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Cowboys 53-man Roster Projection: A Fantasy Look After Ravens Game

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys 53-man Roster Projection: A Fantasy Look After Ravens Game

Watching Deonte Thompson dart down the field untouched for 108 yards and a touchdown Saturday night reminded me of why my final 53 comes with a degree of limitations. I am basing my prediction off of who I see having standout performances on offense and defense alone.

But, unfortunately, the guy who performs better on Special Teams, as far as the bottom of the depth chart, are the players that are typically retained, meaning that players such as Jamar Newsome and/or LaRon Byrd could still be on the outside looking in, versus a few corners who otherwise don't even look as though they belong on an NFL field (Scandrick’s suspension situation certainly doesn’t help matters).

With that being said, a quick disclaimer: The following will be a departure from what I think the Cowboys will do; this is my fantasy 53, in a world where every player is great at Special Teams.

 

Offense:

Quarterback
Tony Romo
Brandon Weeden
Dustin Vaughan

Dustin Vaughan has proven he is worthy of a spot on the final 53. But he very well may get caught up in the numbers crunch, and if he does, I find it very hard to believe he will make it to the practice squad. Beyond his prototypical size, ability to make every type of throw at every level, and accuracy, he has something that typically takes rookies a few years to grasp – poise. The only question that remains - and one that I would love to see answered in one of the next few preseason games - is how does he perform against the opposition’s top-tier players using the Cowboys' top weapons and offensive line? That wish may be a few years premature.

Wide Receiver
Dez Bryant
Terrance Williams
Cole Beasley
Dwayne Harris
Devin Street
LaRon Byrd

When the final 53 is announced, this position is likely to break a lot of hearts. I remained the same here, despite Jamar Newsome’s “breakout” performance against the Ravens. For now, LaRon Byrd still has the inside-track. Despite which receivers eventually makes the team, arguably 8 players in this position group belong in the NFL.

Tight End
Jason Witten
Gavin Escobar
James Hanna

Nothing to add or subtract here. However, I will say in terms of pass catchers, this group could be the strongest it has ever been in the history of Cowboys' TE roster depth.

Running Back
DeMarco Murray
Lance Dunbar
Ryan Williams

Truth be told, Joseph Randle looks to be winning this battle. He may not be the better overall runner, over Ryan Williams, but he does everything well; from picking up blitzes to covering kicks on special teams, he can contribute all over the team. My issue with Randle is his lack of break-away speed; when he is on the field, defenses will never have to account for him, because the only opposing player he is certain to outrun in a foot race is the Defensive Tackle.

Full Back
Tyler Clutts

If the Cowboys keep four running backs or tight ends, the Full Back would likely be the casualty. Clutts still has the inside-track over Copeland.

Tackle
Tyron Smith
Doug Free
Jermey Parnell

Weems has struggled with both play and staying healthy. With the injury issues on the defensive side of the ball, this likely will be one of the easier cuts for the Cowboys. John Wetzel is a player to watch; from what I have read, he is making a strong case for further consideration.

Guard
Zack Martin
Mackenzy Bernadeau
Ronald Leary
Uche Nwaneri

I am staying with the same cast of characters from my last 53, because if Frederick is injured, Bernadeau is his back-up. Nwaneri is a great insurance policy that the Cowboys can still afford.

Center
Travis Frederick

Nothing new here; Frederick should be a Dallas Cowboys for at least the next 5 years.

 

Defense:

Defensive End
DeMarcus Lawrence
George Selvie
Anthony Spencer
Jeremy Mincey
Martez Wilson
Tyrone Crawford
Kenneth Boatright

Ben Gardner was making the team on my last 53. Due to Gardner’s season-ending injury, I replaced him for the time being with Kenneth Boatright. Truthfully, though, none of the above have distinguished themselves as a threat opposing offenses have to account for in game-planning thus far.

Defensive Tackle
Henry Melton
Terrell McClain
Davon Coleman
Zach Minter

Ken Bishop was on this list in my last final 53, but he has been somewhat of an invisible man so far. I replaced him with Zach Minter by merit of the fact that, at least, he showed up in a significant way against the Ravens. However, I wouldn’t fall in love just yet with Minter. Against the run, he was pushed around like he was on skates when he first took snaps in the second half. The second chance received, he showed up against a guy who likely doesn’t make the Ravens final 53; I would really like to see Minter against a legitimate starting Guard. Having said that, no other player has distinguished themselves as he did in limited snaps; and he did so after just a handful of practices. As far as the real final 53, Nick Hayden probably makes the team at this point in the preseason.

Linebackers
Rolando McClain
Justin Durant
Bruce Carter
Anthony Hitchens
DeVonte Holloman
Kyle Wilber

Orie Lemon was a part of this group, however, like many players already cut from my original 53, he has not done anything to separate himself and with the necessity of bolstering the Cornerback ranks for the impending Scandrick suspension, the Cowboys will likely go light here. Special Teams, however, may dictate otherwise.

Cornerbacks
Brandon Carr
Orlando Scandrick
Morris Claiborne
Terrance Mitchell
Justin Green

B.W. Webb likely makes this group due to his experience in the system and his ability to contribute elsewhere on the team, but overall I’m not crazy about his coverage ability or lack of size. This is not exactly meant to be an endorsement of Green, but for now he is the unknown quantity that I’m hoping proves to be an excellent addition to the team. Furthermore, as stated in the beginning, if the Cowboys only go with 5 receivers, this is likely the position that extra spot goes to, which is a battle between Sterling Moore and Tyler Patmon.

Safety
Barry Church
J. J. Wilcox
Jakar Hamilton
Ahmad Dixon

Jeff Heath likely makes the team at the expense of Jakar Hamilton, due to his ability to contribute on Special Teams.

 

Special Teams:

Kicker
Dan Bailey

Punter
Tom Hornsey

Long Snapper
L.P. Ladouceur

Bailey and Ladouceur are still locks for the team. Based on the recent signing of Tom Hornsey, it’s hard to determine if Jones is safe. Personally, I am not a fan of Jones’ leg strength, which is why I replaced Jones on my 53. There is no question about Hornsey’s leg having punted a 79-yarder against Duke in college; the question is his ability to punt directionally and within the 20 to help the Cowboys win field position battles.



I am 35, married and a father of 2 boys. I have been a Cowboys fan since Jimmy Johnson took over; not because I had anything against Tom Landry, but because it just so happens I was old enough to start following and understanding football right as that new era began. Since then, I haven't missed games if I could help it.

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Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?

Brian Martin

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How Much can RB Tony Pollard eat Into Zeke's 2019 Workload?

Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.

Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.

Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.

Tony Pollard

Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard

There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?

Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.

Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.

In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.

What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?



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Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable

Matthew Lenix

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Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Formidable

Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.

The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.

Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).

Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.

Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.

The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.



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CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season

Kevin Brady

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Seldom-Used CB Jourdan Lewis Could Play Big Role Against Saints

For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.

In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.

After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.

Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.

 "As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."

Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.

Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.

"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."

The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.

That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.

Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.



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