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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nothing new here; Frederick should be a Dallas Cowboys for at least the next 5 years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
J. J. Wilcox
Jeff Heath likely makes the team at the expense of Jakar Hamilton, due to his ability to contribute on Special Teams.
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.