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Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster Taking Shape, Who’s Locked In?

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster Taking Shape. Who's Locked In? 1

The Dallas Cowboys have played their second preseason game. There were some solid performances and some that left a little to be desired. Most of the roster is already spoken for, but who has staked claim to a spot on the 53-man roster? Let's take a look.

Players who have been suspended--like David Irving--won't take up a roster spot come week one, therefore, they won't be listed. Below are 53-man roster locks published before Dallas Cowboys training camp started.

Right Now, Who's a Lock to Make the 53 Man Roster? 1

From July 5th, 2017.

Updated Roster Locks

After two preseason games, who's a lock to make the roster? 3

General Notes

In my first iteration of "Roster Locks" I had 39 of the 53-man roster spots already locked up. This time I have 43 spots already accounted for. That will leave only 10 spots for the remaining 47 players on the preseason 90-man roster to compete for.

The Dallas Cowboys front office and coaching staff have some difficult decisions ahead.

The Changes

  • Added this week were Rico Gathers, Jaylon Smith, Brice Butler, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith.
  • Removed is Ezekiel Elliott, due to the looming suspension. Even if it gets reduced on appeal--at the league level or in a federal court, it's still likely that he'll sit one to two games. At the moment, he's not on the 53 when week one comes around.
Rico Gathers, Rams

Dallas Cowboys Tight End Rico Gathers

Offense

  • First thing you'll notice is that I'm still not sold on Kellen Moore backing up Dak Prescott. For everything that #KelMo did well in the Hall of Fame Game, he provided the opposite result against the Rams. I get that being at least average at quarterback isn't the most important quality for a backup, but it matters. Moore still has a lot to prove. On the flip side, with each passing preseason game, Cooper Rush is proving he belongs.
  • The Ezekiel Elliott suspension has set the running back depth chart for the team coming out of training camp; Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, and Rod Smith are the running backs the team will take into the season. I don't see Ronnie Hillman doing anything to make the roster. The team will likely use a running back by committee approach while Zeke is out. Let's just hope it's more productive than it's been in the preseason. I could see a 60-30-10 split of the running back touches between McFadden, Morris, and Smith.
  • Rico Gathers has done enough in my mind to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster. The only question now is will they keep four tight ends or will Hanna or Swaim be sacrificed for depth at another position. My money's on four tight ends.
  • Wide receiver is all but set. Brice Butler has had an extremely good camp; he will be on the roster. The question here is whether Noah Brown or Andy Jones can do enough to force them to keep six. Injuries and suspensions along the defensive line and questions along the offensive line may prevent them from keeping six wide receivers here. At the moment, I'm thinking five.
  • Left guard still lacks an answer, though like I've said we won't get one until the season starts, and perhaps not even then. Jonathan Cooper and Byron Bell have both been found lacking. Hopefully Chaz Green can get healthy and get some injury good luck.
  • The depth along the offensive line is ok. It would be serviceable in the absence of a starter, but the position flexibility of the backups is what brings them value. Bell, Cooper, Green, Joe Looney, and Emmett Cleary have all taken snaps at multiple positions.
3 Cowboys Making Cases for Roster Spots

Los Angeles Rams Running Back Todd Gurley #30 is tackled by Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Damien Wilson #57 (Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

Defense

  • The suspensions to David Irving and Damontre Moore will keep Tyrone Crawford at defensive end when the season starts, assuming he's healthy. If Crawford isn't ready to go week one, we could see them keep Lenny Jones as depth on the 53.
  • Lewis Neal continues to be disruptive in the snaps he's been given. As Bryan Broaddus notes, Neal probably has the best shot of any UDFA to make the squad out of camp. With the team dead set on keeping Crawford at end, now out of necessity, Neal being the fourth defensive tackle is a real possibility. We know the Dallas Cowboys' propensity for finding UDFA gems. Is Neal next?
  • Linebacker is beginning to sort itself out a bit. We are still awaiting word on whether Damien Wilson will be suspended, but as of now, he'd make the roster. The question about Jaylon Smith's readiness is no longer a question. Just a matter of how much he'll play. He may not start at MLB right away, but he figures to get some situational snaps week one. Mark Nzeocha, Justin Durant, and Joseph Jones figure to be competing for the last one to two spots at linebacker.
  • Nolan Carroll is another one who could be suspended to start the season; he's still an unknown. I think it's more than likely they keep six cornerbacks. Who the sixth one is, is still up for grabs. Marquez White, Duke Thomas, and Sammy Seamster have all stood out.
  • Xavier Woods--whether he's a starter or not--will have a role on the defense early in the season. His play against the Rams showed why many thought he could be a fourth round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. That's why Cowboys Nation was ecstatic over his choice in the 6th. If you're looking for this year's Anthony Brown, look at Professor X. Robert Blanton isn't doing much to make a case for a roster spot. He'll be cut on cut-down day.

