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Cowboys 53-Man Roster: Top 5 Unexpected Moves Made

Brian Martin

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Jerry Jones: Carrying 3 QBs "Very Likely" On 53-Man Roster
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL have finalized their 53-man rosters for now. The keywords here are "for now", because rosters are never quite finalized and are churned quite a bit throughout the season. But, I want to focus on the Cowboys 53-man roster and the unexpected moves that were made in order to get to this point.

I don't know about you, but I was really curious about the moves that would have to be made in order to get down to 53 for the Cowboys. The majority of the moves made I pretty much saw coming, but there were some that completely caught me off guard. If you continue to read below, you will see the top 5 unexpected moves Dallas made that I didn't see coming.

QB Kellen Moore

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Kellen Moore's release

Throughout the majority of the off-season the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff was insistent they were comfortable with Kellen Moore as their backup QB heading into the 2017 season. But, with the the unforeseen emergence of Cooper Rush and Moore's poor performance in preseason, things have changed.

Shockingly, Kellen Moore was one of the roster cuts made to complete the Cowboys 53-man roster this weekend. I it say was shocking because owner/general manager Jerry Jones stated not over a week ago that the Cowboys would keep 3 QBs on their 53-man roster. But if you watched Moore's performance throughout the preseason, it shouldn't come to that much of a surprise.

The Cowboys are expected to bring back Kellen Moore in some capacity at some point, either on the practice squad or the active roster. Rumors are it could be when Rico Gathers is placed on IR while he continues to recover from a concussion or he could take Anthony Hitchens spot if he is placed on IR. Regardless, the fact the Cowboys were willing to risk losing Kellen Moore by releasing him was arguably one of the biggest surprises made this weekend.

DT Cedric Thornton

DT Cedric Thornton

Cutting DT Cedric Thornton

If the decision to release Kellen Moore wasn't the biggest surprise, then cutting defensive tackle Cedric Thornton might just be. Thorton was the Cowboys big-money free agent signing last off-season in 2016, but could never find his footing here in Dallas. Despite the amount of money he is making, the organization wasn't afraid to cut ties.

Thorton's roster spot was needed to make a place for Brian Price, who was awarded to the Cowboys off of waivers. Price is more of a space eating DT and spent the majority of last season on the Green Bay Packers practice squad. The Cowboys seem to like Price's upside, which made Thornton expendable. Unfortunately, Thorton's poor play resulted in him not making the final Cowboys 53-man roster.

LB Jayrone Elliott

LB Jayrone Elliott

Trading for a LB

The Dallas Cowboys have quite a few concerns surrounding their linebacker position, which is why they probably decided to trade for a LB in the first place. Damien Wilson still faces a possible suspension, Jaylon Smith still needs little more time before he's ready, Justin Durant is an aging player with injury concerns, and Anthony Hitchens will be out approximately eight weeks.

After already being awarded a Green Bay Packer off of the waiver wire (see above), the Cowboys decided one player wasn't enough and worked out a trade for LB Jayrone Elliott. Elliott looks more like a tweeter LB/DE, much like Kyle Wilber, but he will add much needed depth to the position. It was a good move to make and only cost the Cowboys a seventh round draft pick in 2018.

CB Bene Benwikere

CB Bene Benwikere

Trading for CB depth

The Dallas Cowboys seemed to have plenty of depth at the cornerback position before roster cuts were made. But, they decided to bring in a veteran CB by trading with the Cincinnati Bengals for Ben Benwikere. Benwikere has bounced around the league a little, but can play in the slot or the outside, giving the Cowboys both experience and depth.

This trade was likely made in order to have some insurance in case their young CBs take a little while getting up to speed. They missed some valuable time to gain experience due to injuries, which made veteran experience a little bit of a concern. Once the Cowboys get a better feel of how their young CBs are able to hold up, Benwikere's time with the team may come to an end. Players returning from their suspensions will need a roster spot and he might be the low man on the totem pole.

OL Emmett Cleary

OL Emmett Cleary

Keeping Byron Bell over Emmett Cleary

It may just be me, but I was surprised that the Dallas Cowboys decided to keep Byron Bell over Emmett Cleary when roster cuts were made. Both players are similar in that they can both play guard and tackle, but I thought Cleary had the slight edge because he had been in the system a little longer.

Of course, Byron Bell is the more experienced of the two players. He has started at both guard and tackle in the NFL and might be the more reliable at this point. I think he is probably best suited to play inside at OG, which might be why he made the Cowboys 53-man roster over Cleary. If Jonathan Cooper doesn't pan out at LG, the next man that might be Byron Bell.

What are your unexpected moves the Dallas Cowboys made to complete their 53-man roster?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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4 Comments
  • George_Johnson

    I am not sure what is going on with K Moore. Why did he not play a lot better? He should have been more than ready this preseason. All indications were he was doing well in practices and he had a good first preseason game. In the Rams game he checked down on almost every play but I have not heard an explanation from the coaches. I doubt the coaches think K Moore suddenly lost his skills/abilities to play. In the Colts game he picked it up a little but still was not efficient or very effective. So what gives?

