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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Position Strength Rankings

Jess Haynie



Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

It's only about three months until the start of the 2019 regular season. While a lot can happen between now and September, we already have a pretty good sense of where the Dallas Cowboys are strongest and weakest throughout the roster. From starting talent to reliable depth, how do all of these positions compare to each other?

This has become an annual exercise, and it's interesting to compare each year's rankings to the previous one. Once again, there has been movement from the previous list to the new one.

For easy reference, here are the 2018 rankings:

  1. Running Back
  2. Guard & Center
  3. Offensive Tackle
  4. Special Teams
  5. Cornerback
  6. Defensive End
  7. Defensive Tackle
  8. Quarterback
  9. Linebacker
  10. Wide Receiver
  11. Safety
  12. Tight End

Keep in mind that these were done around the same time last year. We didn't know that Leighton Vander Esch would be an outstanding rookie, or that Travis Frederick would miss the entire season. We certainly didn't see Amari Cooper coming; these were based on the perception of the team in late May.

So, what about now?

Travis Frederick, Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys C Travis Frederick and G Zack Martin

1. Guard & Center

Assuming that Frederick is all the way back, which all reports right now indicate is the case, then the interior line should be as strong as it's been since Ron Leary was here. Along with the All-Pro pair of Frederick and Martin, Dallas has exceptional depth and an intriguing young talent at left guard.

Connor Williams has reportedly put on weight and is more physically prepared to play guard than in his rookie year. He was showing solid improvement by the end of 2018, and there's good reason to be optimistic for what Year 2 will bring.

The depth is what really pushes the group to the top. Joe Looney could be a starting center for plenty of teams, and Xavier Su'a-Filo is another solid backup. Now with rookie Connor McGovern joining the mix, Dallas is truly loaded in the middle of the offensive line.

2. Offensive Tackle

The margin between the G/C and OT spots is thin, but Tyron Smith's consistent health issues these last few years are a cause for concern. Still, the duo of Smith and La'el Collins is among the better pairs in the game, and swing tackle Cam Fleming provides strong value as a veteran backup.

While Tyron is still an elite left tackle, he's missed three games in each of the last three seasons. Nagging spine and shoulder injuries have also shown up on the field at times; Smith doesn't always look like himself.

Collins isn't an All-Pro like his fellow starters, but he's a capable player and still developing. A full offseason with Marc Colombo as the returning Offensive Line Coach should do wonders for his progress.

Even with its minor warts, this is still about as strong a trio as most NFL teams could ask for at offensive tackle.

Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LBs Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith

3. Linebacker

The breakout season for Jaylon Smith, coupled with the first-year excellence of Leighton Vander Esch, vaults this group from 9th in 2018 to the top three. Dallas now has arguably the most exciting pair of linebackers in the entire league.

In addition to the young studs, Sean Lee returns as a versatile option who hopefully still has some elite plays left in him. Getting to move into a reduced role could be ideal for Lee, who turns 33 in July, allowing him avoid injury and stay fresher throughout the year.

Joe Thomas is another strong reserve in the LB corps. He can play multiple positions and flashed some play-making potential even in limited duty. He's a nice insurance policy in case Lee doesn't have that one year left in him.

The rest of the LB depth isn't that notable but Jaylon and Leighton make up the difference. Barring injury, those two will carry this group and perhaps the entire defense.

4. Defensive End

Dallas paid big to keep DeMarcus Lawrence, and they also made a bold move in trading for veteran Robert Quinn. It gives the Cowboys their best pair of ends, at least on paper, since the days of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

As good as they sound together, Lawrence and Quinn aren't fully guaranteed. Will Tank's performance level change now that he's finally got his long-term deal? And will Quinn continue the slow decline we've seen the last few seasons?

The depth also has question marks, but Dallas countered that by giving themselves plenty of options. Taco Charlton enters his third year, looking to avoid the "first-round bust" label that some are already pinning to him. Dallas also signed veteran Kerry Hyder, who had eight sacks in 2016 before injury and scheme changes got in the way.

Randy Gregory's status for 2019 remains a mystery, but the team has maintained confidence that he will be eligible to play. Still, they also have Dorance Armstrong as a young pass-rushing specialist and just drafted Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks this year.

Throw in Tyrone Crawford's ability to play DE, assuming he makes the team, and the Cowboys have arguably more overall talent here than at any point in their modern history.

