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

Brian Martin



Cowboys Pre-Training Camp 53-Man Roster Prediction: Offensive Edition

Unfortunately, this is the slow time of year in the NFL. Teams have finished up their organized team activities (OTA's) and minicamp practices, and now are in limbo until everyone reports to training camp. With things so slow news wise, I thought it would be a good idea to share with all of you my pre-training camp 53-man roster prediction, starting with the offensive side of the ball.

I understand it's still way too early to make such predictions, especially since we haven't seen some of these players in pads yet. But, we should all still have a pretty good understanding about which positions are pretty much locked down and which ones are still up for grabs.

Quarterback (2)

Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore

Kellen Moore

(James D. Smith via AP)

It is really starting to look as if the Dallas Cowboys will only carry two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster in 2017. This is somewhat surprising considering they have carried three in the Jason Garrett head-coaching era, but it does free up an extra roster spot for depth at another position.

Dak Prescott is looking to build upon his impressive rookie season and I personally don't see any reason why he shouldn't. The coaching staff also seems to be comfortable with Kellen Moore as a backup, but scouts will continue to keep an eye out for potential upgrades. Who knows? Maybe they have the recently retired Tony Romo on speed dial just in case.

Running Back/Fullback (4)

Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Keith Smith, Rod Smith

Rod Smith

Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

As things stand right now, I have the Dallas Cowboys caring four running backs on their 53-man roster. But, I only have Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, and Keith Smith down as virtual locks. I think the fourth spot is still up in the air.

I have Rod Smith making the team right now because of his versatility to play fullback, tailback, and special teams. Because of his ability to contribute in several different areas, I think the Cowboys keep him over Alfred Morris. But, I think scouts will be on the lookout for another RB who could possibly be an upgrade.

Wide Receiver (6)

Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Ryan Switzer, Brice Butler, Noah Brown

Brice ButlerIt wouldn't surprise me at all if the Dallas Cowboys decided to just carry five wide receivers on their 53-man roster, but I decided to go little long here. I think Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, and Ryan Switzer are the only names written down in ink, leaving the fifth and possibly sixth spots up for grabs.

Brice Butler isn't guaranteed anything, but he has been receiving some high praise this off-season because of his play on the field. Noah Brown is going to have to clearly outplay Butler, but he can also contribute more in several different ways. Brown plays special-teams, wide receiver, and could be used in the role of a H-back/TE because of his blocking ability. For now, I have both of them making it.

Tight End (3)

Jason Witten, Geoff Swaim, James Hanna

Rico Gathers

I went with just three tight ends for now, but that could change depending on Geoff Swaim and James Hanna's ability to come back from their injuries. I know I'm going to be heavily scrutinized for not including fan favorite Rico Gathers, but he still needs time in his development before he can be trusted.

This position is impacted by the fact I carried an extra WR, but like I mentioned earlier, I think Noah Brown is capable of filling in if needed. However, the Cowboys may decide to keep Gathers, especially after the time they invested in him. If Swaim or Hanna don't return to their old selves, I have Gathers as the third TE.

Offensive Line (9)

Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Chaz Green, Emmett Cleary, Jonathan Cooper, Joe Looney, Byron Bell

La'el CollinsThree out of the five starting offensive lineman are set in stone, and possibly the fourth if La'el Collins sticks at right tackle. But, I still decided to go with nine offensive lineman because the left guard position is still up in the air and the fact that Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper can't seem remain healthy.

Collins is going to start at either right tackle or left guard, but who the fifth starting offensive lineman is remains up in the air. Cooper, Green, Looney, and Bell are all competing for the LG spot, but none of them really inspire any confidence. The scouting department will be looking long and hard at adding another starting caliber LG or RT, but I think they still go with nine OL because of all of the uncertainties.

Specialist (3)

Dan Bailey, Chris Jones,  L.P. Ladouceur

Dan Bailey and Chris JonesIf only all of the positions were as easy to predict as the specialist are for the Dallas Cowboys. This is the one and only position that has any stability and the only one that doesn't require any guesswork. All three of these players are a lock to make the final 53-man roster.


