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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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Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018

Jess Haynie

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Amari Cooper

For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote

As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.

Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.

Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.

His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!



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Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Week 15 Impact Games

Jess Haynie

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Making Sense of the "Garrett Guys" Behind Cowboys Dez Bryant Release

It's hard to believe that we're looking at the Dallas Cowboys potentially clinching the NFC East this week, but that's how dramatic the turnaround has been over the last five games. Week 15 could lock Dallas into the playoffs and give them a lot of freedom over their final two games.

If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (11-2)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
  3. Chicago Bears (9-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Carolina Panthers (6-7)
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
  9. Washington Redskins (6-7)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Cowboys lost to Seattle earlier this year, but still remain the 4th seed as a division winner over a wild card team.
  • The Panthers are ahead of the Eagles thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker.
  • The Eagles are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker. They play each other again in Week 17.
  • The Redskins beat the Panthers earlier this year, but their loss to Philadelphia within their own division negates that tiebreaker.

In truth, there's not much intrigue left for the Cowboys in this regular season. One win gives them the NFC East, and it would take the Saints or Rams dropping all three of their remaining games for Dallas to have a shot at a top-two seed.

So, barring the nearly impossible, Dallas is locked into either the 3rd or 4th seed. They will host one of the Wild Card teams in the first round of the playoffs.

The biggest thing to watch now is how the seeding shakes among the bottom four playoff teams. The Seahawks seem a cut above the likes of Minnesota, Carolina, or one of our NFC East friends, so avoiding them in the first round would be lovely.

Here are this week's games involving the NFC playoff contenders:

Dallas Cowboys @ Indianapolis Colts

We've already discussed what the Cowboys need to do, so let's talk about the Colts. Not only do they have home field advantage this week, but they are fighting for their playoff lives.

Indianapolis is one of four teams with a 7-6 record battling for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs. The Broncos are also in the mix at 6-7, giving none of these teams any cushion for losing.

Dallas has its own incentive to win, though. If they want to avoid Seattle in the first round, they probably need to take the #3 seed from the Chicago Bears. They need to keep winning and hope for the Bears to drop a game or two.

Ultimately, getting into the playoffs and starting at home is a huge reward. But anything that can help make the road a little easier is worth pursuing. It's no time to rest on your laurels.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

As we just discussed, we'd like to see Chicago drop a few games to give Dallas a shot at the #3 seed. This week isn't the worst opportunity, with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay still not completely eliminated from playoff contention.

Expecting much from the Packers here is unwise. They've had a coaching change and appear to be in a state of organizational disarray. But they still have Rodgers, and crazy things always happens in rivalry games.

So while these are two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, you never know what could happen given the variable elements. By all means, root for the Cheeseheads.

Miami Dolphins @ Minnesota Vikings

Your rooting interest here comes down to a simple question; who do you prefer to play among that last bunch of Wild Card teams? Who does Dallas match up best against between the Vikings, Panthers, and Eagles?

I think we'd all agree that we don't want to see the Eagles a third time. Beating a team three times in one year is tough to do, and especially given how close last week's meeting was.

The Panthers beat Dallas in the season opener, but that was in Carolina and well before the Cowboys were playing at a high level. A second meeting could go very differently, especially with the recent slumping by the Panthers.

Both Carolina and Minnesota are struggling, with one on a five-game losing streak and the latter having lost their last two. The Vikings just fired their offensive coordinator, so neither of these teams appear to be going into the postseason with any real momentum.

At this point, I'd say it's a toss-up between the Panthers and Vikings. Both are much preferable to seeing the Eagles again, so I would just keep rooting for both to win. In either case, they knock out Philadelphia.

We'll reassess the threat level of Carolina and Minnesota as playoff opponents in a few weeks.

Washington Redskins @ Jacksonville Jaguars

I didn't mention the Redskins among those last three teams because they may not win another game this year. Their QB situation is so bad that even the Jaguars look good by comparison.