Ezekiel Elliott Already Has Second Rushing Title Locked Down

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

5. Running Back

Going from the top spot in 2018 to fifth this year may seem a steep drop, especially since Ezekiel Elliott is still the man. But depth is a major issue over a full NFL season, and Dallas is taking some big risks in the lack of experience and perceived talent currently behind their franchise back.

While Zeke has been as tough and durable as they come, every new year comes with an increased risk of injury. Even if he doesn't miss time, the wear and tear of multiple seasons starts to take a toll on performance. If Dallas plans to have a long-term relationship with Elliott beyond the next season or two, then they need to find ways to reduce his mileage.

This year there is no Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, or even a Rod Smith as the backup. The Cowboys are currently gambling on a pair of rookies, Tony Pollard and Mike Weber, and the inexperienced Darius Jackson to fill out the depth chart. I still think they may add a veteran before training camp, but we'll go with what we know right now.

Pollard is an intriguing athlete but is more of a Lance Dunbar than a true backup, who could handle a heavy workload if Elliott missed time. Weber is a 7th-round rookie and Jackson has only six carries in his career, all of which came in last year's meaningless regular season finale.

Unless they have a notable signing coming, the Cowboys are going to be unusually shallow at running back. Their faith in Ezekiel Elliott's physical health, and that he won't get suspended again, must be very strong.

6. Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper is the real deal and was worth the first-round pick Dallas traded for him, plus whatever big contract comes his way. If Michael Gallup builds on a strong rookie season, Dallas will have a great starting combination at WR.

Losing Cole Beasley in free agency hurts, but the Cowboys are hoping that the addition of veteran Randall Cobb will cover that. Even if Cobb can't take on some of the heavy loads that Beasley did over the last few years, the combined efforts of all top-3 receivers should give Dallas more firepower than they've had in a while.

How things shake out on the bottom half of the depth chart will be interesting. Veterans Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns are back, but young prospects like Noah Brown, Cedrick Wilson, and others should compete for jobs.

As with several other positions, Dallas has given itself strength in numbers this offseason. When you're wondering if players like Hurns or Austin will even make the roster, that's a great problem to have. The Cowboys should be deep at WR, however it turns out.

Dak Prescott Clutch in 4th Quarter & OT in Win Over Eagles 3

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

7. Quarterback

You may not like seeing QB this low, but that's more about depth than the starter. Like at running back, Dallas is allowing young and unproven players to be the next man up from Dak Prescott. That's a risky proposition heading into a year when the Cowboys should be a contender.

Prescott isn't a sure thing either. I'm not one of his detractors, but there's no denying that he still a ways to go before he's among the NFL elite. Hopefully a full year offseason with his new receivers, plus the changes coming with Kellen Moore's rise to Offensive Coordinator, will help Dak take things to the next level.

The real concern is behind him; neither Cooper Rush or Mike White have shown that they can take over if needed. Maybe the ghosts of 2015 are still haunting me, but I'm always scared of what could happen if Prescott has to miss time.

8. Special Teams

The days of supreme confidence in Dan Bailey and Chris Jones are over. Bailey is gone, replaced by Brett Maher, and Jones didn't have a stellar season in 2018.

Despite his highlight moments, Maher was one of the least accurate kickers in the NFL last year. His long-distance kicks are wonderful but the misses from 30-49 yards are killers. Dallas hasn't added any competition yet this offseason, so hopefully Brett is improving on his all-around game.

Chris Jones is still a solid punter but wasn't up to his usual level last season. His punts were returned 30 times for 254 yards, compared to just 18 returns for 75 yards the year before. Turning 30 in July, Jones may be starting into a downward trend that will have to be addressed soon.

In the return game, Tavon Austin is still here for punts and rookie Tony Pollard is likely going to take over on kickoffs. If Austin doesn't make the team, we could Pollard, Randall Cobb, or a few other players get a look on punt returns. Whoever has the jobs, they shouldn't suffer any loss from last year's production.

Byron Jones 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

9. Cornerback

Byron Jones' move back to corner in 2018 was highly successful, with Jones making his first Pro Bowl. But sophomore slumps by Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are concerning, and leave the position in a state of overall uncertainty.

Awuzie is still the presumed starter for this year but Anthony Brown could push depending on Chido's performance. Hopefully it will be a matter of who outshines the other, rather than having to choose the lesser of evils.

Jourdan Lewis, who was arguably better than Awuzie as rookies, fell off last year when Kris Richard's arrival seemed to cause him issues. Lewis is a smaller CB, not fitting Richard's typical mold, but has plenty of talent.

