Roster cuts will be coming over the next two days, and it’s time to look at our final 53-man roster projection of 2018. Who will make up the Dallas Cowboys as the enter the upcoming regular season?
The preseason revealed some things that we didn’t expect a month ago, both positive and negative. We’ve seen some big swings in stock value on certain players since the start of training camp.
The best thing you can say about the Cowboys’ August is that they evaded any major injuries. Travis Frederick’s health issue is a concern, but otherwise the team shouldn’t be missing anybody for more than a week or town.
One thing to keep in mind with these projections is that we can’t account for all of the talent that’s about to hit the open market. Only Will McClay and his crew know who the Cowboys may be targeting from waivers and free agency in the days ahead.
That said, we’ll do our best to form a roster with what we know and who’s currently in house.
Dak Prescott, Mike White
Changes: Removed Cooper Rush
I have wrestled with this one a lot, and I think this comes down to that 53-man limit and needs elsewhere on the team. It also may be a temporary move.
White has outplayed Rush the last two weeks. While he’s a rookie, he was also a fifth-round pick. Rush was an undrafted free agent last year.
Dallas will want to preserve White’s four-year rookie contract, which would be lost if he was released and re-signed to the practice squad. Unfortunately, Rush’s time last year on the active roster makes him ineligible for the practice squad.
The Cowboys may very well wind up with three quarterbacks, perhaps signing or trading for a veteran backup over the next few days. But with other positions where they need to go long due to injury, I think they will make this move to avoid having to make a tougher cut somewhere else.
Running Back (4)
Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, Darius Jackson,
Jamize Olawale (FB)
I am standing by my belief that Jackson gives you more than Bo Scarbrough with his athleticism and kick return value. He just makes more sense as your third RB as Rod Smith has plenty of power as a short-yardage option.
There are only so many teams that are going to value a runner like Scarbrough. He needs an offensive line who can dominate and make lanes for him to pick up speed in. Dallas is one of those few teams, so they have a good shot at getting him to their practice squad.
I’m prepared to be wrong on this one. The Cowboys have cut Jackson once before and could do it again. But keep in mind that this was when they had Elliott, Alfred Morris, and Darren McFadden all under contract. Darius was on the roster in 2016 until McFadden was finally activated.
Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup,
Terrance Williams, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson
Changes: Added Thompson
Here’s one position where I think Dallas goes long, both for current and future reasons. Even still, they have to make a tough cut by not putting Lance Lenoir on the roster this year.
With Beasley, Austin, and Thompson all playing on expiring contracts, and Terrance Williams a likely cap casualty next year, the Cowboys will spend much of 2018 deciding who they value for the future. We’re going to see all of these guys used in various ways.
Even though Thompson didn’t get to do much this month, missing time with injury, Dallas signed the veteran for a reason. I think they’ll want to see what he can offer in games before they cut him loose.
As for Lenoir, I’m sure the Cowboys will hope to get him to the practice squad. He’d make the team most years, but we’re unusually deep at WR in 2018.
Tight End (3)
Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, Dalton Schultz
I wouldn’t draft a Dallas TE on your fantasy team this year, because Jarwin and Swaim are probably going to be splitting a lot of time. Jarwin’s the better receiver, Swaim’s the better blocker, and they will be deployed in many different packages.
Schultz was a fourth-round pick and isn’t going anywhere. That means Rico Gathers had to push the team to keep four tight ends, and it just hasn’t happened. He’s still too raw with the finer points of football to justify a roster spot.
In a different year, Dallas could go long if they wanted to give Rico another year to develop and not risk him on the practice squad. But with the health issues on the offensive line and at safety, this just isn’t one of those years.
Offensive Tackle (3)
Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Cam Fleming
This trio had been locked in since the beginning of camp. The starters are set and Fleming was clearly brought in to play swing tackle, making $2.5 million this year in reserve duty.
There is some concern as Fleming hasn’t looked great this preseason, but part of that has been the overall failings of the backup linemen. Teams have been throwing a lot of blitzes at Dallas’ second string.
Fleming has started a lot of games, including playoffs, for the New England Patriots. He will look better when he’s playing with the starters and when defenses aren’t as aggressive.
Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Connor Williams,
Joe Looney, Parker Ehinger, Free Agent TBD
Changes: Added Ehinger, Removed Kadeem Edwards
In case you’re wondering who Ehinger is, he’s the OL from Kansas City who is reportedly coming to Dallas in exchange for CB Charvarius Ward. This deal should be finalized today.
Ehinger has guard/tackle flex and should be a nice upgrade over Kadeem Edwards. But that still leaves Dallas needing another guy who can play center.
Frederick may only be on the 53 for a day. Dallas has to go through cuts first and then put Travis on injured reserve if they want the option of bringing him back after eight weeks.
At this point, I don’t even think they’ll go that far. It sounds like he’s doing very well with his treatment and could return much sooner than Week 9. I think they’ll carry Frederick on the 53 as a gameday inactive until he’s ready to go.
That means Joe Looney is starting for a while. Even though Zack Martin can play center in a pinch, Dallas still needs another guy who can handle that spot on their bench until Frederick returns. I think he will come from free agency in the next few days.
Defensive End (5)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton,
Dorance Armstrong, Charles Tapper
Changes: Moved Tyrone Crawford to DT
With Gregory’s return and how quickly he’s reestablished himself, it looks like Crawford is going to play more at his natural position as the 3-technique defensive tackle. That’s good news across the board.
Thanks to the young talent showing up, Dallas will cut Kony Ealy. The veteran has not been what they hoped and they have better options at both DE and DT.
Tapper makes it for now but could easily be the guy cut once David Irving comes off suspension in Week 5.
Defensive Tackle (5)
Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods,
Daniel Ross, Brian Price
Changes: Added Crawford
One of the big stories this camp and preseason has been the rise of Antwaun Woods, who has taken over the 1-tech and nose tackle role. It’s a nice development for the Cowboys as it frees up Maliek Collins to get back to the things that made him a standout as a rookie.
Jihad Ward is the guy that Dallas traded away Ryan Switzer for, but he hasn’t impressed. He might make it over Ross or Price, but that would only be if the Cowboys still believe there’s some untapped potential left.
As mentioned already, David Irving will be back in October. Injuries will likely play a major factor in who gets cut to make room for him.
Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch,
Damien Wilson, Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard
It’s been a great summer for the LB position. Lee and Smith are healthy heading into the season, and Jaylon looks ready to be a breakout star.
Dallas now has the luxury of easing first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch into things. Damien Wilson may still start in the base defense for a while as the rookie, who missed time in preseason with a minor groin injury, hasn’t had much work lately.
Helping also is the emergence of Joe Thomas and Justin March-Lillard as quality depth options. Both have stood out in preseason and are guy you won’t be afraid to play in games if needed. It’s arguably the deepest that the Cowboys have been at linebacker in some time.
Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones, Anthony Brown,
Jourdan Lewis, Donovan Olumba
Changes: Added Olumba, Removed Charvarius Ward
One reason that Dallas traded Ward to Kansas City, no doubt, is the play of Donovan Olumba. Another undrafted free agent this year, Olumba fits the Kris Richard mold at 6’2″ and has been standing out lately among the CB prospects.
Even if Dallas was only keeping four safeties, not having to cover for Xavier Woods’ injury, I don’t think they’d go any longer here. Whether it’s the 10th defensive back or that 9th offensive linemen, these are the spots that I think will cost Cooper Rush his roster spot.
Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier,
Jeron Johnson, Tyree Robinson
Last night’s game validated Johnson as a keeper. The veteran safety led the team in tackles and should provide exactly what they need, at least temporarily, while waiting to get Woods back. His experience, but generally and specifically with Kris Richard in Seattle, is a major plus.
I’m putting Robinson on here for now, but I could easily see him being replaced by a waiver wire or free agent acquisition. And if the Cowboys could perhaps finally pull of a trade with the Seahawks for that other guy, even better.
Special Teams (3)
Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
Since we don’t have much to say about this obvious group of special teamers, how about a quick shout-out to Brett Maher? He’s handled kicking and punting duties for Dallas over the last few months while helping Bailey and Jones to keep their legs fresh and avoid injuries.
Maher hit a 57-yard field goal last night in Houston, make him 4/4 this preseason. Hopefully somebody else took notice and will give the man a job.