Every offseason there are many players added to the Dallas Cowboys 90-man roster, and we painstakingly try to predict which 53 will actually stick come week one. Predicting the 53-man roster like Staff Writer Jess Haynie did recently can be a tricky proposition, because a lot of changes can happen and the bottom of the roster is a lot of times difficult to project. So what we're going to do here is look at who has already locked up their spot on the 53-man roster before OTAs for the full 90-man roster begin.
While we live in a world where we think everyone still has to earn their roster spots, there are guys who you can guarantee will be on the roster come September. I did this last offseason and while there were a few surprises, it was pretty much spot on.
The Roster Locks
42 of the 53 spots on the roster are already written in pen for the 2018 53-man roster.
Obviously, some things can happen that could shake things up, like injuries or suspensions, but these are the guys I'm 99.99% sure will be on the week one 53.
Offensive Roster Locks
QB: Being a draft pick matters, whether you like it or not. While Cooper Rush proved himself worthy of a roster spot last year, I could see him being the odd man out if the Cowboys decide to only keep two quarterbacks on the roster to start 2018. It's more likely that they keep all three guys, but if all things are equal and they need to go long at another position, then fifth round draft pick Mike White will get the nod over previously UDFA Rush.
RB: Bo Scarborough is a popular name to watch because of his championship pedigree with the Alabama Crimson Tide. As Bryan Broaddus noted in one of his Rookie Minicamp Scout's Eye, he'll need to make an impact on special teams to really stand out and make the roster. With Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Tavon Austin all listed on the RB depth chart, touches will be few and far between for the seventh-round pick.
WR: You'll notice I already have five guys listed at wide receiver. Terrance Williams will be on the roster if he's healthy. His contract status and his work as a blocker make him a lock to stay with Dallas for at least the 2018 season. Cole Beasley will be here. He's a favorite target of Dak Prescott and while he only has one year remaining on his contract, he is a veteran presence in the locker room.
Noah Brown is a favorite of the team because of his work on special teams and his role as a blocker. He can line up outside or come inline and play as a smaller tight end in the run game. He's my preseason break out candidate in 2018. I think he'll earn more opportunities in the offense with Terrance Williams nursing his injury.
TE: While the production from the tight end position is a big question mark going into the 2018 season, it's not because we don't know who is going to be on the roster. Geoff Swaim, now the veteran presence, will be on the roster. As will fifth round pick Dalton Schultz, who the team thinks could be the best option to replace the recently retired Jason Witten.
The team also really likes Blake Jarwin. What that means for playing time is the question, but I think they'll have him on the roster.
Rico Gathers may have all of the athletic and pass catching ability in the world, but it's blocking and the mental aspect of the game that leaves him as a question mark. He can still earn a spot on the 53, but they aren't going to just give it to him. If he has a repeat of his 2017 preseason, he'll be on the roster.
OL: I believe the only question that remains on the offensive line is at backup guard. Marcus Martin has the inside track to be the backup guard, but it'll come down to training camp and the battle between he and Kadeem Edwards.
Defensive Roster Locks
DE: The four listed aren't necessarily the only defensive ends who'll be on the roster when the season begins. They're the four who are locked in right now. Dorance Armstrong's status as a fourth-round pick means he will be on the roster.
Mike Fisher of 247Sports.com and 105.3 The Fan is reporting that Randy Gregory filed his reinstatement paperwork that consists of a 2,000-page document supporting Gregory's re-entering the NFL. While most people believe he will be reinstated, in the Roger Goodell NFL, nothing is certain.
Taco Charlton is going to be on this team. I have a more optimistic outlook than most on Taco based on his second half production, but also being a first-round pick grants a player a ton more leeway. It doesn't matter how bad he is in the eye of the public, he stays in 2018.
Charles Tapper is the other defensive end who will need to be watched. Between him and Gregory, the Dallas Cowboys could be forced to keep six defensive ends if they play well. Tapper could also be a training camp trade candidate. If he doesn't shine, I could see the team moving on.