Dallas drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of this year's draft. He be in competition with veteran C.J. Goodwin and young prospects Donovan Olumba and Chris Westry for at least one more roster spot at CB, and perhaps two if the team goes long.

10. Defensive Tackle

Starter uncertainty continues through these last four spots, which is really why they make up the bottom of the list. Competition isn't a bad thing, but in most of these cases the issue is not being sure how much talent is really there to use.

Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods both had solid years in 2018, and Tyrone Crawford is still hanging around for now. But this is also the same group that got run over by the Rams in Dallas' playoff loss.

The Cowboys used their second-round pick to add Trysten Hill, but how much he can contribute as a rookie is hard to say. They also signed Christian Covington from the Texans, who will be converting to DT after playing as a 3-4 DE in Houston.

Dallas should get solid production from whoever plays the largest roles out of this group. But even if things go relatively great, none of them are likely to be among the NFL's best in 2019. The Cowboys are just hoping that it won't be a significant liability.

Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

Dallas Cowboys S Xavier Woods

11. Safety

The analysis at DT is similar here. Dallas would be okay with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting again, but they added veteran George Iloka as a potential upgrade at either spot. But even at their peak, can this group really be a strength of the 2019 defense?

Xavier Woods, much like Antwaun Woods at tackle, is the key. Both young players could be who push things to another level at their positions, having flashed some great potential in 2018. But NFL history, and certainly Cowboys history, are full of guys we thought would grow into something that never happened.

Heath and Iloka are both older players who have likely already shown the best that they have to offer. Unless something about the Dallas system really clicks with Iloka, things aren't going to change much here.

As for depth, Kavon Frazier and sixth-round rookie Donovan Wilson are likely competing for the fourth and final spot. Frazier will need to clearly outplay Wilson to keep his spot, having just one year left on his rookie deal.

For people who longed to see Earl Thomas or a safety of that caliber come to Dallas this offseason, the end result was probably frustrating. Hopefully, the Cowboys saw something in their current talent that we didn't.

12. Tight End

Even Jason Witten's return couldn't push this group higher. In fact, Witten coming back may have done more harm than good.

The big hope here is that Blake Jarwin will build on last year's surge late in the season. If that doesn't happen, maybe Dalton Schultz will make a big push in his second year. Witten here to help teach these young guys and contribute whatever he can.

But if not for Witten, Dallas might've gone ahead and signed a more proven player. Or, the Cowboys could have gone with a TE early in the 2019 Draft.

Jason's return deferred those thoughts to next year, contingent on how Jarwin and Schultz perform. Dallas appears content to see if their TE of the future is already here, and hopefully improved by working with their TE of the past.

It's a logical experiment, but one that could significantly hurt the offense if it blows up in their faces.

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!


Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Job Security Rankings: Defense

Jess Haynie



Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys start training camp in July, there will be various feelings of job security throughout the 90-man roster. Throughout the NFL, players know when they're already locked in to a role on the team or when they're fighting for survival.

Yesterday we broke down the current, pre-training camp job security of the offensive players. Today we turn our attention to the defense.

Remember, these tiers aren't just about making the 53-man roster. It also has to do with the players' roles within the roster. Are you a sure starter, fighting for playing time, or just hoping to avoid the practice squad?

Tier 1 - The Untouchables

DE DeMarcus Lawrence, LB Leighton Vander Esch, LB Jaylon Smith, CB Byron Jones

There is no debating these four players. Three of them are coming off Pro Bowl seasons and Jaylon Smith could've easily been right there with them. They are the new leaders of the defense and will be back in their featured roles in 2019.

None of these players will be challenged for their jobs. Even if Byron Jones doesn't get a long-term extension beyond this season, he will be back as the primary corner and playing for his free agency leverage next year.

These guys are easy. Let's move on.

Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

Dallas Cowboys S Xavier Woods

Tier 2 - Slightly Touchable

DE Robert Quinn, DT Antwaun Woods, S Xavier Woods

The Cowboys hope that adding veteran Robert Quinn to Lawrence at defensive end will give them their most dangerous pair of pass rusher since DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. The job is Quinn's to lose; only the decline of age can stop Robert from being a key player in the defense this year.

Maybe putting the Woods boys up here is a little optimistic, but it just seems like the arrow is very much pointed upwards on both Antwaun and Xavier at their positions. If they continue to build on last year, there's little reason to think they won't be starters this season.

