The Cowboys finally played their first preseason game last night. With what we saw from that game, plus two weeks of training camp reports, it's a good time to update the 53-man roster projection for 2018.
The last projection came out just before camp started and we've had some developments since then. Thankfully, none of those have involved a major injury. All of our changes will be based on performance.
The danger here is getting too hung up on stuff that happened in last night's game. Those limited reps against limited competition don't wipe out everything the coaches have observed in training camp.
They do matter, of course. A strong performance can do a lot to help a guy's stock. But it would be foolish to assume that a quiet night negates everything a player might've done so far in Oxnard.
So, with that being said, let's get to it.
Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White
The pecking order is only more firmly established after last night. Dak had a perfect showing in his one series, leading a touchdown drive and having zero incompletions. Cooper Rush was next up and looked solid, completing 65% of his passes and having few errors despite some protection issues.
Mike White didn't get a chance to show much, playing with the bottom rung of receivers and getting even worse blocking than Rush had. It will be interesting to see if he gets a shot at being QB2 in any of the remaining games.
More than likely, though, this trio will remain as is the rest of the season. The only real potential for change was if Rush struggled and allowed the rookie to move up the depth chart, which could put Cooper's roster spot in jeopardy.
But last night, plus everything we've heard from Oxnard, indicates that Cooper Rush is entrenched as the backup QB for 2018.
Running Back (4)
Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, Bo Scarbrough,
Jamize Olawale (FB)
Changes: Moved Tavon Austin to WR
Zeke sat out last night, allowing Rod Smith to run with the starters. He showed the same mix of power and athleticism we saw last year, even thought the stat sheet was nothing eye-catching.
Bo Scarbrough got to punch one into the endzone, capping a solid debut. We already knew he wouldn't get to flash much behind backup linemen, needing holes and lanes to show off as a downhill runner. He did get off one 28-yard run when he could find some daylight, plus had two catches for 19 yards.
Don't worry, Tavon Austin fans. He's still on the roster, but now being listed at receiver. He may still be a RB on the team's website roster, but the Cowboys' first official depth chart showed him at WR and all his snaps last night came from that position.
Darius Jackson got some run last night and flashed a few things, but not enough to knock anybody else off the roster.
Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup,
Deonte Thompson, Tavon Austin, Lance Lenoir
Changes: Added Austin and Lenoir, Removed Terrance Williams and Noah Brown
It may be early and even foolish, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that Terrance Williams won't make the team this year. I alluded to this two weeks ago and last night only gave me more reason to stick to the theory.
Michael Gallup will need to keep making plays with the first-team offense to make this happen, but last night was a good sign. Lance Lenoir's good night and strong camp also puts pressure from the other end of the depth chart.
I could be way off. Maybe it's veteran Deonte Thompson who loses his spot over Williams.
But Terrance Williams doesn't give you special teams value, and now his role as a receiver is being threatened. The Cowboys can eat his contract if they want to, and they're getting more reasons.
Noah Brown was a tough cut, but he hasn't made the kind of noise in camp that we'd hoped for. Still plenty of time for him to get back on the radar, though.
Tight End (4)
Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz,
Changes: Added Jarwin
We saw Blake Jarwin playing with the starters last night, and word is that he might even push Geoff Swaim for the starting job. If nothing else, it seems impossible to leave him off the 53 at this point.
Rico Gathers is still in this fight, perhaps forcing the team to dump someone at another position. But like Noah Brown, he's another guy who hasn't built on last year's hype yet.
I'm giving him the roster spot for now, hoping we get to see more as preseason continues. He still has that great upside as a receiver, and his blocking has reportedly improved. But at this point Rico's still on the bubble.
Offensive Tackle (3)
Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Cam Fleming,
Changes: Removed Chaz Green
I tried to be a nice guy with my last projection, but Green looked bad last night. Some guys just can't handle the bright lights and Chaz may simply be a dude who folds under game-time pressure, no matter what he shows in practice.
