The first practice of the Dallas Cowboys' 2019 Training Camp is tomorrow, so it's a good time to release our next roster projection of the season. We could see plenty of changes between now and the final preseason game, but this is my gauge for how the team would put together it's 53-man roster based on what we currently know.
The last roster projection came out right after the 2019 NFL Draft. Since then, we have had the following developments which have a bearing on this edition's changes:
- DE Randy Gregory filed for reinstatement.
- DE DeMarcus Lawrence, CB Byron Jones, DL Tyrone Crawford, and WR Noah Brown to open camp on PUP list.
- Dallas signs QB Taryn Christion.
- WR Allen Hurns released.
Along with these news bits, we've had the reports from rookie camp, mini-camps, and OTAs on how players performed. How much did all of this impact our impression of the team's top 53 players for 2019?
Dak Prescott, Mike White, Taryn Christion
Changes: Added Taryn Christion
I've felt throughout the offseason that Cooper Rush and Mike White would wind up competing for just one roster spot. Three months ago, my prediction was that White would beat out Rush for the backup job and send Cooper either to the practice squad or the street.
But on Wednesday, Dallas added a new QB to the mix in undrafted rookie Taryn Christion. That the Cowboys added a fourth QB for camp tells me they still plan to carry three passers on the 53-man roster, so now it's a question of who.
I try not to get distracted by the shiny new toys in roster analysis but Christion is intriguing. His college tape reminds you of Dak and he is definitely the most Prescott-like of the three backups.
Dallas will certainly keep either Rush or White as QB2, not able to trust that role to a rookie. I am going to go with Mike White for now with the thought that his development in his second year could make for a bigger leap than what Cooper Rush can do in his third season.
The 5th-round pick that Dallas spent on White last year, and the three years left on his rookie contract, certainly don't hurt his case. If White does push Rush out, I don't see why Dallas would then feel the need to keep Cooper on the roster.
Running Back (4)
Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Mike Weber,
Jamize Olawale (FB)
Changes: Added Weber, Removed Darius Jackson
The Ezekiel Elliott holdout watch is still in effect, but I have no doubt that he and the Cowboys will figure something out before September. And he is one of the players on the team who can most afford to skip out on these practices and preseason games.
Zeke's absence could have a positive effect on the development of rookies Tony Pollard and Mike Weber. It should give them more work with the starters and really show Dallas what they've got behind Elliott, and if they need to keep an eye on the free agent market or not.
The more I've thought about Weber versus Darius Jackson for the third RB spot, I feel like Weber goes the Cowboys a different kind of runner. Jackson's game is about speed, but so is Tony Pollard's. I think Dallas would like a more complimentary player on the depth chart.
As for fullback, Jamize Olawale wasn't re-signed to a three-year deal for nothing. I have high hopes for what Kellen Moore will do with Olawale's proven receiving skills that Scott Linehan never did. I don't see how he doesn't make the team.
Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb,
Noah Brown, Tavon Austin, Cedrick Wilson
Changes: Added Wilson, Removed Allen Hurns
We know the top three will be Cooper, Gallup, and Cobb. Now that Allen Hurn was just released, we get an even clearer picture of who will be playing behind them.
Despite Noah Brown opening camp on the PUP list, I'm still confident that he ultimately make the team. Dallas has put two years of developmental work into him and Brown has major value with his blocking ability. He's not expected to miss much of training camp, either.
I am dubious about Tavon Austin making the roster, particularly if Tony Pollard can handle the kick and punt return roles. But if Pollard got hurt, who would his backup be? Dallas just might keep both as security against each other, and perhaps have Austin handle punts while Pollard takes the kickoffs.
Dallas should keep six receivers and last year's 6th-round pick Cedrick Wilson is a strong candidate. He likely would've made the team in 2018 if not for for a shoulder injury in training camp.
But undrafted rookie Jon'Vea Johnson could contend as well, being one of the most praised players coming out of the spring practices. There are also fans of Jalen Guyton as a prospect, plus some more experienced options like Lance Lenoir and Devin Smith, but Johnson and Wilson are the most likely guys to take the sixth WR spot.
Tight End (3)
Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
If Dallas keeps both Noah Brown and Jamize Olawale then they have enough blocking options to avoid keeping a fourth tight end. That makes this position very easy to predict.
The questions are all in how much these three players get used. Will Jason Witten be better than some expect in his return to football, or will Blake Jarwin command the biggest role with growth from last year?
Dalton Schultz can't be forgotten, either. He was a 4th-round pick last year and was stuck behind two players in Jarwin and Geoff Swaim with professional experience. Now he's had a year of development and could be a factor.