LB: The top five linebackers are set in my opinion with Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Damien Wilson, and 2018 free agent signing Joe Thomas. Yes, I do think Wilson is on the roster. His coverage ability is a problem, but he plays the run very, very well. The lack of experience and depth at linebacker in 2017 killed the Dallas Cowboys. This year's group looks young and formidable.
The sixth linebacker job will be an interesting training camp battle. Chris Covington will have the inside shot at being the sixth linebacker, and likely plays the weak side. Guys like Justin March-Lillard, Kyle Queiro, Joel Lanning, and Ed Shockley will be trying to make some noise the rest of the offseason to force the team to keep a seventh linebacker.
CB: Like linebacker, I think the top four corners are etched in stone with Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown.
The interesting name to watch will be 2017 sixth round draft pick Marquez White, who spent all of 2017 on the practice squad. He has size and length that new Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard values.
S: Safety will be an interesting position to watch for the rest of the offseason. A three-man rotation appears to be the plan at the moment with Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Xavier Woods getting most of the snaps. Frazier will primarily be used on running downs while Woods and Heath will be on the back-end for passing downs.
UDFA Safety Tyree Robinson has a real shot to make the 53-man roster out of training camp with his true free safety ability and has already begun turning heads in the rookie minicamps.
"Of the undrafted rookie free agents, Tyree Robinson appears to be the one guy that’s a true free safety. If there was something that stood out about him today was his ball skills. There were a couple of different snaps where he did a nice job of reading the quarterback and putting himself in position to make interceptions."
Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Dallas Cowboys have a long way to go before they line up for real on September 9th against the Carolina Panthers, but these 42 names are sure to be there when they do.
Can WR Noah Brown be a Surprise Starter in 2018?
With all of the new faces the Dallas Cowboys added to the wide receiver position it's easy to overlook someone like Noah Brown. Everyone is anxiously awaiting to find out what the "new toys" can do, but they tend to overlook an ascending player who's already on the roster. That is exactly what I believe Brown is in his second-year and why he could be a surprise starter in 2018.
Noah Brown didn't have a large offensive role as a rookie in 2017, but he did show flashes of a player whose arrow is trending upward. And now that the Cowboys have revamped pretty much the entire receiver position, Brown has a chance to climb the depth chart and become much more than just a role player.
There is really no way of knowing exactly where and how the Dallas Cowboys plan to deploy their WRs this season. The only thing we really know right now is that Cole Beasley will once again be the slot WR. Everything else is completely up for grabs, which is why this could be the position battle to watch throughout the remainder of the offseason.
With Dez Bryant, Ryan Switzer, and quite possibly Terrance Williams all gone, someone is going to have to catch passes from Dak Prescott in 2018. Allen Hurns, who the Cowboys signed as a free agent, is expected to replace some of that lost production as either the X or Y WR. But, behind him there's a lot of unknown.
The third-round draft pick Michael Gallup has the skill set to also play either X or Y, and should be part of the equation as well. But, you never really know how these collegiate players will transition to the speed of the NFL.
That is why I believe Noah Brown has a real shot at becoming a starter this season. This is especially true with Terrance Williams recent off the field troubles. I kind of doubt he has a job much longer.
With Williams likely on his way out, Noah Brown moves up the depth chart. I believe he can immediately step in and replace #83's production in the passing game and as a blocker in the running game as well. We got a glimpse of him doing just that last season, which might be why he's getting first-team reps in organized team activities (OTA's).
Second-year WR Noah Brown got a ton of work with the first-team. Lance Lenoir did also
It's easy to forget, but Noah Brown was mostly utilized as a blocking WR/TE last season. At 6'2", 225, Brown is now the biggest and most physical receiver on the Cowboys roster. His blocking ability is what got him on the field as a rookie, but he's no slob in the passing game if given the chance.
Brown is already a solid route runner, but he has been working during the offseason with a WR Guru, David Robinson, to improve this area of his game.
@dallascowboys NFL WR Noah Brown has been in the lab 🔬 grinding hard folks! Look out for this kid he is going to be dangerous!!! "Train Like A Pro" @BobbyBeltTX @BenRogers @1053thefan https://t.co/0cDY4BJJit
Now, I may be a little biased since I was a fan of Noah Brown's before the Cowboys drafted him. I actually had a fourth-round grade on him coming out of Ohio, so I was ecstatic Dallas was able to get him in the seventh.