Granted, Jacksonville is lousy right now. Washington might be able to go down there and get a win, but neither team has anything to play for now. This one may come down to whether or not the Jaguars have gone into tank mode.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Seattle just walloped the Niners 43-16 a couple of weeks ago, and changing venues is unlikely to make that much difference. The Seahawks are a legit NFC contender and San Francisco is already thinking about the offseason. A Seattle loss would be great, but it ain't happening this week.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams

While catching the Rams and getting a top-two seed would be great, it's barely plausible. The far more concrete benefit here is seeing the Eagles lose and getting them further away from a possible Wild Card spot.

In fact, an Eagles' loss this week would give Dallas the NFC East even if the Cowboys fall in  Indianapolis. That's not the way we want to win the division, but you take what you can get.

With the breaking news that Carson Wentz is unlikely to play this week with a back injury, you'd generally think this suits the Cowboys' interests. But Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is still the backup in Philadelphia, so is anything really for certain?

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

We have every reason to root for Carolina here. For one, it helps the Panthers stay ahead of the Eagles in the Wild Card race. Also, it brings the Saints one loss closer to possibly being caught by Dallas. A Saints win doesn't really benefit us all.



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Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess

John Williams

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Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess

The Dallas Cowboys came away with a huge win against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles, putting them in a commanding position in the NFC East. They're up two games in the division and one of the more underrated story lines from the victory is Ezekiel Elliott's game. He had a huge day that no one is talking about.

Elliott had 28 carries for 113 yards and then caught 12 passes on 13 targets en route to his big performance in the 29-23 win over the Eagles. That's probably the quietest 40 touch, 192 total yard game you'll ever hear about. And yet, that's where we are. Please read that stat line again, because in all of our talk about Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and the defense, Ezekiel Elliott's stat line is absolutely ridiculous.

The receiving element that Elliott is providing the biggest difference to the offense this season. He's been a huge asset to Dak Prescott in the passing game as both a primary target and a check down option in the short part of the field. If Elliott isn't showing that he's the best running back in the league, with what he's doing with a broke down offensive line, then people will never give him the credit he's due.

For the last three years, the Dallas Cowboys and their fan base has known what an elite player the Cowboys have in Elliott. He's easily one of the best runners in the NFL, but if you talk to the general NFL fanbase or analysts around the league, Elliott doesn't get the same kind of love as players like Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell receive from the national media. The knock against Elliott has been that he doesn't bring the same value as a receiver. With what he has done over the last six weeks, and really all season long, it's safe to say, that won't be a knock against the Cowboys All-Pro running back.

Among running backs this season, Ezekiel Elliott ranks sixth in targets (77), fifth in receptions (65). seventh in yards (502), and is tied for 12th in receiving touchdowns with three. Elliott is the seventh highest rated running back when targeted among running backs with at least 50 targets this season.

Over the last six weeks, since the Amari Cooper trade, only Christian McCaffrey has more targets, receptions, and yards than Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott's previous career high was in 2016 when he caught 32 passes on 39 targets. With three games left in the season, Elliott has more than doubled his previous career high from that season. Over the last six weeks, he's caught 40 passes with an average of 6.7 receptions per game.

Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best total yardage season in the NFL. If he continues at his current per game averages, Elliott would finish the season with 330 carries for 1,553 rushing yards, 80 catches on 100 targets for 618 yards and 10 total touchdowns. He's been great this year, but he's been even better over the last six games. At his per game averages for the last six games, over a 16 game season, Elliott's numbers would look like this; 363 carries for 1,715 yards rushing, 107 receptions on 120 targets for 872 yards, and 13 total touchdowns.

It's rare that Ezekiel Elliott has a game like he did on Sunday and it goes largely unnoticed by Cowboys Nation, but that's just how tremendous Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were. In a game where the Cowboys got big games and big plays through the passing game, it was Elliott's steadiness that held things together and helped sustain drives like the fourth and one conversion in overtime. Even with Amari Cooper elevating his game since coming to the Cowboys, there's no question that Ezekiel Elliott is the Cowboys best skill position player. Expect more big games for Elliott as the Cowboys continue to "Feed Zeke."



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