    I am also not sure about re-signing K Moore unless he has a chance at the 2nd team QB position. K Moore needs to start thinking about his next career which is probably as a coach. Most everyone expects him to make it to a lucrative coaching position either in college or the NFL in the future. He obviously would resign if put on the 53 man roster at least for the money but he should think twice about signing for the practice squad or staying on the practice squad. He has been in the NFL going on six years and if he can’t make 2nd team QB it is questionable that he should continue pursuing this career. He has had chances and has improved some but his future in the NFL as a QB doesn’t look good. He is behind the eight ball as most coaches don’t think he meets the minimum requirements (i.e. prototypical size and strong arm) so it is not clear he will get much of a chance.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      @George_Johnson:disqus I know you’re a dedicated fan of KelMo, and while I’ve never agreed with your zeal for the man as a quarterback, you’re right on the money with the comments about the next step in his career. He’s headed for coaching at some point, and that may be as soon as 2017, and I think he’s got great potential there. Even if he stays on the practice squad–which isn’t likely–it would give him a connection to continue building his coaching skills with a familiar staff.

      As always, thanks for reading, George.

  • Assassin

    I would say the biggest surprise for me was releasing Lewis Neal. And then the fact they like Price better then he (ones on the PS and ones on the 53). Nothing against Price, but Marinelli hasnt shown a propensity for space eaters. And thats what Price is. He’s not going to get to the QB. But he does have a great first step which could take up two OL.

    • Brian Martin

      Neal and Price play two different positions. Neal has been playing the 3-tech and performing pretty well, even though he is undersized. The Cowboys needed more depth at the 1-tech which is why Price was brought in. Luckily though Neal is still around and can be called up at any time. I think it really came down to the fact the Cowboys thought they needed more depth at the 1-tech, because they have players that can kick inside and play at the 3-tech.

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Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018

Jess Haynie

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Amari Cooper

For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote

As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.

Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.

Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.

His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Week 15 Impact Games

Jess Haynie

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Making Sense of the "Garrett Guys" Behind Cowboys Dez Bryant Release

It's hard to believe that we're looking at the Dallas Cowboys potentially clinching the NFC East this week, but that's how dramatic the turnaround has been over the last five games. Week 15 could lock Dallas into the playoffs and give them a lot of freedom over their final two games.

If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (11-2)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
  3. Chicago Bears (9-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Carolina Panthers (6-7)
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
  9. Washington Redskins (6-7)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Cowboys lost to Seattle earlier this year, but still remain the 4th seed as a division winner over a wild card team.
  • The Panthers are ahead of the Eagles thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker.
  • The Eagles are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker. They play each other again in Week 17.
  • The Redskins beat the Panthers earlier this year, but their loss to Philadelphia within their own division negates that tiebreaker.

In truth, there's not much intrigue left for the Cowboys in this regular season. One win gives them the NFC East, and it would take the Saints or Rams dropping all three of their remaining games for Dallas to have a shot at a top-two seed.

So, barring the nearly impossible, Dallas is locked into either the 3rd or 4th seed. They will host one of the Wild Card teams in the first round of the playoffs.

The biggest thing to watch now is how the seeding shakes among the bottom four playoff teams. The Seahawks seem a cut above the likes of Minnesota, Carolina, or one of our NFC East friends, so avoiding them in the first round would be lovely.

Here are this week's games involving the NFC playoff contenders:

Dallas Cowboys @ Indianapolis Colts

We've already discussed what the Cowboys need to do, so let's talk about the Colts. Not only do they have home field advantage this week, but they are fighting for their playoff lives.

Indianapolis is one of four teams with a 7-6 record battling for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs. The Broncos are also in the mix at 6-7, giving none of these teams any cushion for losing.

Dallas has its own incentive to win, though. If they want to avoid Seattle in the first round, they probably need to take the #3 seed from the Chicago Bears. They need to keep winning and hope for the Bears to drop a game or two.

Ultimately, getting into the playoffs and starting at home is a huge reward. But anything that can help make the road a little easier is worth pursuing. It's no time to rest on your laurels.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

As we just discussed, we'd like to see Chicago drop a few games to give Dallas a shot at the #3 seed. This week isn't the worst opportunity, with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay still not completely eliminated from playoff contention.

Expecting much from the Packers here is unwise. They've had a coaching change and appear to be in a state of organizational disarray. But they still have Rodgers, and crazy things always happens in rivalry games.

So while these are two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, you never know what could happen given the variable elements. By all means, root for the Cheeseheads.

Miami Dolphins @ Minnesota Vikings

Your rooting interest here comes down to a simple question; who do you prefer to play among that last bunch of Wild Card teams? Who does Dallas match up best against between the Vikings, Panthers, and Eagles?

I think we'd all agree that we don't want to see the Eagles a third time. Beating a team three times in one year is tough to do, and especially given how close last week's meeting was.

