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

Brian Martin

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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.

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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.

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4 Comments
  • 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.

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Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?

John Williams

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Should the Cowboys Make a Trade for These Oakland Raiders?

The trade deadline on October 30th will be here faster than we know. It's the final opportunity that NFL teams will have an opportunity to make a significant upgrade to their roster. And if you're a frequent reader of the Dallas Cowboys, then you know that the Dallas Cowboys could use some help, especially on the offensive side of the football.

On Thursday, Marcus Mosher from The Raiders Wire on USA Today posed a hypothetical trade involving the Dallas Cowboys. In his scenario, he has the Dallas Cowboys trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and thinks that Cooper could net the Raiders a top 75 draft selection.

Amari Cooper is a good wide receiver, but he's not a receiver I would trade a top-75 pick for. Cooper is a player that has a lot of talent, but has struggled with drops and inconsistency. Even now, with the Raiders he's having a hard time getting consistent opportunities.

Cooper's second on the team in targets, but third on the team in receptions behind a tight end and a running back. Cooper's also third on the team in yardage behind the two guys that I'd be way more interested in trading for; Tight End Jared Cook and Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson.

Yes, these guys are on the wrong side of 30, but they are guys that have been around a long time and can help your offense this season. Both would be upgrades at the position, even at their advanced NFL age.

Jared Cook - Tight End

You've heard the adage, "if you can't beat em, join em." Well, this is the reverse of that. "If he always beats you, acquire him."

That's what Oakland Raiders Tight End Jared Cook is to the Dallas Cowboys. Point of evidence.

Game Winning Jared Cook Catch Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Uploaded by Kafin Walker on 2017-01-16.

That remarkable catch by Jared Cook still haunts me and many of you in Cowboys Nation. It was a perfectly thrown ball by Aaron Rodgers and Cook made an incredible catch along the sidelines that led to Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

Jared Cook's Oakland Raiders team isn't going anywhere this season. They're already four games back of the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs and the AFC is looking deeper than it has in recent years. The Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts are the only teams in the NFC with less than two losses. That means there are 14 teams with better records than Jon Gruden's Oakland squad. This week the Raiders face a Seattle Seahawks team that beat the Dallas Cowboys and lost by only a couple of points to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Cook has been one of the better tight ends in the NFL this season and would be a veteran presence that the Dallas Cowboys could add if they felt like they could make a run at the playoffs.

At 31, Cook is averaging six catches and 78 yards receiving per game. He'd give the Dallas Cowboys someone they could run on post, corner, and seam routes to challenge safeties deep. Something that they're lacking from the tight end position at the moment. Cook is leading the Oakland Raiders in targets, receptions, yards, and is second on the Raiders in touchdowns in 2018.

No offense to Geoff Swaim, who's been surprisingly good this year, but Jared Cook makes this offense better. He allows you to make Rico Gathers your TE3, which would allow Rico to continue learning the game without the responsibility of being a primary target on certain pass plays.

Jared Cook is in the last season of his deal, so you wouldn't have to be committed to him beyond 2018. The perfect rental who could step in and play pretty quickly.

Jordy Nelson - Wide Receiver

I know this team is allergic to adding veteran players, especially veterans over 30, but Jordy Nelson is another name that they should take a long look at.

At 33 years of age, Nelson leads the Raiders in receiving touchdowns and is second on the team with 15.9 yards per reception. He's also third in receptions and second in yards.

His numbers -- 20 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns -- would lead the Dallas Cowboys in all receiving categories.

Nelson's still got some juice left and he's always been a good route runner with good hands.

Here are some highlights from Jordy's week three performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Jordy Nelson Can't Be Stopped w/ 173 Yards & 1 TD vs. Miami!

Check out Jordy Nelson highlights, racking up 173 yards receiving! The Oakland Raiders take on the Miami Dolphins during Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season. Subscribe to NFL: http://j.mp/1L0bVBu Check out our other channels: NFL Vault http://www.youtube.com/nflvault NFL Network http://www.youtube.com/nflnetwork NFL Films http://www.youtube.com/nflfilms NFL Rush http://www.youtube.com/nflrush #NFL #Raiders #JordyNelson

Nelson doesn't have any guarantees left on the deal he signed this past offseason so if you cut him in the 2019 offseason, you'd get zero dead money added to your 2019 salary cap, but would get $7.2 million in savings.

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Because of their age and the fact that they'd likely be one-year rentals, I don't imagine that you'd have to give up much more than a fifth round pick for either of these guys. And while I don't think the Dallas Cowboys would take a look at trading for either veteran, it's something they should do if they have aspirations of making the playoffs in 2018.

The Dallas Cowboys offense could use a boost.

What's the most you'd be willing to offer for either Jordy Nelson or Jared Cook?