If you're counting, that's 27 out of the 53 roster spots on the offensive side of the ball, including the three specialist. That leaves 26 available roster spots to devote to the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys. Tune in tomorrow to see who I predicted to fill those final 26 spots on defense.

Do you agree or disagree with my 53-man roster predictions so far?

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.

  • Assassin

    Excited to see what Switzer and Noah Brown do. Brown has a lot of HBack/TE qualities also. Could be in our 12 and 13 packages I would guess

    • Brian Martin

      I think a lot of Cowboys fans are excited about Switzer, myself included. I also really like Noah Brown because of all of the different ways he can contribute. It’s going to be hard for him to outplay Brice Butler, but I still think he has a chance to make the 53-man roster.

Star Blog

Sean’s Scout: WR Deonte Thompson A Vertical Threat for Dallas Cowboys

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: WR Deonte Thompson A Vertical Threat for Dallas Cowboys

Finally addressing their underwhelming cast of wide receivers, the Dallas Cowboys signed journeyman Deonte Thompson yesterday. The seventh-year pro spent 2017 with both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills, hauling in 38 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns.

Thompson was undrafted in 2012 out of Florida, making both the Cowboys' free agent signings to date former UDFAs. The Cowboys added LB Joe Thomas earlier in the week, who you can learn more about in Sean's Scout as well.

In desperate need of speed and play making ability on the outside, here is a look at what WR Deonte Thompson can bring to the Dallas Cowboys.

WR Deonte Thompson: Strengths

Thompson1 - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Deonte Thompson plays with a great understanding of his own frame, using his length to give defensive backs problems up the field. Not a true "burner", Thompson takes some time to accelerate down the field, but can separate vertically.

Thompson runs smooth routes, using his long strides to get on DBs in a hurry. Once in position to free himself at the stem of a route, Thompson showed the ability to consistently turn his hips and complete a number of underneath and deep routes at a high level.

Thompson2 - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Deonte Thompson may not win on many throws "above the rim", but he is above average at the catch point securing passes with his strong hands.

Snagging the ball outside of his frame is not much of an issue for Thompson, who makes the most of his run-after-the-catch opportunities by effortlessly receiving the ball in stride.

At this stage of his career, Thompson may not be an every down player, but this is a player the Cowboys can absolutely find a way to get involved in their sputtering passing offense next season - at the very least replacing the role of FA WR Brice Butler.

WR Deonte Thompson: Weaknesses

Deonte Thompson should not be expected to go over the top on many defenses for the Cowboys in 2018. While the traits are there to flash as that sort of player, Thompson simply is not at his best trying to track down deep vertical passes.

When Thompson does not create separation on his initial burst up the field, there was a tendency for him to get shoved around at the catch point. Still coming up with his fair share of passes, the degree of difficulty on these catches was often increased by his inability to truly play through contact.

This is not a player with a powerful lower body, relying on upper body flex and foot speed to free himself and create plays in space. Overall balance is a strength for Thompson, but he rarely is able to break tackles or move defenders as a blocker in the running game.

WR Deonte Thompson: Summary

Thompson3 - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The Cowboys should know what they are getting in Deonte Thompson, who has not had the benefit of great quarterback play in recent seasons. The hope in Dallas is that a number of receivers on the bottom of the depth chart can stand out this summer to make the team out of a crowded room.

This group of Ryan Switzer, Lance Lenoir, Noah Brown, and KD Cannon will now include Deonte Thompson - who should have the edge over most of these names.

Thompson won't be the difference in the Cowboys' offense having a bounce back season in 2018, but his raw athleticism and effortless ability to serve as a deep threat could surely make an impact in Dak Prescott's progression.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: WR Deonte Thompson A Vertical Threat for Dallas Cowboys" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Star Blog

Using Win Probabilities To Evaluate Decision Making: Cowboys Kick Vs. Raiders

Kevin Brady



Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys' Defense Silently Shined, Jeff Heath Saved The Season 1
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles have surpassed the Dallas Cowboys in more ways than one, but on Super Bowl Sunday, their willingness to "be aggressive" and "take chances" shined through the most. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was congratulated by the masses for not coaching scared, and instead going for it on key fourth downs and even attempting trick plays.