But no, I can't see a fourth TE here if Dallas keeps a third quarterback, a fullback, and six receivers. The Rico Gathers Project was probably going to end anyway, but the numbers make it easy.
Offensive Tackle (4)
Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Cam Fleming,
Changes: Added Hyatt
We know that Smith and Collins will start with Fleming also returning as the swing tackle. Dallas could go with just that trio, but I think concerns for 2020 will prompt them to hang on to a developmental player.
As I wrote about last month, undrafted rookie Mitch Hyatt makes a lot of sense for that spot. He has big-time college experience with Clemson and was a priority signing for Dallas after the draft. If they do plan on letting Collins leave in 2020 free agency, Fleming can move to starting right tackle and hopefully Hyatt could be the swing.
Naturally, any of Jake Campos, Brandon Knight, or Derrick Puni could claim that role over Hyatt. But I like Mitch's upside given where he's been the last few years, and he's my dark horse pick for now.
Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Connor Williams,
Joe Looney, Connor McGovern (R)
Changes: Removed Xavier Su'a-Filo
If Dallas does keep that fourth OT then it probably means losing Xavier Su'a-Filo. However, we already expected that Xavier could be gone when Connor McGovern was drafted last April.
There isn't much need to keep Su'a-Filo as long as Looney and McGovern are on the roster. They've got your interior line covered, and Xavier is a free agent in 2020 anyway.
Considering the versatility of players like Looney, McGovern, Connor Williams, and La'el Collins, Dallas has no reason to keep more than nine offensive linemen. I even think that number could drop to eight if they have other roster needs, which would send Mitch Hyatt to the practice squad.
Defensive End (6)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn, Taco Charlton,
Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, Joe Jackson (R)
It's no surprise that Lawrence will miss the start of camp after his offseason shoulder surgery, which was delayed as Tank and the Cowboys worked out his new contract. DeMarcus' absence could be a positive for the group as it allows new and developing players to get plenty of work.
Dallas added veterans Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder in free agency and then Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks through the draft. They're also bringing back Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong from last year, plus hoping that Randy Gregory will be reinstated sometime soon.
Quinn is expected to start and Hyder was a stud in the spring practices. They're both locks for the roster, and I would expect Armstrong to also stick around as a pure pass rusher. This is a critical camp for Taco as he could find himself traded or even released if he can't compete.
I don't have Gregory here as this is a projection for Week One of the regular season, and I expect he will have to miss at least a few games if he's reinstated at all. That will allow 5th-round rookie Joe Jackson to make the team for at least little while, but you can switch out Gregory for either he or Taco if the NFL is merciful.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, Trysten Hill (R),
Changes: Removed Tyrone Crawford
I am going with my guy that Tyrone Crawford will not be back in 2019. Dallas can shave $7 million in cap space by releasing him, and at this point his presence costs you young talent at either DE or DT. He also may not even be a starting-quality player at this point given what else they have.
Much like Lawrence and Quinn should be the starting duo at DE, Collins and Woods look like your best pair of tackles. Maliek should be highly motivated in his contract year, while Antwaun was emerging as the team's best DT by the end of 2018.
With the additions of 2nd-round pick Trysten Hill and intriguing veteran Christian Covington in the offseason, Dallas seems set with their depth as well. There is also potential for bigger defensive ends like Kerry Hyder or Taco Charlton to play some interior line on passing downs.
Tyrone Crawford has value given his versatility and experience, of course, but is it really worth his $10.1 million cap hit? It seems time to move on and make way for young, cheaper options.
Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee
Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard, Chris Covington
In what will likely be his last season in Dallas, Sean Lee returns to a much different role. He no longer has to carry the defense and can limit his playing time and injury risk, but while also being a valuable mentor to Dallas' exciting duo of young linebackers.
There really isn't much room for discussion at any level of the LB position. We know who's starting and have a pretty good sense of the backups.
Joe Thomas and Justin March-Lillard are back as experienced reserves. Chris Covington is the best physical option for backup SAM, being carried on the 53 last year though only active for five games.
One idea I've heard this summer is converting 7th-round pick Jalen Jelks from DE to LB. That would make Jelks similar to former Cowboy Kyle Wilber, who made that same switch and was the starting SAM here at one time.
Outside of Jelks are a few undrafted players to challenge Covington for his roster spot. But barring a surprise, I think the six players at linebacker are easy to predict.
Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown,
Jourdan Lewis, Michael Jackson (R)
However long Byron Jones is on PUP is a great opportunity for Jourdan Lewis to get work with the first-team defense. It could be exactly what he needs to reestablish his value and leave no doubt as to his job security.
The battle for playing time between Lewis, Awuzie, and Brown will be interesting. The hope is that Awuzie and Lewis can take over the 2nd and 3rd CB roles with Brown becoming a free agent in 2020, but neither progressed much in their sophomore years. Dallas needs big third seasons from both.