Special Teams

  • No changes here and that is a good thing. Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, and L.P. Ladouceur are sure things at their position. They aren't going anywhere. We and the Dallas Cowboys are thankful to have them.

What do you think? Who's missing?



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?

A season after Jason Witten's retirement, the Dallas Cowboys still have a need at tight end. Replacing a future Hall of Famer is no easy feat so it's only logical that it would take longer than a season to feel good about who's in at tight end.

The Cowboys currently have two tight ends who could be pretty serviceable going forward. Fourth round pick Dalton Schultz did a very solid job as the team's TE2, specially toward the second half of the season. He turned into a pretty good run blocker and despite only racking up 116 yards in 12 catches, he's a guy the Cowboys' offense could use even more in the future.

Also on the team is Blake Jarwin, who functioned as the Cowboys' main tight end for most of 2018. His performance against the New York Giants in week 17 made us wonder whether or not he could be an important target on the Cowboys' offense.

These two could very well have more in them than what we've seen. With a new offensive coordinator in town, tight end is a position the Cowboys could start using way more. As Bobby Belt pointed out on Twitter a few weeks ago, Scott Linehan's offense doesn't benefit tight ends very much. Before we give a verdict on what Schultz and Jarwin can do, I'd like to see them work with Kellen Moore's offense.

Bobby Belt on Twitter

One thing you consistently see when Scott Linehan takes over an offense is a drop in the starting tight end's production. Randy McMichael, Byron Chamberlain, and Jason Witten all saw drops in yards per catch, receptions per game, and yards per game once Linehan took over.

Here's the thing. If the Cowboys are not taking a tight end in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are they really upgrading what they already have? I'm not sure we'll be convinced about that if they draft a player for the position until the third or fourth round. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for the Cowboys drafting a TE in the second round, because I believe there are more pressing needs on the team. However, signing a veteran free agent might be the better option for upgrading the position.

Should a veteran TE be an option?

This year, there are quite a few interesting names in the tight end market. Veterans such as Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert and even Antonio Gates will be looking for a new team pretty soon. I know, that would be "getting older." But it could also mean getting better. Building a solid TE committee with a veteran leading Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz could be the way to go for this football team.

Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency? 1

TE Tyler Eifert (Aaron Doster / USA TODAY Sports)

Eifert is a great tight end... when he's on the field. Durability is his biggest weakness, as he hasn't played more than 10 games since 2016. The Cowboys could take a risk on him and constantly rotate him with Jarwin and Schultz. It may be a huge risk, but it could pay off big time. If the price is right, Eifert should be targeted by the front office.

The 2018 Oakland Raiders had a season to forget, winning only four games. Even still, Jared Cook's season was impressive. He finished the year with 896 yards and multiple 100-yard games. The biggest issue with Cook is his age. He turns 32 in April. But hey, he's literally coming off from a career year.

Jesse James is a younger guy who could also be worth it. He's not an a potent receiver, but he gets it done in the passing game and is one hell of a blocker. James could be a legit, cheaper option for the Cowboys in free agency.

There are a lot of names out there the front office could look at. Charles Clay was just released by the Buffalo Bills and Nick Boyle will be looking for new job after new arrivals pushed him out of the Baltimore Ravens' roster just to mention a few names.

We'll see what the front office's plans are soon enough, but right now, I'd say tight end is a need the Dallas Cowboys should at least try to address in free agency instead of the NFL Draft.

Tell me what you think about "Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Cornerback

Jess Haynie

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Byron Jones

Unlike other positions on their roster, cornerback appears ready to off the Dallas Cowboys stability in 2019. However, that doesn't mean the team can just ignore it this offseason. There are still a few decisions to be made.

Thanks to a shrewd move in April of last year, Dallas will be enjoying Byron Jones' services at a bargain. They picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and will be paying him just $6.3 million next season.

That's a steal for a Pro Bowl corner, who generally make more than double that amount in a single year. But the Cowboys are still left the decision of whether or not to give Jones a long-term deal now or wait until he hits free agency in 2020.