Green was more of a versatile G/T option anyway, which was nice for the bottom of the depth chart for not if he still struggles this much. He could still be put on the practice squad, having just one accrued season so far in his career.
Dallas will likely just go with their starters and Cam Fleming as the swing tackle.
Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Connor Williams,
Joe Looney, Marcus Martin
Changes: Added Joe Looney
With Chaz gone, that opens up a spot for Joe Looney to be retained. The Cowboys could go with some younger prospect, but until one emerges then Looney is reliable depth at both guard and center.
The guy who might push Looney or Marcus Martin out is Kadeem Edwards, who was playing with the second team last night and is a former fifth-round pick. Injuries derailed his early career in Tampa Bay, but Edwards has a chance to get back on track in Dallas.
Defensive End (6)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton
Charles Tapper, Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong
Changes: Added Crawford and Tapper, Removed Kony Ealy
With Crawford being listed as a starting DE on the official depth chart, and having played there last night, I think it's time to make the switch. Tyrone even looked leaner as if he's been working on his body to do more work on the edge.
After reports that veteran free agent Kony Ealy hasn't shown much in camp, and no signs of life last night, I'm cutting him loose. Dallas has too many younger options with upside.
Keeping Tapper and Gregory may be a bit much, but it really is indicative of the versatility and style of the defensive line. Guys like Crawford, Tapper, and even Lawrence or Taco could play inside on some passing downs. What you need are as many athletes who can get to the quarterback as possible.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Jihad Ward, Datone Jones, Brian Price,
Changes: Moved Tyrone Crawford to DE, Added Woods
Removed Richard Ash
Antwaun Woods is the big mover, going from obscurity to being one of the most hyped defensive linemen in camp right now. He didn't have big game last night, but he's been pushing for a starting job based on his play in Oxnard.
I don't have Maliek Collins listed because he's on PUP now, and I expect will remain there to start the season. David Irving is missing due to his four-game suspension to start 2018.
Hopefully we will get to see more of Jihad Ward in the next few preseason games. He should be starting at least in September, and perhaps beyond depending on how he performs.
Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch,
Damien Wilson, Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard
Last night only confirmed what we already assumed about this group. Jaylon flashed in his limited playing time, Vander Esch had a strong night, and the veteran backups stood out.
Joe Thomas got an interception off a tipped ball. Justin March-Lillard showed his versatility with a big QB hit off a blitz, plus a pass deflection. It was a great night to further establish the quality depth that these two veterans offer.
Damien Wilson started the game, but Sean Lee was out. It will be interesting to see who starts between Wilson and Vander Esch when the captain is active.
Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Byron Jones,
Anthony Brown, Charvarious Ward
Changes: Added Ward, Removed Kameron Kelly and Duke Thomas
Our top four is locked in, so it all comes down to the bottom of the depth chart. Based on training camp over last night's game, Charvarious Ward has been the standout player and is my current pick for the roster.
I dumped two corners to add a fourth safety, which I didn't have in the last projection. Duke Thomas did have a pick last night but it was more a bad throw and tipped ball that landed in his lap.
But really, between Thomas, Ward, Kam Kelly, and Marquez White, I could be flip-flopping a lot on these last one or two corners between now and final cuts. In the end, the decision will probably come down to things I didn't get to see in training camp and practice.
Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier,
Changes: Added Huff
With a pass breakup and a nice special teams play in punt coverage last night, Huff drew eyes last night. I was already intrigued by the former fourth-round pick, and he didn't disappoint.
Of course, Marqueston's spot could be going to Earl Thomas if that deal ever gets done. But for now, Huff is a potential backup with 41 career games under his belt.
I still think Dallas could easily go with just three safeties and keep a sixth corner, and special teams will play heavily into that decision. If Huff keeps making plays like he did last night he will make a great case to stick on the roster.
Special Teams (3)
Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
As always, we end things with this boringly consistent trio. For the positions they play, though, there is no greater compliment.