The Cowboys only kept four cornerbacks in 2018 but should keep five this year, with 5th-round rookie Michael Jackson the leader to take that spot. He has the size and physical style that Dallas is looking for these days in their corners.
However, prospects Donovan Olumba and Chris Westry share those traits. Olumba almost made the team last year and Westry, an undrafted rookie, has exceptional size at 6'4". They should compete for a roster spot, and perhaps even push the Cowboys to keep a sixth CB.
George Iloka, Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath,
Changes: Added Thompson, Removed Donovan Wilson
I don't know how much better George Iloka is than Jeff Heath but I feel like a change is coming. Iloka has great size and more experience than Heath, and he feels like a guy that Coach Kris Richard handpicked out of the free agent pool.
I feel safe in calling Xavier Woods a "lock" to start in 2019. He star is already on the rise and is now entering his third year. Major breakout potential is there, and Dallas will give him the reps needed to maximize potential.
Heath should remain as a versatile and experienced backup option and a leader for the special teams groups. Unless they really need the $2.5 million back from his contract to fund some of their contract extensions, Dallas won't part with Jeff lightly.
If there's only one spot left at safety I think it will go to Darian Thompson. The 2016 3rd-round pick is getting a second chance in Dallas after injury and struggles cost him his starting role with the Giants. He was reportedly playing with the 2nd-team defense in camps this spring over Kavon Frazier, Donovan Wilson, and other prospects.
Dallas could keep five safeties, and if so it will be an intriguing battle between Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson. But for now I think the roster math lends itself to just four players at this position, especially when you factor in Byron Jones' flexibility.
Special Teams (3)
Brett Maher, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
I wish there was some competition for Maher in camp right now, particularly veteran free agent Matt Bryant, but right now he's the only true kicker on the roster. Backup punter Kasey Redfern did do some placekicking earlier this offseason but doesn't appear to be more than a camp leg.
Even if Dallas liked Redfern's ability to handle two jobs, there's no way they're going to only keep one guy as both kicker and punter. Just think back to how Sebastian Janikowski's injury crippled the Seahawks in our 2018 playoff game; the Cowboys would never put their special teams units at such incredible risk.
As long as Maher has a decent enough camp and preseason, I expect the same trio of specialist to be back in 2019. Chris Jones' value as the holder for field goals and extra points, and his chemistry in that role with Ladouceur as the long snapper, are important to preserve to give Maher the best chance at success.
Not bringing in any other kickers is a major vote of confidence in Brett Maher from the Cowboys. Will here reward them, or could Dallas wind up scrambling for a replacement before the start of the season?
Jason Garrett Reminds Everyone That Kellen Moore Calls the Plays
There's a lot of blame game being played around the Dallas Cowboys right now after a demoralizing home loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Even the head coach seems to be getting in on the act as Jason Garrett went out of character and got unusually specific in explaining Kellen Moore's responsibility for play-calling.
Garrett is not known for calling people out. In fact, many fans have criticized him for not being more critical of his players. He tends to speak in vague, nebulous terms when it comes to discussing the Cowboys' weaknesses or failings after a loss.
But in a radio appearance this morning, Garrett didn't mince words on who was deciding the plays during the Cowboys' final drive.
Jason Garrett on @1053thefan on the two run plays late: "Kellen's calling the game. In that situation it's 2nd and 2. He felt like he had a good opportunity against a favorable box to run the ball in those situations. On each of those plays we had options beyond just the run.
Jason did try to excuse his offensive coordinator's decisions with some context, but he also made sure to clarify who was responsible for those calls. It was not very Garrett-like, and it may speak to his own growing frustration and concern over his future.
Garrett is on the final year of his contract and the Cowboys' front office has made it clear that any extension depends on the results of the 2019 season. With Dallas now dropping to 5-4 and only leading the division by a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Philadelphia Eagles, the future is increasingly unclear.
Jason Garrett famously uses "we" and "us" terms when talking about the negatives, not wanting to assign blame to any particular player or person when things aren't going well. That he strayed from this well-established behavior today may be an anomaly, but it shouldn't be ignored.
With a tough second-half stretch coming in this 2019 schedule, Garrett may be starting to feel like a dead man walking. We'll see in the coming weeks if this leads to anymore shifts in his usual demeanor with the media.
Dallas Cowboys Good, Bad, and Ugly from Week 10 Against Vikings
Well Cowboys Nation, the Dallas Cowboys let yet another winnable game slip to their grasp Sunday night after the devastating 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. By my count, that's three out of four games the Cowboys probably should have won this season. But, probably… maybe… and should have don't mean diddly squat in the NFL.
