With almost three weeks of training camp and now our first preseason game in the books, this seemed a lovely time to update the Dallas Cowboys roster projection for 2022.
The last projection came out immediately following the draft. Since then we've had some interesting developments with free agent additions, injury issues, and risers and fallers during recent practices and Saturday's game.
As always, we try our best to not overreact to the preseason games. How many times have you seen a player have a great preseason and then not make the roster or vice versa? There is way more going on in the evaluation process than we have access to.
Still, if you pay close enough attention, it's not hard to predict the majority of who makes the cut. Here's our best effort based on current information.
Offense Depth Chart (23)
- QB: Dak Prescott, Will Grier
- RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
- FB: Ryan Nall
- WR: CeeDee Lamb, Simi Fehoko
- WR: Jalen Tolbert, Noah Brown, KaVontae Turpin
- TE: Dalton Schultz, Sean McKeon, Jake Ferguson
- OT: Tyron Smith, Isaac Alarcón
- G: Tyler Smith, Connor McGovern
- C: Tyler Biadasz, Matt Farniok
- G: Zack Martin
- OT: Terence Steele, Josh Ball
- IR/PUP: WR Michael Gallup, WR James Washington, OT Matt Waletzko
We've switched from Cooper Rush to Will Grier as QB2. This isn't just about Rush's play in Denver but the consistent reporting from camp that has Grier as the more impressive of the two. Assuming Grier maintains that once he gets into the preseason games, a switch feels imminent.
Remember, Rush is a holdover from the Jason Garrett era. Grier was claimed off waivers last September by this coaching staff and is only now really getting his first chance to compete. So far, he appears to be winning.
The RB3 and FB positions are getting much harder to project. Rico Dowdle looked good in Denver but so did Malik Davis. We didn't really see much of Ryan Nall as he deals with a minor injury. Only one of these guys may actually make the final roster; it all comes down to special teams. For now, I'm deferring to Dowdle and Nall given their proven work there.
We hope that Michael Gallup and James Washington will return sooner than later but it's a safer bet that they will begin the year on PUP and IR, respectively. Policy changes would allow them to come back after just four games and that lines up with their projected recovery timetables.
Matt Waletzko will probably spend the year on IR with his shoulder issue; a way to stash the rookie without costing Dallas a roster spot. Even if he could play through the injury, Waletzko is missing too much work to be a viable backup to Tyron Smith.
Throw in Josh Ball's poor showing in Denver and in camp and we expect that a veteran swing tackle will be signed or traded for in the next few weeks. We'll give that roster spot to Isaac Alarcón for now, but it feels like more of a placeholder until the real guy shows up.
Defense Depth Chart (26)
- DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Chauncey Golston
- DT: Osa Odighizuwa, John Ridgeway
- DT: Neville Gallimore, Carlos Watkins, Trysten Hill
- DE: Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams, Dante Fowler
- LB: Jabril Cox, Anthony Barr
- LB: Micah Parsons, Luke Gifford
- LB: Leighton Vander Esch, Devin Harper
- CB: Trevon Diggs, Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright
- CB: Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, DaRon Bland
- S: Malik Hooker, Israel Mukuamu
- S: Jayron Kearse, Markquese Bell
- IR: LB Damone Clark
As well as Tarell Basham has played at times it's just hard to make the math work in his favor. With Micah Parsons' usage as a pass rusher, and especially after the Anthony Barr signing at linebacker, do the Cowboys really need six defensive ends? I've said all along that Basham and Dante Fowler are competing for the same roster spot and I maintain that now.
Defensive tackle is tough to predict, too. Is the team prepared to dump Carlos Watkins for younger prospects? Quinton Bohanna feels like the odd man out currently but hopefully we get more to go on in the coming weeks.
The modern prevalence of the nickel scheme, and especially with Dallas using safeties in hybrid roles, make keeping six linebackers questionable. But given the health concerns with Cox, Vander Esch, and Barr there's plenty of reason to think they'll keep a full stock.
The cornerbacks seem locked in. DaRon Bland has been a camp standout and built on that reputation Saturday night. He may wind up higher on the depth chart than Joseph or Wright at his current pace.
Leaving Donovan Wilson off the roster may be the riskiest move of this projection. It's based on the rise of Markquese Bell as a stud UDFA and an ideal reserve for Jayron Kearse as a strong safety and hybrid linebacker. With Wilson now in his fourth season it's not hard to see the team focusing on developing younger guys.
Special Teams (4)
- ST: C.J. Goodwin
- K: Brett Maher
- P: Bryan Anger
- LS: Jake McQuaide
Brett Maher vs. Lirim Hajrullahu is an ongoing battle and impossible to really gauge now. But if Dallas was confident in Hajrullahu then Maher probably doesn't get signed, so that's the only reason I'm leaning his way at the moment.
With Anger and McQuaide locked into their spots, the only question here is with C.J. Goodwin. Will the veteran hang on another year as John Fassel's favorite swiss army knife or will his roster spot be too valuable for a guy who doesn't help on offense or defense?
I could see Goodwin starting the year on the roster but eventually losing his spot once Gallup and Washington return to duty. Of course, there could be other injury developments by then which create other options.