In less than two weeks, the Dallas Cowboys will be practicing in Oxnard, their final training camp tune up before the preseason and roster cuts. If last year is any indication, the Cowboys trim down to 53 players from 90 will be eventful as always. However, it was ultimately the depth of this final roster that failed the Cowboys in a 9-7 season falling short of the playoffs.
The loss of Ezekiel Elliott to suspension and Tyron Smith, Jonathan Cooper, and Sean Lee to injury was all too much for the Cowboys to overcome. Starting his career with a playoff appearance at 13-3, Quarterback Dak Prescott now enters a crucial third year, though he can only hope the team's free agent signings and rookies can help patch these holes.
Before the pads come on at training camp, here is a look at a few of the most important depth players the Cowboys have for 2018.
Offensive Tackle Cam Fleming
The Cowboys spent the 50th overall pick at this year's draft on their future Left Guard Connor Williams, making their signing of Cam Fleming more important. Should Williams grab hold of the starting spot left by Jonathan Cooper's departure, Fleming should serve as the Cowboys primary backup to Left Tackle Tyron Smith.
Joined only by Chaz Green and Kadeem Edwards on the depth chart at tackle, Fleming's experience should win out over the rest of the field. Also signing Guard Marcus Martin this offseason, it's clear the Cowboys want to avoid their offensive line breakdown from a year ago.
Cam Fleming needs to be in position to help the Cowboys do just that, unless Smith plays a full 16 games for the first time since 2015.
Wide Receiver/Running Back Tavon Austin
Whatever role Tavon Austin finds in the Cowboys offense, this is a play maker the Cowboys will have to get the ball to in a variety of ways. Expected to partially take the load off of Ezekiel Elliott as a running back while also being targeted in the passing game, Austin could very well influence the team's roster decisions at both RB and WR.
Two uncertain positions when it comes to depth, Austin's presence could mean bad news for Running Backs Darius Jackson and Bo Scarbrough, or Wide Receivers Lance Lenoir, KD Cannon, and Noah Brown.
We're still a long way off from knowing if a decision like this will be the right one for the Cowboys, but with so much uncertainty on offense entering 2018, Tavon Austin's importance could grow by the day in Oxnard.
Linebacker Justin March-Lillard
Needing to address the linebacker position heavily this offseason, the Cowboys locked in on Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick and selected him at 19th overall. With the 193rd overall pick, the Cowboys also added Indiana Linebacker Chris Covington.
Expected starters Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Vander Esch will still need quality depth behind them to play to their strengths this season.
A healthy Lee is locked in as this team's starting WILL linebacker, but the Cowboys are expected to test both Vander Esch and Smith at the MIKE position.
"The loser of this battle" moving to SAM linebacker is not so simple, especially considering other athletic options the Cowboys have for this strong side role. Along with Damien Wilson, the Cowboys have also seen strides from Justin March-Lillard.
Capable of contributing on special teams and providing important snaps in Rod Marinelli's defense, March-Lillard should be a hard player for the Cowboys to leave off their final roster. If he survives to the final 53, expect him to also be active on game days in support of the Cowboys LBs.
Quarterback Cooper Rush
What exactly do the Cowboys have in second-year Quarterback Cooper Rush, an undrafted sensation out of Central Michigan? Showing the potential to be Dak Prescott's primary backup or an enticing trade piece to QB-needy teams as a rookie, Rush is now joined by a new rookie on the depth chart.
Drafting Mike White in the fifth round, the Cowboys have plenty of skill at quarterback this season. The scope of this list is not to cover how well the Cowboys are prepared to play without Prescott.
Playing with two quarterbacks or three on the roster will be a looming decision for the Cowboys though. Either Rush or White could prove they deserve the second and last QB spot, with Rush's progress from last year challenged by White's accuracy.
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Of course, more Cowboys backups will emerge as ones to keep an eye on, once the Cowboys are back on the field. With several coaches and 'big name' players potentially needing this season to reach the playoffs for the Cowboys, a second straight season of depleted depth won't cut it.
Such is the nature of the Cowboys roster cuts, with the final 53 man roster set on September 1st.
Maliek Collins Activated From PUP, Cowboys’ Front 7 Looking Great
There are tons of reasons to be excited about the Dallas Cowboys' defense with the regular season less than a month away. The most recent one is Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins is coming off the PUP list after passing his physical and is now activated and practicing.
After suffering another foot injury in May, Collins had to undergo surgery and his return to the roster before the season began was questionable. But things are looking good now as the Cowboys expect him to be ready for week 1 versus the Carolina Panthers.