I'm not going to beat around the bush today because I would likely end up going into a long winded rant about what took place last night. So, let's go ahead and jump right into this week's edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. As always, please feel free to use the comment section to voice your opinions and thoughts on the subject.
Unlike in weeks past, I had absolutely no problem deciding what to go with this week for this category from the Dallas Cowboys Week 10 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. I don't think anyone would argue that the good had to be Quarterback Dak Prescott's play and the Cowboys overall passing game. This unit was the sole reason they had a chance to win at the end.
Prescott was simply phenomenal Sunday night. He threw for 397 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception. He was on point last night and was dropping dimes all over the place. It's one of the reasons why both Amari Cooper (147 yards, 1 TD) and Randall Cobb (106, 1 TD) both went over the 100 yard mark in receiving, and Michael Gallup wasn't too far behind (76 yards, 1 TD). All in all it's an MVP caliber performance from No. 4, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to seal the victory.
I thought and thought about what I wanted to go with in this category and I'll have to admit, I had a hard time deciding. There were individual players who deserved a nomination here, but in the end I think the bad for the Dallas Cowboys was them getting off to yet another slow start against the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, it's been a trend for them this season.
It all started when Jason Garrett decided to send out Kicker Brett Maher to attempt an ill-advised 57 yard field goal. Maher is capable of making such kicks, but there's a time and place to use that kind of weapon. Last night on the opening drive of the game was not one of those times. After the missed FG, the Vikings had excellent field position and scored a quick TD. Not long after they scored another TD to go up 14-0 after another stalled drive by the Cowboys offense. It's a hole they were never quite able to dig themselves out of.
Deciding what to go with here in this category was pretty easy after narrowing down what I wanted to put in the bad category. I think the ugly for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings was their defensive play. In all honesty, it was absolutely sickening to watch the Vikings have their way with the Cowboys defense. Dallas has far too much talent on that side of the ball to be manhandled like they were.
The tackling was atrocious and so was the execution. I'm pretty sure the game plan was to neutralize Dalvin Cook the way they did Saquon Barkley in Week 9, but the league's leading rusher (Cook) would have none of that. He pretty much did what he wanted. He ran through arm tackles and had room to run, whether it was as a rusher or receiver. It looked a lot like what Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones did to the Cowboys in Week 5. It was completely inexcusable and unacceptable!
What is your good, bad, and ugly from the Dallas Cowboys Week 10 matchup?
Randall Cobb has Breakout Game in Tough Loss vs Vikings
When NFL free agency began this past March the Dallas Cowboys spent the month making several additions to their roster. Veterans George Iloka (only one not currently on the roster), Kerry Hyder, Christian Covington, and Robert Quinn were added to help on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensively, there was a huge hole to fill when Wide Receiver Cole Beasley signed a four-year 29 million dollar deal to play for the Buffalo Bills. The Cowboys would then sign Randall Cobb about a week later to a one-year deal. The seasoned pro was brought in as an upgrade over Beasley in the slot to compliment Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Also, with his unique ability to play on the outside as well, it would allow Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore to present different looks for opposing defenses.
In his first seven games of the season, Cobb struggled to find his place within this offense. He produced 25 receptions for 274 yards, with his lone touchdown coming in the season opener vs the New York Giants. He had four or fewer receptions five times and his most productive game only produced 69 yards. However, last night against the Minnesota Vikings was a glimpse of how productive Cobb can be in this system.
Cobb finished with six receptions for 106 yards Sunday night. This was his first 100-yard game since Week 1 in 2018. Four of his catches went for 20 yards or more, five went for first downs and he scored his second touchdown of the season. Dak Prescott showed supreme confidence in looking for Cobb on crucial third-down situations.
That's exactly what Cobb can do for this offense. He provides another reliable threat in the Cowboys aerial assault. When Cobb plays at a high level it will only free up Cooper and Gallup to wreak havoc on the outside.
Last night's game was a perfect example of this. Cooper had 11 receptions for 147 yards and Gallup added four catches for 76 yards, each scoring touchdowns. It doesn't allow a defense to lock in on one receiver and take them completely out of the game.
Cobb playing well also has an impact on the running game. The better he plays the more defenses will have to focus on stopping himself, Cooper, and Gallup. What does that do? The Cowboys won't face as many eight or nine-man fronts which will give All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott the opportunity to wear down opposing defenses by playing ball control, which is the Cowboys bread and butter.
Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come from Cobb as the playoff push heats up. If he can continue to build chemistry with Prescott it will only improve one of the NFL's best passing offenses while simultaneously increasing Elliott's ability to be effective by taking extra defenders away from the box. Will Cobb make this a regular occurrence for the rest of the season? Only time will tell.
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