CIN 21, DAL 14: Dak Prescott Continues Strong Preseason in Loss
The games may not count yet, but Dak Prescott looks ready for the 2018 season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback continued his strong preseason play in the team's 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Prescott played three series, going 10/15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He got the offense out of trouble a few times with his feet, avoiding sacks and ultimately getting the scoring pass off on a redzone scramble.
Dak's strong play has coincided with shutdown performances from the starting defense. The Cowboys' first-team defenders have yet to allow a score in two preseason games. Tonight, the Bengals were forced into four punts and two turnovers on their first-half possessions.
Overall, the Cowboys are a combined 24-7 in the first halves of their first two preseason contests.
The second half has been the problem, and for two weeks now Dallas' reserves have squandered halftime leads and given up losses. Thankfully, most of the responsible players will not be on the final 53-man roster.
- There were several concerning injuries for the Cowboys tonight. None was scarier than when All-Pro guard Zack Martin went out with a knee injury, but it does not appear to have been serious. Starting defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavier Woods also got banged up; Byron returned to the game but Woods did not. Defensive lineman Datone Jones also left with a knee injury.
- Even more concerning was the play of the second-team offensive line. Chaz Green was typically awful, but we also saw swing tackle Cam Fleming struggling and just an overall lack of protection for the backups quarterbacks. Green got benched in the second half and may have finally played his way off the team.
- Credit to Terrance Williams for getting open in the endzone to give Dak Prescott a receiver for the touchdown throw. Even with his warts, Williams' two years of experience playing with Dak can't be ignored in deciding who makes the team.
- Tight end Blake Jarwin continues to run with the starters on offense and may have quietly taken the job away from Geoff Swaim.
- Darius Jackson took advantage of some extra playing time tonight after Bo Scarbrough left with a hip injury. He broke off a few nice runs to amass 42 yards on just six carries, plus had four receptions.
- We finally get to see Dan Bailey kick a field goal again, and it was an easy 35-yarder with no issues.
- Shout out to Chidobe Awuzie for one of the pretty interceptions that a Cowboys DB has made in some time. Awuzie had to bend like Beckham (Odell, that is) to get a hand on the ball, then tipped it to himself for the pick.
- Preseason fun continues for the Cowboys next Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
#DALvsCIN: Can WR Lance Lenoir Continue To Impress?
Entering training camp projecting who would make the final roster from the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving room was a crapshoot. The combination of misfits from other teams, unproven young guys, and a couple of Cowboys veterans makes this position group the most questioned across the entire roster.
But while Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup were stealing headlines, Lance Lenoir was making a name for himself among the Cowboys faithful.
After serving on the practice squad for the Cowboys a year ago, Lenoir seems to have entered 2018 with one goal in mind: to make the official game-day roster. And even if he falls short of this goal, it won't be due to any fault of his own.
Day in and day out Lance Lenoir has been a consistent wide out, catching nearly everything thrown his way and running some of the crisper routes on the team. Under new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, Lenoir has become a technical route runner and dangerous receiving threat.
Maybe most importantly for his future with the team, Lenoir has developed an obvious chemistry with starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has continued to compliment Lenoir throughout training camp, and you know that the Cowboys front office is well aware of Prescott's trust in Lenoir on the field.
During the preseason opener against the 49ers, Lance Lenoir caught his first touchdown of the season, dazzling with his toe-tap ability. If he is going to steal a roster spot away from one of the more seasoned wide outs, however, he will have to remain that consistent target.
This Saturday, Lenoir gets another shot to prove why he's not only deserving of a roster spot, but of a starting spot. Sure, it might be a bit of a stretch, but if he continues to play like he has during camp and preseason, Lenoir could find himself working with the 1's more frequently.
Look out for Lance Lenoir against the Bengals this week, as he makes it harder and harder for the Cowboys to cut him by the second.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Es Tavon Austin Más Importante de lo que Creemos?
Cada vez más cerca de la verdadera acción en la NFL, tuvimos una oportunidad de ver a los Dallas Cowboys en el campo contra los San Francisco 49ers hace una semana. Francamente, a pesar de perder la ventaja en los últimos segundos del partido, la actuación del equipo dio una muy buena señal a los aficionados de la Estrella Solitaria.