Dallas has good reason to be invested in both of them. With Tyrone Crawford and Maliek Collins both likely playing their final seasons here, Antwaun Woods gives them a secured talent going forward. Ideally, Woods and Trysten Hill will be your starters in 2020.

The same goes for Xavier Woods at safety.  Jeff Heath has an expiring contract and George Iloka has just a one-year deal. The Cowboys want Xavier to become a fixture that they can add to going forward.

Assuming all of these players play up to current expectation, they aren't budging.

Leighton Vander Esch Can Prove Value for Good Against High Scoring Saints

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Tier 3 - On the Team, But Where?

DE Taco Charlton, DE Dorance Armstrong, DL Tyrone Crawford, DT Maliek Collins, DT Trysten Hill, LB Sean Lee, LB Joe Thomas, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Anthony Brown, CB Jourdan Lewis, S Jeff Heath, S George Iloka

Most of the Cowboys defensive roster will be filled out from among this group. They should all make the team, but in what capacity? And how much will it matter, particularly on the defensive line, with the rotations that Rod Marinelli uses?

It probably seems odd to have former stalwarts like Tyrone Crawford and Sean Lee listed here, but that's the new reality. I'm actually surprised both are still on the roster at this point, expecting at least one to be released for cap space this offseason. Both veterans will not be as featured as in the past, and I could even still see Crawford being released at final cuts.

Guys like Taco Charlton and Maliek Collins are also fighting for playing time against younger options on the defensive line. Will Dorance Armstrong and Trysten Hill push for snaps, and consequently push the older players into lesser roles?

How will things shake out in the secondary? Will Jourdan Lewis be able to find a larger role after being buried behind the top three corners last year? Will Anthony Brown or Chidobe Awuzie be the number-two CB?  And at safety, who emerges as the second starter between veterans Jeff Heath and George Iloka?

Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Fringe Players Fans Should Follow

Dallas Cowboys S Kavon Frazier (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Tier 4 - Bubble Players

DE Kerry Hyder, DE Joe Jackson, DT Christian Covington, DT Daniel Ross, LB Justin March-Lillard, LB Chris Covington, CB Michael Jackson, CB Donovan Olumba, S Kavon Frazier, S Darian Thompson, S Donovan Wilson

We've used up 19 of our 25-26 roster spots already. That means only 6-7 of these 11 players will make the team.

Dallas took a flier on Kerry Hyder as a rehab project, and the veteran DE is already impressing in the offseason practices. That could make it impossible for rookie Joe Jackson to make the team, getting crunched by the numbers.

Veteran Christian Covington feels like a solid pickup at DT, but what if he struggles to convert to the 4-3 scheme? A guy like Daniel Ross could be ready to steal the spot out from under him.

At cornerback, are rookie Michael Jackson and second-year prospect Donovan Olumba fighting for the same roster spot? What if Dallas doesn't even keep five corner, like they did last year, and leave both guys out in the cold?

The competition is really heating up at safety. Kavon Frazier's in the last year of his rookie deal and may not be able to fight off Darian Thompson, a former third-round pick, or rookie Donovan Wilson. Any one of these three could emerge.

None of these players listed here are guaranteed a roster spot. Even the newly drafted players will have to fight their way on, thanks to the strong talent acquisition the Cowboys have had in recent years.

Jalen Jelks

Dallas Cowboys DE Jalen Jelks

Tier 5 - Longshots

Considering the potential casualties from the Bubble Players, any of this last group making the roster is going to defy expectations. Even 7th-round pick Jalen Jelks will have a hard time making it, and may have to convert to linebacker to have a chance at competing.

Despite his intriguing 6'4" frame, CB Chris Westry will need to be truly exceptional to push past Michael Jackson or Donovan Olumba. Even if Dallas keeps six corners, he may be stuck as the seventh guy and headed for the practice squad.

It will inevitably happen that reports come from training camp of one of these guys, or some other longshot, making plays and creating a sudden surge of attention. You'll see them start popping up on 53-man roster projections while we anxiously await watching them in the preseason games.

Then maybe nothing will happen, and we'll forget about them all over again. Or maybe they do have some big games, but ultimately are among the final cuts despite all of the hype.

In the nearly two decades now that I've been really analyzing the Cowboys' offseasons, I can't remember a year where there seemed to be less opportunity for a dark horse to make the team. That's unfortunate them, but a great problem for Dallas' perceived roster strength.

We'll find out soon enough how it all unfolds.

