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Cowboys’ Defense: Pre-Training Camp 53-Man Roster Prediction

Brian Martin



Cowboys' Defense: Pre-Training Camp 53-Man Roster Prediction

Unfortunately, this is the time of year where things are really slow in the NFL, which is why I thought it would be the perfect time to share with all you my pre-training camp 53-man roster prediction for the Dallas Cowboys. Yesterday I shared with you my predictions for the Cowboys' offense and also included the specialist, so today I will turn my attention to the defensive side of the ball.

How the Cowboys' defense performs in 2017 will go a long way with determining the amount of success they will have. That is why nearly all eyes will be on nearly every single defensive player in training camp and how they perform once the pads come on. This is especially true for incoming rookies who might be playing a large role on defense.

Continue reading to see my roster predictions for the Dallas Cowboys defense in 2017.

Defensive End (5)

DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper, Taco Charlton, Damontre Moore

Benson Mayowa

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys are fortunate enough to have some versatility in their defensive lineman, which means there are a number of different ways they can go about addressing the defensive end position. I decided to go with five DEs right now, especially considering Lawrence and Mayowa are really the only players that have proven themselves in the NFL.

I think second year DE Charles Tapper and rookie Taco Charlton are locks to make the team, but it's been journeyman Damontre Moore who has been the talk of the off-season. If he can continue to impress, he is the fifth DE and possible starter in 2017. Of course, the numbers the Cowboys decide to go with at this position could be impacted by what they do at defensive tackle.

Defensive Tackle (5)

Maliek Collins, Cedric Thornton, Tyrone Crawford, Stephen Paea, David Irving

Maliek CollinsLike the defensive end position, I think the Cowboys go with five defensive tackles on their final 53-man roster in 2017. I think Tyrone Crawford moves back to DT, which is probably his better position. Both he and Maliek Collins will likely be in a rotation at the 3-tech, but the 1-tech seems to be up for grabs still.

Cedric Thornton and Stephen Paea are in competition against one another to be the starting 1-tech, but with the way Marinelli rotates his defensive line it doesn't really matter who is named starter. Surprisingly enough, I went ahead and put David Irving down as my fifth DT, even though he is facing a suspension. There are rumors though that he could possibly get it overturned.

Linebacker (6)

Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, Jaylon Smith, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha

Sean Lee and Jaylon SmithThe Dallas Cowboys carried seven linebackers on their 53-man roster in 2016, and could do so once again this season. This is especially true if Jaylon Smith shows any signs of struggling once the pads come on in training camp. But, right now I have them only carrying six LBs.

I think Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, and Damien Wilson will likely be the starters when the 2017 season kicks off. However, the Cowboys will likely try to get a rotation going with Smith if he is indeed ready. The rest of the LBs are needed for depth and let's not forget fullback Keith Smith could be used at LB in an emergency situation.

I wouldn't be surprised if the scouting department looks long and hard around the league for depth/upgrades at the position. Daryl Washington maybe?

Cornerback (6)

Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Nolan Carroll, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Marquez White

Anthony BrownThe cornerback position is probably the one position that will be watched the closest throughout training camp, because it is the one that has probably been overhauled the most. Because of the influx of youth and the uncertainty at the position, I decided to go with six CBs. I did this because I think Chidobe Awuzie could be used in a variety of different positions, which means depth could be important at the position throughout the season.

I think Scandrick and Brown are the likely starters, with Carroll and rookie Awuzie competing for the other starting CB position. But, Awuzie could possibly be in play at safety as well. Of course, nothing is written in ink as of yet, which means Lewis could possibly give Scandrick a run for his money to be the Cowboys slot CB.

Safety (4)

Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, Xavier Woods

Jeff HeathI personally don't think the Dallas Cowboys will carry more than four safeties on their final 53-man roster in 2017. I think Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Xavier Woods and pretty much already solidified themselves a roster spot, but that could change once pads come on in training camp.

I know the Cowboys signed Robert Blanton this off-season, but I think that had more to do with making sure they were covered in case they didn't draft a safety. I have a hard time seeing him outplaying some of these young players, but he will get his chance. And again, Chidobe Awuzie could be in play at safety as well, further making Blanton's chances to make the team a long shot.


Well, there you have it. That completes my Dallas Cowboys pre-training camp 53-man roster prediction for 2017. I have them devoting 26 roster spots on defense, 24 on offense, and three to the specialist. It's doubtful the Cowboys 53-man roster will look exactly like my prediction, but this is just the way I would personally go.

Let me know what you would do differently in the comment section below

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.

  • I’m Okay w La’el @ RT

    I haven’t heard a lot about how White looked @ safety in OTA & Mini-camp. Any info on him?

    • Brian Martin

      I assume you’re talking about either the Cowboys rookie CB White or their rookie S Woods. I’m not sure which. There hasn’t been much news about either one, which could be a good or bad thing. I think we’re just going to have to wait until training camp to see how everybody performs once the pads come on.

  • Assassin

    I noticed you’re not expecting the DTs from bottom of the draft class to make the cut:

    Round 7, Pick 10 (No. 228) Joey Ivie, DT, Florida
    Round 7, Pick 28 (No. 246) Jordan Carrell, DT, Colorado

    Rd 7 is always a crapshoot. Any hope for these two?

    • Brian Martin

      I think their best bet to make the 53-man roster is if David Irving is suspended to start the year. Otherwise, I have a hard time seeing them beat out any of the other Cowboys DTs. I think stashing one, possibly both of these rookie DTs on the practice squad is the most likely scenario.

Star Blog

Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Brian Martin



Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.

I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.

Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.

Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.

Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.

Shea McClellin

New England Patriots LB Shea McClellin

After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.

This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.

If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.

With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.

He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.

Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?

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Star Blog

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Jess Haynie



Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.

The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.

Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.

Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.

Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 1

Hall of Fame CB Deion Sanders

Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.

The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.

Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.

The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.

The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 2

Norv Turner also couldn't bring his Cowboys success to Washington. (Brian Bahr/Allsport)

The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.

Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history

Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.

Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.

~ ~ ~

Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.

Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.

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Star Blog

Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

Brian Martin



Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.

Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.

The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.

Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods

It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.

I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.

Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.

As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.

His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.

Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.

As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.

Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.

Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

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