It's still a little early in the offseason to predict what the team will look like when the 2018 season gets underway. But, I thought it was a good time to share with you what I think the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster could look like on opening day.
Now, the Dallas Cowboys have only had a little over a month of organized team activities and minicamp, which isn't a lot of time to know how to shape the roster for the season, but it's a start. How these players end up performing in training camp and preseason will ultimately determine their fate with the Cowboys this season.
I decided to break up my prediction for the Cowboys 53-man roster into a couple of articles. Today, I will share with you which players I think make the final cuts on the offensive side of the ball.
Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
I thought I'd start my Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster prediction with the only position I believe is set in stone right now. We shouldn't see any changes to this group unless an unfortunate injury were to happen during training camp.
Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White
The Dallas Cowboys typically like to carry just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, but I think they will go with three this year after spending a fifth-round draft pick on QB Mike White. Cooper Rush showed enough promise last season to beat out Kellen Moore to be Prescott's backup QB and should reprise that role once again this year. White could challenge for that responsibility, but Rush has the advantage with a year in the system.
Running Back (4)
Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, Tavon Austin, Bo Scarbrough
I went back and forth about whether or not to keep a traditional fullback on the Cowboys 53-man roster, but ultimately decided against it. Dallas did send a 2018 fifth-round draft pick to the Oakland Raiders to acquire Jamize Olawale, but I think Rod Smith can fill that role if needed. The Cowboys have already classified Austin as a "web back", but he will receive touches as a RB and WR. Scarbrough gets the nod for now over Darius Jackson, but that could change.
Wide Receiver (6)
Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Noah Brown, Cedrick Wilson
I can't see the Cowboys carrying less than six WRs on their game day roster with all of the unknown at the position, despite Austin's receiving ability. This is almost a completely revamped position with quite a bit of youth. Beasley will reprise his role in the slot and Hurns/Gallup will likely be the ones asked to replace Dez Bryant's production. Brown could push for more playing time at Williams' expense and Wilson has been a pleasant surprise in offseason practices already.
Tight End (3)
Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Is it time to give up on Rico Gathers? Yes, I think so. Unless he is able to show that he is capable of handling all of his responsibilities as a complete TE in training camp and in the preseason, I don't give him much of a chance to make the Cowboys 53-man roster. Much like the WR position, there is a lot of unknown about the current group of TEs. But, this is an athletic group and I think they will be just fine this season.
Offensive Line (8)
Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Connor Williams, Cameron Fleming, Joe Looney, Marcus Martin
The position flex of the Cowboys offensive lineman allows them to go with just eight this season. Connor Williams will be the only new starter and Cameron Fleming should take over the role as the new swing tackle. I decided to keep both Joe Looney and Marcus Martin because of her ability to play any of the interior positions. But, the Cowboys could decide to keep one of the two and stick with Chaz Green for another season.
WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason
NFL teams have wrapped up their offseason activities with the close of OTAs, especially where the players are concerned, and await the start of training camps next month. In reviewing the last few months, ESPN had their local reporters each pick a surprise standout from their team's practices. Todd Archer, who covers the Dallas Cowboys full time, selected veteran receiver Randall Cobb.
Cobb is in his first season with Dallas after signing as a free agent last March. He's spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, but has struggled with injuries the last few seasons.
Here were Archer's observations on how Randall is doing so far with the Cowboys:
Normally a player with Cobb's résumé -- 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns during his career -- would not be considered for a category like this. But injuries limited him to only nine games and 38 catches for Green Bay in 2018, and it was hard to know what the Cowboys were getting in the veteran receiver.
If the offseason work is any indication, they have found a replacement for Cole Beasley. Cobb's versatility can expand the offense for others, such as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb looked quick in and out of his breaks and fast enough to make plays down the field. Will he put up the 1,287 yards he had in 2014? No, but he gives Dak Prescott a security blanket in the slot who can turn a small gain into a big one.
The notion of Cobb replacing Beasley is a big one. While we'd like to think that Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will provide plenty of firepower for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott has enjoyed a reliable threat from the slot position since he arrived.
Randall Cobb, when healthy, can do more than just make clutch catches. He has good run-after-catch skills and perhaps bring more big play potential than Beasley did.
If Cooper and Gallup do emerge as a dangerous starting duo on the outside, Cobb should have even more opportunities to punish defenses than Beasley did.
If nothing else, it's very encouraging to hear that one of the Cowboys' few 2019 free agent moves is already reaping benefits. Cobb still needs to bring it over a full season to really justify the move, but these early reports are cause for excitement.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
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