When you really evaluate those decisions, however, they shouldn't even be thought of as "risky." If anything, they were simply the obvious call.

Over the last few months I have been working with win probability models, looking to validate and refine those available to the public. I can't share too much about the work as of yet (there will hopefully be a published article in the future), but the work is certainly promising.

What I can say is this. Dennis Lock and Dan Nettleton worked to utilize random forests to estimate win probabilities before each play in an NFL game. These "forests" are similar to decision tree machine learning, cycling through random trees of past data to predict future outcomes.

Brian Burke has been utilizing his model for a while now, and Pro Football Reference has a simple, yet effective model as well. For my project, I have been working to find the "best" ways to estimate those win probabilities in order to inform decision making by head coaches and coordinators.

If you aren't utilizing analytics correctly in today's NFL, you're falling behind. And if you aren't willing to take calculated risks based off of what these numbers say and mean, you are really falling behind.

How does this all relate to the Cowboys?

Well, Cowboys Nation has been pretty consistent in their main criticism of head coach Jason Garrett: he's too conservative. They say he coaches scared, and they believe he punts the ball away too often between the 40's. Numbers accumulated by writers such as Bob Sturm and Marcus Mosher back up these claims, but I wanted to examine Garrett's decision making through the win probability lens.

I took to Twitter to ask the fan base for specific scenarios in which they felt Garrett was too conservative. Then, I ran these situations through the win probability model to determine how these decisions affected the outcomes.

Over a series of posts I will detail what the model says about the Cowboys' decision making in these key moments. First, we go back to December of last season where the Cowboys had their season on the line in Oakland.

Cowboys at Raiders, 2017

One instance which was consistently brought up was ironically from a Cowboys win. Yes, a win!

The Raiders had played the Cowboys close all game long, and with their season on the line Dallas was in position to put those pesky Raiders away. Tied at 17 they entered a fourth and goal situation at the Raiders' 1 yard line. The Cowboys decided to kick the field goal and grab a 20-17 lead. While Dallas did hang on to win, this was only because of a miraculous play by Jeff Heath which resulted in a fumble and a touchback.

Many of the fans who tweeted at me seem to think the Cowboys should have went for the touchdown on fourth down, rather than take their three points. But what does the model say?

Prior to the fourth down play, the Cowboys had about an 85% chance to win the game. After kicking the field goal and kicking the ball away to Oakland, that probability went down to just above 80%. Had the Cowboys gone for it and been stuffed at the Raiders' 1 yard line, that probability would have dropped all the way to just over 57%.

But the model does believe that Garrett made the right decision. Of course, had Dallas scored a touchdown, the game would've virtually been over, but the variance in probabilities suggests that kicking the field goal and taking the sure points was a good move.

Next week, I explain where Jason Garrett and company may have gone wrong during a key 4th down decision against the Los Angeles Rams. If you have any suggestions for plays/situations you'd like evaluated, please comment below!

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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?

Mauricio Rodriguez



Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?

La agencia libre de los Dallas Cowboys comenzó un poco tarde, siendo el último equipo en toda la liga de la NFL en realizar una contratación este offseason. Ahora, con algunas caras nuevas en el equipo, comienzan las preguntas inevitables. ¿Qué jugadores tendrán un impacto y qué jugadores serán una contratación irrelevante?

Sólo el tiempo lo dirá. Las piezas que añadieron los Cowboys no son agentes libres de gran renombre pero podrían llegar a tener algún impacto en el 2018. Sin embargo, no todas las adquisiciones de Dallas han sido por medio de la agencia libre.

Hace unos días, los Raiders y los Cowboys acordaron un trade por el fullback Jamize Olawale. Días después de perder a Keith Smith (quien fue contratado por... los Raiders), Dallas no quiso echarse todavía otra necesidad encima, así que solucionó rápidamente su hueco en la posición que le abrirá camino a Ezekiel Elliott.