 



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Cowboys’ Issues Are Deeper Than The Division Race

Kevin Brady

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Are The Cowboys' Players Unhappy With Their Playbook?
Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News

Yesterday, Inside The Star staff writer Jess Haynie posed an interesting question: "could the wide-open NFC East help Jason Garrett's job security?"

The Dallas Cowboys started off their season a disappointing 2-3, but despite this rough start, they are right in the thick of things in the NFC East. The defending champion Eagles, who most expected to run away with the division, are now just 3-3. The lowly New York Giants are probably done at 1-5, and the Washington Redskins looked pathetic on Monday night, dropping to 2-2.

This division looks average at best, though I still somewhat expect the Eagles' talent to take over at some point and allow them to make a run. Still the Cowboys are alive, and if they can pull off the upset at home this Sunday, they may even be in first place come Monday morning.

So, Jess fairly asks, could this help Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' coaching staff keep their jobs? After all, it's rare you see an owner change coaches after remaining competitive within the division throughout most of the prior season. And given Jason Garrett's relationship with Jerry Jones, it might take an awful season to see any real change occur.

Here's the thing: this team could win the division at 9-7, and it would still be time for changes. Incompetence of others does not mean that you are competent, even if you are competent in comparison to those others.

The Cowboys have players openly questioning play calls, alluding to lack of trust in the quarterback, and pretty consistent drama swirling around the locker room. Yes, some of that is the media created Cowboy drama we always see, but there is disfunction within the organization without a doubt.

As a franchise the Cowboys need new blood in the building. To be honest, they could use a general manager separate from the Jones family name, but that is very unlikely to ever happen. So we focus on the coaching staff, specifically on the offensive side of the ball where the Cowboys have struggled the most.

Dallas is 29th in passing yards, 28th in passing yards per attempt, and tied for 26th in passing touchdowns through five weeks. Plainly put, they're horrible, and bringing back an offensive minded head coach and/or offensive coordinator who oversaw this terrible passing offense is counterproductive.

Regardless of where the Cowboys stand within this average division, they need to look themselves in the mirror this offseason. They need to be seriously comparing themselves to teams like the Rams (and not by lying to themselves like Jerry Jones did), not the 1-5 Giants.

The Cowboys should be striving for more than just being the best of a group of average football teams, and if that means cutting ties with Jason Garrett, then so be it.



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Opposition Outlook: Versatile T.J. Yeldon Too Much for Dallas Cowboys?

John Williams

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Opposition Outlook: TJ Yeldon Will be a Problem for the Dallas Cowboys

If you haven't heard the news yet, then let me be the first to tell you. Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back Leonard Fournette has been ruled out of this week's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jaguars. Don't let his absence fool you, though, T.J. Yeldon is a back that can hurt the Cowboys in many ways.

T.J. Yeldon was the Jaguars second round pick out of Alabama in the 2015 NFL Draft and was expected to be a featured back for them. That never really materialized and the Jaguars then went out and selected Fournette early in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Yeldon is now more of a passing game back for the AFC South contender, but with Fournette out, he's getting an opportunity in a full-time role. He's not at all the same back as Fournette, as Yeldon has much more ability in the passing game.

Already in 2018, Yeldon's caught 22 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns, which is more than any Dallas Cowboys wide receiver this season. T.J. Yeldon's averaging 8.8 yards per reception to go along with his 4.4 yards per carry on the season.

He's averaging 90 total yards per game on 16 touches and a touchdown a game. Even when Fournette was active in weeks one and four, Yeldon still received 17 and 21 touches in those games.

He's not at all an afterthought in the Jaguars offense and shouldn't be as the Dallas Cowboys defense prepares to stop them in week five.

Here's how he ranks among running backs with at least 24 targets:

  • Tied for second in receiving touchdowns.
  • 11th in receiving yards.
  • 14th in reception percentage.
  • Eighth in targets
  • 10th in receptions
  • Fourth in yards per reception
  • Seventh in yards after catch
  • Fifth in yards after catch per receptions.
  • Sixth in receptions that led to a first down.
  • Second in drops.
  • He has the 10th highest quarterback rating among running backs when targeted.

T.J. Yeldon isn't the best back in the NFL, but as a dual purpose back, he's really good. He's 15th in the NFL in total yards and for two of those games he was sharing the load with a former top five pick.

The Dallas Cowboys have been really good against the run this season. They've allowed the 11th fewest rushing yards and their 3.4 yards per carry allowed ranks tied for second in the NFL. Where they've struggled is with running backs in the passing game.

Through five weeks this season, they've allowed running backs to go for 47.6 yards per game. In weeks one, two, and five, they allowed 66 yards receiving to Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Alfred Blue.

If there's an area where the Jaguars can exploit the Dallas Cowboys defense, it will be in targeting T.J. Yeldon in the passing game. Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and (hopefully if he plays) Sean Lee will be enough to slow him down and make Blake Bortles take chances down the field.



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