It's easy to say that they should enjoy the discount and worry about it next year. But then you risk a second Pro Bowl trip and the lure of the open market. Byron's asking price could only go up.

Of course, Dallas could then also have the option of using the franchise tag.

Keep in mind that Jones will turn 27 this September. Dallas could decide that it makes sense to play through the rookie deal this year, franchise him in 2020, and then reassess when he's about to turn 29 years old.

If they give Byron a long-term deal now then they'll have to pay him like one of the top corners in football. It may be wise to wait.

Chidobe Awuzie, Giants

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

Another decision facing the Cowboys is if they think they can improve at the second starting position. It was an up-and-down year for Chidobe Awuzie, but he was playing his best toward the end of the season. Dallas could hope that a second year with Kris Richard's coaching, and just more general growth for a third-year player, will elevate Awuzie's game.

However, with plenty of cap space to work with, Dallas could pursue a solid veteran option and then allow Awuzie to play the nickel role. It would not only perhaps improve the CB2 position but also bolster depth overall.

Speaking of depth, Anthony Brown returns for the final year of his rookie deal. While never spectacular, Brown has been a gem as a former sixth-round pick with 29 career starts. He brings exceptional value and may even compete with Awuzie for the starting job.

While arguably the team's best young corner in 2017, Jourdan Lewis comes into this season with a lot of uncertainty. He fell out of favor last season, perhaps for not fitting the physical style that Richard likes. But he did manage to snag the game-clinching interception in Dallas' upset win over the New Orleans Saints.

If a scheme mismatch is the issue, the Cowboys could look to trade Lewis this offseason. He still has two years left on his rookie deal and was considered a first-round prospect by some in 2017. A cornerback-needy club might have more use for him than Dallas seems to.

If they did move Jourdan, the Cowboys might turn to Donovan Olumba to fill out the depth chart. He was one of their surprising performers in last year's training camp and spent the year on the practice squad. At 6'2", he has the size that the team seems to be looking for now in its corners.

More than likely, Dallas will ride with this group in 2019 with no big changes. I do think a Lewis trade is possible, especially with the Cowboys short on draft picks this year. But don't expect any major cap space or draft capital to go at one of the team's more solid positions.

With all the other work Dallas needs done this offseason, a little stability at cornerback is a luxury.



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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center

Jess Haynie

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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Even with Dez Bryant's release and Jason Witten's retirement, the loss of Travis Frederick last season may have been the most damaging to the Dallas Cowboys. The team looks forward to getting their All-Pro center back in 2019 while also having a reliable backup still under contract.

Just within the last few weeks, Frederick has provided encouraging updates on his status for next year. It looks like he'll be able to participate in all offseason activities, but the Cowboys would settle for Week One. There appears to be plenty of cushion for that to happen.

Travis' absence in 2018 was seen in various ways. Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times, second-most in all the league, after just 32 and 25 times the previous two seasons. Part of that is missing Frederick's blocking ability, but also the way he would assist with reading the defense and making pre-snap adjustments.

Dallas would've loved having Frederick out there to help Guard Connor Williams, who worked with Travis throughout the offseason only to lose him in late August. It was not an easy way for the rookie to start his career.

We also saw issues in the run game. Even while Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing, short-yardage situations weren't as easy as they used to be. The Rams were able to neutralize the Cowboys' rushing attack in Dallas' playoff loss, something that Frederick might have helped overcome.

Joe Looney

Dallas Cowboys G/C Joe Looney

This isn't saying that Joe Looney did a bad job. On the contrary, Looney was more than adequate and helped keep Dallas from suffering far greater damage without Frederick.

After Joe's work in 2018, Dallas won't blink at keeping him on the $1 million salary he's due next year. It's a bargain for a backup of his quality, and especially given his versatility as an option at guard as well.

Not only are Frederick and Looney locked in for 2019, but Dallas also still has backup Adam Redmond under contract through next season. He was added after final cuts last year to be Looney's backup and should return to at least help the team through July and August.

With these guys already in place, there's no reason to think that Dallas will give much attention to the center position during the offseason.

At most, a mid-round draft pick might be used on a player who could potentially replace Looney in 2020 as the backup. Joe's contract ends next season, and he could be competitive for starting jobs with other teams at that point.

With lots of other concerns throughout the roster, Dallas is fortunate to have so much security at center. All signs are positive on Travis Frederick's return, and that is a huge boost to the team as it looks to push forward from last year's playoff run.



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