Rush who suffers. He’s earned his spot the old-fashioned way, playing so well that he’s impossible to ignore.

Darren McFadden, Patriots

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

Running Backs (4)

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

CHANGES: None

If Elliott is suspended to start the year then this one is easy to call.  Ronnie Hillman had a nice touchdown play last night but otherwise hasn’t done enough to merit a spot. 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 on Thursday 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 (5)

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

CHANGES: Removed Noah Brown

The decision to keep Cooper Rush at QB comes with a price somewhere else on the roster, and it’s rookie Noah Brown who had to pay the bill. The top five at receiver are clear and the Cowboys likely wouldn’t have the sixth guy active on game days.

Even if they do keep six, I can’t say with certainty now that Noah Brown would be the guy. We’ve seen plays made by fellow rookies Brian Brown and Lance Lenoir. There are also Andy Jones and Uzoma Nwachukwu in the mix. We don’t know all of the things these guys have done on the practice field that might sway the coaches.

For now, though, I see all of these guys competing for the practice squad. One will certainly be there and maybe even two. Perhaps Thursday’s preseason finale will help to clear things up a bit.

Rico Gathers, Rams

TE Rico Gathers

Tight Ends (4)

Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers

CHANGES: None

Barring any new injuries, this group is locked in for 2017. The only thing left to determine is who gets the most snaps after Jason Witten, and we may see all three guys used fairly evenly throughout the year. Hanna and Swaim both have run-blocking advantages over Gathers, but Rico has the mismatch element in the passing game. It’s a nice problem for Scott Linehan to have.

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

OT Emmett Cleary

Offensive Tackles (3)

Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Emmett Cleary

CHANGES: None

Another position that appears set; the starters are obvious and Cleary looks to have secured the swing tackle role now that Chaz Green is getting looks at guard and still having injury problems. While Green and Byron Bell do offer some position flexibility as options at tackle, Cleary probably has the most trust going forward.

Chaz Green

OL Chaz Green

Guards (4)

Zack Martin, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green, Byron Bell

CHANGES: Added Bell

With the last projection I cut Bell because of the position flex that Chaz Green offers as a tackle or guard. However, the ongoing uncertainty at left guard and with Green’s injuries mean the Cowboys probably need to go a little long with nine total linemen. At this point, Bell might even be the starting guard in Week One; things are still that unsettled.

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

I’m surprised we haven’t seen Looney more in the competition for left guard, but that would create another hole for a backup center. That’s not to say he isn’t being considered, but you can see why Dallas wants for one of the other guys to win that job outright and not force them to move other pieces around and create a new opening.

Defensive Ends (5)

DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper, Taco Charlton, Lewis Neal

CHANGES: Removed Lenny Jones, Added Neal

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 and David Irving will further deepen the rotation as they return.

It’s a toss-up right now between Lewis Neal and Lenny Jones for that final spot on the defensive line.  Right now I’m going with Neal because he has the size to play inside or out, which we saw last night against the Raiders. Having a second guy like that helps with Tyrone Crawford likely to be playing at defensive end some during the suspensions, if not all season.

Maliek Collins

DT Maliek Collins

Defensive Tackle (4)

Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Stephen Paea, Cedric Thornton

CHANGES: None

Another locked-in position in terms of who makes the team, but Paea has been working his way into a larger role since camp began. It’s not surprising given his history with Rod Marinelli in Chicago; the veteran has been starting over Thornton during preseason. It’s another tough break for Cedric, who last year got benched because of the surprising emergence of a healthy Terrell McClain and rookie standout Maliek Collins.

Damien Wilson

LB Damien Wilson (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Linebackers (6)

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

CHANGES: Removed John Lotulelei

We’re waiting for confirmation on Hitchens’ knee injury and so far it’s not looking good. If he does end up on IR, rookie Joseph Jones is probably the strongest candidate right now for the roster spot. Given their other issues with Damien Wilson’s likely suspension and Jaylon Smith’s ongoing reintroduction to football, it’s possible Dallas will look to free agency. If you were one of those hoping Dallas would sign Daryl Washington, that door may have just been reopened.

Orlando Scandrick

CB Orlando Scandrick

Cornerbacks (6)

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

CHANGES: None

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.

Duke Thomas left last night’s game with what appears to be a minor injury. He’s had a nice camp and preseason and I’m keeping him on the roster for now. Dallas certainly needs to go long at cornerback with Awuzie and Lewis still limited by hamstring issues. Hopefully they get some run on Thursday night, because the Giants will be in town pretty damn soon.

Kavon Frazier

S Kavon Frazier (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Safeties (4)

Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, Xavier Woods

CHANGES: None

Dallas probably would like to keep veteran Robert Blanton but just don’t have the numbers. They will hope that Jones and Heath stay healthy and the young guys can stay on the bench and special teams. Blanton will likely be on the short list of guys they call during the year if an injury occurs.