On the same day he was taken off PUP, Maliek Collins is participating in pre-practice walkthrough. Not sure what that means for his practice regimen, but that's a positive sign #cowboyswire
Collins missed quite some time, so one has to wonder how fast he will be reincorporated to the defense and whether or not he'll get back his starting role or not. The defensive tackle room seems to be loaded with various talent that should be capable of at least giving #96 a tough competition before he can reclaim his spot as if he hadn't been missing any practices.
David Irving may not be a factor on the roster until he comes back from suspension prior to week 5's match-up against the Houston Texans, but there are other young players Collins should be expecting to fight for the starting role.
Antwaun Woods, Jihad Ward, Brian Price and Datone Jones will provide this team with an interesting debate going forward. But even if not one DT emerges as a clear-cut starter above the rest, the Cowboys have serious depth at the position.
To be honest, the entire front seven is very exciting. Not only do the Cowboys count with good DTs, but just take a look at the defensive end room. Led by 2017 second-team All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence, there is also a deep group of DEs.
Randy Gregory is coming back after a long comeback journey and should earn a lot more snaps as the season progressing. Taco Charlton has made a ton of progress and fourth-round rookie Dorance Armstrong isn't far behind. Not to mention captain Tyrone Crawford, who despite being criticized by many due to his huge contract, is a more than decent DE.
Now, let's talk about the linebackers for a moment here. Before the 2018 NFL Draft, this was seen as one of the weakest units on the team. Fast forward to mid-August and this should be one of the most exciting groups on the team.
Sean Lee will be playing alongside a Jaylon Smith that we've never seen before. Smith is doing things that he wouldn't been able to do a season ago. What he's shown in training camp and through one preseason game should have any Cowboys' fan eager to watch him play in a regular season game. The Jaylon Smith the front office envisioned when taking a risk on him in the 2016 NFL Draft has arrived.
Also in the mix is first round pick Leighton Vander Esch. We haven't been able to watch a lot of playing time from him but we'll sure do pretty soon. He's a week 1 contributor who will play behind what could be one of the best LB duos in the entire NFL.
And just like in the defensive line, the depth seems to be great. Joe Thomas and Damien Wilson have shown what they're capable of and they could be more than special team bodies when needed.
The Dallas Cowboys shouldn't be very concerned about their front seven going forward. It's loaded with talent and even if they rotate their players a lot, this seems like a group that will give any offense a big headache.
Dallas Cowboys Sign WR Darren Carrington Following Workout in Oxnard
The Dallas Cowboys have signed another one of the six players worked out on Monday in Oxnard, adding to their already deep group of wide receivers. Most recently with Utah, Pac-12 Wide Receiver Darren Carrington has signed with the team.
Carrington began his college career at Oregon, where he was on track to make it to the NFL before being dismissed from the Ducks for a DUI. This led Carrington to Utah, where he played as a graduate transfer and put up a team high 908 yards and six touchdowns on 70 receptions last season.
Cowboys signing former Utah WR Darren Carrington, per source.
At 6021 (6' 2 1/8") and 199 pounds, Carrington is yet another athletic target with long speed for the Cowboys to work into their new-look offense. He joins Ricky Jeune as the second receiver added to the team in training camp, bringing the number of WRs on the roster to 11.
Marchie Murdock, who had two catches for the Cowboys in their preseason opener, was waived (with an injury designation) prior to these roster moves.
Dallas Cowboys Workout 6 Players, Sign OL Jacob Alsadek
The Dallas Cowboys did not receive good news on first-year offensive lineman Marcus Martin, as his injury suffered in San Francisco will likely require season-ending surgery. Martin was signed this offseason as a backup guard/center, and without him the Cowboys have a need for further depth up front. Working out six players at positions of need today, the team has signed former Arizona lineman Jacob Alsadek.
Congratulations to #TeamDEC client @jacobalsadek on signing with @dallascowboys
This is Alsadek's second stop in the NFL, as he spent most of May with the Green Bay Packers before being released. Alsadek was the cut when the Packers signed former Cowboys Tackle Byron Bell.
Players Cowboys worked out today: Darren Carrington, WR Jacob Alsadek, OL Daronte Bouldin, OL Dominick Sanders, S Ryan Murphy, S Deron Washington, S
The 6'7", 312 pound guard went undrafted in this year's AT&T Stadium hosted draft. He was set to play in the Alliance of American Football League, with an inaugural season scheduled for February.
Now, he's a member of America's Team with a real chance to compete for a backup spot on the best offensive line in the league.
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