Todavía quedan tres partidos por jugar, empezando por el enfrentamiento contra los Cincinnati Bengals este sábado. Hay muchas cosas que ver de parte de los Dallas Cowboys y quizá algunas de ellas las veamos este mismo fin de semana.
Una de las cosas más interesantes esta semana fue la conversación de los wide receivers (receptores abiertos). Lance Lenoir se ha mostrado como un candidato real al roster de 53 jugadores, pero esa es sólo una pequeña fracción de la conversación de receptores.
Hay muchos receptores de que hablar, y el día de hoy, eso haremos en Cowboys en Español.
¿Cole Beasley es realmente el receptor #1?
A lo largo de todo el offseason, se ha manejado la narrativa de que "los Cowboys no tienen un buen WR." A pesar de que Dez Bryant es un nombre difícil de olvidar, esta aseveración sobre los receptores en Dallas me parece errónea.
Si bien es cierto que Bryant es uno de los mejores WRs en la historia de los Cowboys, también es cierto que Jason Garrett y compañía tienen un mejor grupo de lo que la afición considera. Si somos sinceros, un trío titular de Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley y Michael Gallup no suena mal.
La pregunta será: ¿quién es el #1? Comentarios de Dak Prescott han hecho referencia a Cole Beasley como el dueño de dicho rol. ¿Realmente puede fungir como el receptor líder del equipo siendo un jugador de 1.73 metros?
Se ha hablado mucho de Beasley jugando fuera de los números e intentando vencer a los defensivos por fuera. Es intrigante, pero sin duda un poco difícil de creer.
Tavon Austin: ¿Es un arma más importante de lo que creemos?
Los Cowboys dejaron ir a Ryan Switzer y obtuvieron a su aparente remplazo con el ex-WR de los Rams por una selección de sexta ronda. Tavon Austin ha tenido un viaje extraño con el equipo. Fue listado en el roster como un corredor pero utilizado como un receptor.
Lleva poco tiempo en Dallas pero ha sorprendido en training camp y ha sido utilizado como más de lo que esperábamos. Desde que llegó al equipo, empezamos a compararlo con Lucky Whitehead y Ryan Switzer. Ambos talentosos, pero destinados a ser un jugador "gadget" que fueron utilizados casi exclusivamente en jugadas "en movimiento" o los famosos "jet sweeps."
Pero Austin puede ser más que eso y lo ha demostrado en training camp. No parece que Tavon vaya a tener el mismo destino que Switzer, sino que tendrá un rol mucho más involucrado en la ofensiva constantemente. Bien puede ser un factor sorpresa para la ofensiva en Dallas.
¿Puede Terrance Williams perder su trabajo?
A pesar de que el coraje puede llevar a los aficionados a criticar a Terrance Williams un poco más de lo que merece, la verdad es que Williams está en riesgo de ser cortado por los Cowboys antes de que inicie la temporada en septiembre.
Es uno de los WRs con más experiencia, sí. Pero durante su estadía en Dallas, cada vez que Dez Bryant ha caído lesionado, Williams ha tenido la oportunidad de surgir como un receptor #1 capaz y preparado. Y nunca lo ha logrado.
Con un roster lleno de talentos jóvenes como el de Lance Lenoir y Noah Brown, es probable que la administración y los coaches opten por el potencial joven en vez de Williams, quien ha tenido problemas para demostrar que puede ser un jugador constante.
Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que conseguir que su ofensiva sobreviva las pérdidas de Jason Witten y Dez Bryant y tendrán que comenzar en la posición de WR. A pesar de que Williams esté en el equipo, Cole Beasley será el único en repetir titularidad del año pasado en Dallas esta temporada.
Dak Prescott tendrá un rol enorme cuando la ofensiva trate de emprender su marcha y definitivamente será responsable del éxito de esta. Es ahora o nunca para Dak.
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