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 just 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.

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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!

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3 Comments
  • George_Johnson

    As you know I am a big K Moore fan. K Moore should have been more ready than he ever has been to play and do well in preseason games. I was expecting him to have a big preseason but for some reason he had two games in a row of mediocre play. My understanding is he did do well in practices and his first preseason game. He is in his sixth year and if he becomes the 3rd team QB or is put on the practice squad he need to think about hanging it up. At 3rd team your not likely to get in games to get a chance to prove yourself. Most people including many coaches don’t think K Moore can play so for him to get chances to play and prove himself is critical so he can establish a certain level of credibility. K Moore has a future as a coach so he may want to think about getting on with this part of his career. Of course if he makes the team he will make some pretty big money that will probably keep him around this year but he needs to think about the future. At a minimum he needs a promise to get a chance to compete for the 2nd team QB position next year. If he is put on the practice squad he definitely needs to start searching for his coaching gig. The concept of serving as a coach and mentor to Dak, doesn’t make a lot of sense unless he is given a coaches job in Dallas. Let the 2nd team QB serve as a coach and mentor, not the 3rd team QB.

    • John Williams

      George, I appreciate that you are seeing things realistically for Mr. Moore. Nobody ever wishes for players to be cut, but it just seems as if it’s not working out for Kellen anymore.

      I agree that he has a bright future as an NFL coach and that should no way be effected by his on field ability. Some of the best coaches in all of sports were better at coaching than playing.

  • John Williams

    I think Noah Brown is going to be on the roster. I’m not so sure that Rico Gathers doesn’t get short term IR’d if he can’t make progress in the concussion protocol.

    I’m beginning to be of the mind that this team might be best suited carrying all four tailbacks or trying to work Rod Smith to the practice squad, regardless of the Elliott situation.

    Morris has shown rejuvenated play and will be an asset when you give him the ball 3-5 times a game.

    This team wants to grind the clock. If you can Keep Elliott at about 20 touches a game and disperse the remaining 10-15 between Morris, DMC, and Smith, that should keep everyone fresh and effective.

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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Dallas Cowboys

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job

Sean Martin

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Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job 1

By keeping all three top coaches (Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli) in place for 2018, there isn’t a Dallas Cowboys coaching hire that feels like they “must” get it right to contend next season. This is how it should be.

Producing nine wins, despite missing key players throughout the season, the Cowboys are changing things up at the position coach level to hopefully introduce new ideas and give the talent on this team a better chance at sustained success.

One coaching vacancy that needs to be filled by the right guy above any else is on the offensive line, where things haven’t been the same since the great Bill Callahan departed.

Frank Pollack took his place, and now finds himself with the Cincinnati Bengals after not being retained by Dallas this offseason.

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job

Tom Cable (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

The first name that was thrown around in consideration for the Cowboys job was Tom Cable, which sent a panic throughout Cowboys Nation before Cable decided to sign with John Gruden and the Raiders.

Cable had been coaching the Seahawks’ OL, a position that franchise has not valued in some time, and struggled to develop any talent in protection of their franchise QB Russell Wilson.

Now, two new names have emerged as candidates to coach the likes of two-time 1st Team All-Pro LT Tyron Smith, 1st Team All-Pro C Travis Frederick, and two-time 1st Team All-Pro RG Zack Martin.

Mike Solari and Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander has already met with the Dallas Cowboys, looking for work after 23 seasons with the Bengals. During this time, Alexander served as Marvin Lewis’ assistant head coach, in addition to his duties as their OL coach.

Judging on reactions out of Cincinnati to Alexander’s departure, the Bengals offensive line regressed under him in 2017, warranting change from a franchise that is as reluctant as any to move on from coaches.

Goodberry on Twitter

Paul Alexander better be gone

Most recently, Mike Solari has served as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants — far from a renowned unit around the NFL lately. He does have previous experience with the Cowboys, having served as an assistant OL and special teams coach here from 1987-88.

From 2006-07, Solari did reach the rank of offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, which shows the level of respect that the 30-year NFL coaching veteran has earned.

He will be the Dallas Cowboys’ next interview for their open OL coach position.

Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack 1

Dallas Cowboys RT La’el Collins, RG Zack Martin

Depth at tackle, a long-term answer at left guard, and an extension for Zack Martin are among the questions facing the Cowboys offensive line moving forward. Whoever is in charge of keeping this unit up to standard in 2018 though, may hold the keys to getting the entirety of the Cowboys’ program back on track.

Whether it’s Alexander, Solari, or another outside candidate yet to emerge, Inside The Star will keep you updated on the Cowboys’ ongoing coaching search.

Tell us what you think about “Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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