Además de enviar a Olawale a los Cowboys, los Raiders consiguieron una selección de quinta ronda de parte de Dallas y ellos entregaron su sexta ronda. En otras palabras, los Cowboys sólo renunciaron 19 turnos en las rondas tardías del Draft por un fullback que será de ayuda constante para esta ofensiva.

A pesar de ser tres años más grande que Keith Smith, Olawale le brinda a los Cowboys potencial para participar en el juego aéreo así como en el terrestre.

Por la agencia libre, los Cowboys obtuvieron ayuda ofensiva y defensiva.

Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

Joe Thomas, (no, no el que todos conocemos como uno de los mejores tackles de la historia) el linebacker que viene de los Green Bay Packers, usará la estrella este 2018. Mi compañero y escritor de Staff Sean Martin escribió una excelente pieza analizando a detalle al nuevo defensivo. 

Thomas definitivamente no será un titular, pero sin duda ayudará a un grupo de equipos especiales que necesitan bastante apoyo esta temporada. Además, es un linebacker rápido y atlético que podrá brillar como un jugador de rotación en una defensiva que incluye a Sean Lee y a Jaylon Smith.

Esta contratación no hace que los Cowboys dejen de tener una gran necesidad por un LB, pero da una profundidad que urgía a la posición.

Questions Surround Cowboys WR Position After Deonte Thompson Signing

El último movimiento y quizá el más discutido por los aficionados de los Cowboys es la adquisición de Deonte Thompson. Un receptor abierto que ha batallado para conseguir una casa en la NFL llega a un equipo que cuenta con nombres como Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams y Cole Beasley, pero que aún necesita mucho más producción.

¿Acaso la adición de Thompson al roster hace que WR deje de ser una necesidad para el equipo de los Cowboys? Claro que no, pero añade un talento que quizá pueda ayudar al equipo en ciertos aspectos.

Thompson es un jugador muy rápido, lo cual es algo que esta ofensiva necesita para abrir el campo un poco más. Un corredor de rutas bastante sólido con manos seguras. Thompson viene probablemente a ser una versión mejorada de Brice Butler por $2.5M.

Quizá fue un error de parte de la administración garantizarle un millón de su contrato. ¿Por qué garantizarle dinero a un jugador que ni siquiera debería tener un lugar asegurado en el equipo? Sin embargo, Thompson parece ser un contribuidor a la ofensiva.

Pero no fue el WR en la agencia libre del que se ha hablado esta semana en el mundo de los Dallas Cowboys. De hecho, aún después de firmar su contrato, no es el más discutido entre los aficionados.

Allen Hurns, receptor que fue cortado de Jacksonville, es un jugador que podría llegar a hacer un impacto inmediato en la ofensiva de Dak Prescott y proveerle al QB un potencial mejor amigo. A pesar de que muchos esperarían que conseguir a Hurns significaría decirle adiós a Dez Bryant, la verdad es que no sería necesario.

Hurns podría tomar el rol que Terrance Williams posee ahora como receptor "Z" y llevar a esta ofensiva a otro nivel. Todd Archer de ESPN reportó que la reciente adquisición de Deonte Thompson no significa que la posibilidad de ver a Hurns usando la estrella ha acabado.

Todos queremos ver acción en la agencia libre, aunque a veces lo sensato sea ser conservadores. Así como muchos aficionados de los Cowboys se quejan de la falta de movimientos, muchos aficionados de los Steelers y los Patriots agradecen que sus equipos tengan esta filosofía de no gastar mucho en agencia libre.

La diferencia son los resultados en el campo.

Sin embargo, Allen Hurns definitivamente parece como una opción muy viable para los Cowboys, y una adición que simplemente tendría mucho sentido. Sólo queda esperar si lograrán firmarlo o si un equipo (como los Jets, quienes han mostrado mucho interés y tienen bastante espacio en el tope salarial) logra convencerlo de no regresar a Dallas.

Por ahora, esperamos. Quizá hasta que los Cowboys firmen a alguien más. O quizá hasta la llegada del NFL Draft.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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