The Panthers beat Dallas in the season opener, but that was in Carolina and well before the Cowboys were playing at a high level. A second meeting could go very differently, especially with the recent slumping by the Panthers.

Both Carolina and Minnesota are struggling, with one on a five-game losing streak and the latter having lost their last two. The Vikings just fired their offensive coordinator, so neither of these teams appear to be going into the postseason with any real momentum.

At this point, I'd say it's a toss-up between the Panthers and Vikings. Both are much preferable to seeing the Eagles again, so I would just keep rooting for both to win. In either case, they knock out Philadelphia.

We'll reassess the threat level of Carolina and Minnesota as playoff opponents in a few weeks.

Washington Redskins @ Jacksonville Jaguars

I didn't mention the Redskins among those last three teams because they may not win another game this year. Their QB situation is so bad that even the Jaguars look good by comparison.

Granted, Jacksonville is lousy right now. Washington might be able to go down there and get a win, but neither team has anything to play for now. This one may come down to whether or not the Jaguars have gone into tank mode.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Seattle just walloped the Niners 43-16 a couple of weeks ago, and changing venues is unlikely to make that much difference. The Seahawks are a legit NFC contender and San Francisco is already thinking about the offseason. A Seattle loss would be great, but it ain't happening this week.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams

While catching the Rams and getting a top-two seed would be great, it's barely plausible. The far more concrete benefit here is seeing the Eagles lose and getting them further away from a possible Wild Card spot.

In fact, an Eagles' loss this week would give Dallas the NFC East even if the Cowboys fall in  Indianapolis. That's not the way we want to win the division, but you take what you can get.

With the breaking news that Carson Wentz is unlikely to play this week with a back injury, you'd generally think this suits the Cowboys' interests. But Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is still the backup in Philadelphia, so is anything really for certain?

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

We have every reason to root for Carolina here. For one, it helps the Panthers stay ahead of the Eagles in the Wild Card race. Also, it brings the Saints one loss closer to possibly being caught by Dallas. A Saints win doesn't really benefit us all.



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Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess

John Williams

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Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess

The Dallas Cowboys came away with a huge win against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles, putting them in a commanding position in the NFC East. They're up two games in the division and one of the more underrated story lines from the victory is Ezekiel Elliott's game. He had a huge day that no one is talking about.

Elliott had 28 carries for 113 yards and then caught 12 passes on 13 targets en route to his big performance in the 29-23 win over the Eagles. That's probably the quietest 40 touch, 192 total yard game you'll ever hear about. And yet, that's where we are. Please read that stat line again, because in all of our talk about Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and the defense, Ezekiel Elliott's stat line is absolutely ridiculous.

The receiving element that Elliott is providing the biggest difference to the offense this season. He's been a huge asset to Dak Prescott in the passing game as both a primary target and a check down option in the short part of the field. If Elliott isn't showing that he's the best running back in the league, with what he's doing with a broke down offensive line, then people will never give him the credit he's due.

For the last three years, the Dallas Cowboys and their fan base has known what an elite player the Cowboys have in Elliott. He's easily one of the best runners in the NFL, but if you talk to the general NFL fanbase or analysts around the league, Elliott doesn't get the same kind of love as players like Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell receive from the national media. The knock against Elliott has been that he doesn't bring the same value as a receiver. With what he has done over the last six weeks, and really all season long, it's safe to say, that won't be a knock against the Cowboys All-Pro running back.

Among running backs this season, Ezekiel Elliott ranks sixth in targets (77), fifth in receptions (65). seventh in yards (502), and is tied for 12th in receiving touchdowns with three. Elliott is the seventh highest rated running back when targeted among running backs with at least 50 targets this season.

Over the last six weeks, since the Amari Cooper trade, only Christian McCaffrey has more targets, receptions, and yards than Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott's previous career high was in 2016 when he caught 32 passes on 39 targets. With three games left in the season, Elliott has more than doubled his previous career high from that season. Over the last six weeks, he's caught 40 passes with an average of 6.7 receptions per game.

Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best total yardage season in the NFL. If he continues at his current per game averages, Elliott would finish the season with 330 carries for 1,553 rushing yards, 80 catches on 100 targets for 618 yards and 10 total touchdowns. He's been great this year, but he's been even better over the last six games. At his per game averages for the last six games, over a 16 game season, Elliott's numbers would look like this; 363 carries for 1,715 yards rushing, 107 receptions on 120 targets for 872 yards, and 13 total touchdowns.

It's rare that Ezekiel Elliott has a game like he did on Sunday and it goes largely unnoticed by Cowboys Nation, but that's just how tremendous Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were. In a game where the Cowboys got big games and big plays through the passing game, it was Elliott's steadiness that held things together and helped sustain drives like the fourth and one conversion in overtime. Even with Amari Cooper elevating his game since coming to the Cowboys, there's no question that Ezekiel Elliott is the Cowboys best skill position player. Expect more big games for Elliott as the Cowboys continue to "Feed Zeke."



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