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Player News

Michael Jackson Could Make Things Interesting at Nickel Corner

Matthew Lenix



Michael Jackson Could Make Things Interesting at Nickel Corner

In a passing league, you can never have too many bodies in your secondary. By the fifth round of the NFL Draft in April, the Dallas Cowboys had addressed both their offensive and defensive lines, as well as the backup running back position. It was time to add more depth at cornerback and with the 158th pick Michael Jackson was selected.

Currently Anthony Brown has the inside track to be the lead dog at that Nickel Cornerback, but his play has dropped off before in the past. Jourdan Lewis is right behind him still trying to find his place in the team's defensive system. Jackson is in the perfect position to make his move up the depth chart, and here are a few reasons why.

First, he has all the measurables needed to succeed in the Cowboys defensive scheme. At 6'1 210 pounds, with a 40.5-inch vertical, 32.5-inch arms and 4.4 speed he's definitely an early Christmas present for Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli, and more specifically Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. Long and physical corners are what built the infamous "Legion of Boom" in Seattle under his watch.

His ability to be effective in press coverage is a huge tool in his bag. He does an excellent job jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. So much so, that quarterbacks only completed 5 out of 18 passes on go routes against Jackson last season at Miami. Good for a passer rating of 54.4 and a completion percentage of 27.7, with no touchdowns allowed.

Lastly, his versatility brings his skill set full circle. In addition to playing in the slot, he can also line up on the outside. This gives the Cowboys insurance if something catastrophic happens to the team's starters Byron Jones and Chido Awuzie. It doesn't stop there, however, as his stature gives him the added bonus of transferring to safety if need be. So many possibilities to work with.

The rookie hasn't wasted time impressing Kris Richard as the preparations for the upcoming season have kicked off.

"Very pleased with him. Intelligent. Picks up a lot of things quick. I think he's got corner and nickel combo ability for us. Obviously, the more you can do, the more value you present for yourself," Richard said.

As training camp approaches, Michael Jackson has his opportunity to compete. Every snap must be played like it's his last if he wants to be a big contributor in 2019. There's no lack of skill, only experience, and reps, which he'll get plenty of in late July until the season starts. The stage is set for him to possibly add his name next to starting Free Safety Xavier Woods as another late round steal for the Cowboys secondary.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Job Security Rankings: Offense

Jess Haynie



Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

When the Dallas Cowboys start training camp in July, there will be various feelings of job security throughout the 90-man roster. Throughout the NFL, players know when they're already locked in to a role on the team or when they're fighting for survival.

Today, we're going to look at how secure the Cowboys' players should feel in 2019. This not only applies to if they make the final roster, but also their position as a starter, roleplayer, or developmental prospect.

We'll start with the offense.

Tier 1 - The Untouchables

QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, FB Jamize Olawale, WR Amari Cooper, OT Tyron Smith, G Connor Williams, C Travis Frederick, G Zack Martin, OT La'el Collins, OT Cam Fleming

There are no foreseeable issues that could change where these 10 players fit into the 2019 offense. Barring injury or some surprise trade, such as Dallas moving La'el Collins, we know exactly where these guys will fall if they're here and healthy.

Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper are no-brainers, as are your five starting offensive linemen. I also included Fleming as he was clearly brought back to be the swing tackle this season. That could all change in 2020, but for this year at least his role is certain.

You may be surprised to see any fullback in this top tier, but the Cowboys gave Olawale a three-year contract to return this offseason. They made $2.8 million of it guaranteed; you just don't do that if you have any doubts about keeping him on the 53. There's no question that Jamize will be part of the team in 2019.

Some might argue that Connor Williams' starting spot isn't guaranteed, but I just don't see it. They lived the rookie growing pains last year and are hoping for much more going forward. A mid-season switch could occur if he struggles, but Williams will be the Week One starter at left guard.

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

Tier 2 - Slightly Touchable

WR Michael Gallup, WR Randall Cobb, G/C Joe Looney

I almost put Gallup in the first tier but "sophomore slumps" are a real thing. Until we see him building on last year as hoped, there is room for something to go awry.

That also brings Cobb's role into question. Any slippage in Gallup's game could lead to increased opportunities for the veteran. Really, even if both guys are bringing it in 2019, how exactly the targets and usage get split between them isn't entirely certain. If Cobb is back to his peak form in Green Bay, he will be hard to take off the field.

I also put Joe Looney in this second tier because I think he could be trade bait. If a team is hurting at center before Week One, is there a more attractive trade target in the NFL?

Dallas could afford to trade Looney if they feel good enough about Connor McGovern as a backup center. Adam Redmond could also be in the mix, serving as the backup last year when Looney was starting.

It's very unlikely that Dallas would give up one of the best backup offensive lineman in football. But if a team is desperate enough to dangle a third-round pick in front of them, the Cowboys might have an offer they can't refuse.

Blake Jarwin

Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin (Kevin Terrell via AP)

Tier 3 - On the Team, But Where?

RB Tony Pollard, TE Jason Witten, TE Blake Jarwin, TE Dalton Schultz, OL Connor McGovern

This tier is dominated by the mysterious tight end position.  How much playing time will Jason Witten really get? How have Jarwin and Schultz developed and how will it all shake out?

Witten should be the ceremonial starter, but what really matters are total snaps and targets. Even if Jason is the first man out on game days, Jarwin could still wind up being the most-used TE of the group. It all remains to be seen.

We are also expecting a lot from rookie RB Tony Pollard this year, but we don't know yet how much responsibility he'll be given. Will he be the true backup RB or more of a gadget player? Will he take the KR and PR jobs aways from Jourdan Lewis and Tavon Austin? Lots to still be determined here.

Another rookie with question marks is third-round pick Connor McGovern. Will he be given a significant job right away or be carried, perhaps with several game day inactives, for development towards 2020? It's doubtful that he could push Joe Looney out of a job, but will he show enough that Dallas is willing to part with Xavier Su'a-Filo?

Mike White

Dallas Cowboys QB Mike White

Tier 4 - Bubble Players

QB Cooper Rush, QB Mike White, RB Mike Weber, RB Darius Jackson, WR Tavon Austin, WR Allen Hurns, WR Noah Brown, WR Cedrick Wilson, TE Rico Gathers, G Xavier Su'a-Filo, OT Mitch Hyatt

In the top three tiers we've named 18 players who are locks to make the 53-man roster. You generally have 24-25 player on each side of the ball, so that means only 6-7 roster spots left on offense. That means some of the guys named here won't make the team.

Will Cooper Rush and Mike White both have jobs? If Rush remains the backup QB, Dallas will probably hang on to White for another year. But if White beats Rush, the Cowboys could easily let Cooper go to save a roster spot for another position.

Assuming Dallas doesn't add any veteran RBs between now and camp, it seems Darius Jackson and Mike Weber are competing for the same job. There's also a chance that neither makes it; the Cowboys could use Jamize Olawale as the emergency third back. They may be happy to stash with Jackson or Weber on the practice squad.

Things get really interesting at receiver once you get past the top three. Do veterans Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin's experience edge lift them above guys like Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson? Or will Dallas choose the upside of youth and their cheaper contracts? The bottom half of the WR depth chart appears entirely open right now.

The Rico Gathers Experiment seems close to ending, but he's still here and has a chance to change perceptions. The one-game suspension won't matter if the Cowboys like what he has to offer the rest of the season. But keeping a fourth TE could be tough with the numbers at other spots, and Gathers is unlikely to leap above Jarwin or Schultz.

Numbers are also an issue for the offensive linemen. We know the top eight; five starters, Fleming, Looney, and McGovern. If the Cowboys keep nine guys, they may go with Mitch Hyatt as an additional tackle rather than bring Xavier Su'a-Filo back. They already have the interior line covered.

Codey McElroy

Dallas Cowboys TE Codey McElroy

Tier 5 - Longshots

We'll all have our "pet cats" and favorite underdogs over the next two months, but they will all be hard-pressed to make the roster given the current depth.

Maybe a guy like RB Jordan Chunn shocks us by beating out Weber and Jackson, or perhaps a dark horse WR like Jalen Guyton or Jon'Vea Johnson forces his way into the conversation. Crazier things have happened.

But this 2019 Cowboys roster is about as stacked and predictable as it's been in a long time. Strong drafting has give us a lot of young talent with years left on their rookie deals, and those guys are hard to budge.

The key for these players is to be too good to risk losing on the practice squad. Convince Dallas to make room for them, perhaps by keeping just two quarterbacks or going short somewhere else.

Because only 46 guys are active on game days, roster spots 47-53 can be dedicated to securing players and development. These young prospects want to force their way into those spots, and likely cost a veteran like Cooper Rush or Allen Hurns a job in the process.

~ ~ ~

Where players fall in these tiers could change once we start getting some reports form training camp. How expendable you are can shift depending on performance, or if the circumstances change at your position.

We'll hit the defense tomorrow.

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