But, despite my favoritism, I can really envision him becoming a surprise starter when the season opens up. He not only has the skill set to do it, but a year in the system could gives him an advantage over these new additions. It could of making all the difference.
Do you think WR Noah Brown be a surprise starter in 2018?
Creating a Monster: The Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line
After years of building, drafting, and retooling, the Dallas Cowboys have completed their offensive line. And in the process, they've created a monster. The addition of Connor Williams in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft has reasserted the Dallas Cowboys offensive line as the best in football -- and it may not be close.
The team has been on this path since 2011 to create an identity for their football team that starts up front on the offensive line.
What transpired in the 2009 and 2010 seasons had a lot to do with the direction the team has taken over the last 8 seasons to ensure they were great up front.
The End of 2009
In 2009, the Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East and proceeded to win their wild card game to reach the divisional round for the second time in three years, only to be beaten by the Minnesota Vikings 34-3.
What transpired in that game should have been enough for the Cowboys to address their offensive line in the 2010 draft as quarterback Tony Romo was sacked six times and threw an interception.
On the season, Romo was sacked 34 times, which is more than twice a game. Perhaps the wins on the season and the division title masked the issues the team had up front.
The Debacle of the 2010 Season
The team had lofty expectations heading into 2010. They had been to the playoffs three of the previous four seasons and, despite the drubbing at the hands of the Vikings, were still a formidable offensive team with some star power on defense in DeMarcus Ware.
Unfortunately, it was never to be.
Tony Romo only started six games and was sacked seven times in that span. Cowboys quarterbacks were sacked a total of 31 times, which would be right outside the top ten for most sacks allowed in the NFL in 2010.
Tony Romo went 1-5 in his six starts that season, getting sacked seven times in those six games before giving way to Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee for the final ten games of the season.
Head Coach Wade Phillips was replaced by Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett after a 1-7 start that culminated in an embarrassing loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
More Than a Coach Was Changed
The change in coaching signaled a change in philosophy from a 3-4 defensive minded head coach to an offensive one who was rooted in the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys of the 90's.
Those teams were known for their elite offensive line play that set the tone for the rest of the team. They protected Troy Aikman, who is in the Hall of Fame, and paved the way for the NFL's All-Time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith.
The impact that the offensive line had on the Cowboys teams of the 90's can't be understated.
So in 2011, Jason Garrett's first NFL Draft as the Dallas Cowboys head coach, he convinced Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones that they needed to do more to protect their most valuable asset (Tony Romo) while becoming a team that could run the ball and control the clock.
With the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected Tackle Tyron Smith.
That selection was history making. It was the first time in the Jerry Jones era that they had spent a first round pick on an offensive lineman. A span of more than 20 years saw the Dallas Cowboys never invest a first in the offensive line.
Jason Garrett's work to make the Dallas Cowboys in the image of the Super Bowl glory days of the 90's finally came to fruition.
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line led the way for Running Back DeMarco Murray to lead the NFL in rushing. They protected Tony Romo to have the best season of his career, leading the NFL with a passer rating of 113.2.
Everything looked to be coming together for a team that went 12-4, won the NFC East, and beat some notable teams like the Seattle Seahawks along the way.
Then the "Dez Caught It" moment happened and we all came crashing back to Earth.
That season, though it didn't end in a Lombardi Trophy, was still a success as it created a template that could be successful in the NFL. As teams attempt to spread out their formations to throw the ball, the Dallas Cowboys, while still using a lot of 11-personnel, showed the NFL that you can still be a run-first, physical football team and win.
With the template set, all the Dallas Cowboys have to do is to continue to retool.
Creating a Monster
Let's review how the Dallas Cowboys have collected this impressive group of humans to block for their football team.
- Tyron Smith was the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft. Though he started out as a right tackle his rookie season, he made the move to the left side in his second year and has been considered one of the best tackles in the NFL since. Back issues have slowed him down, but he's still in his prime heading into his eighth (!!!) NFL Season.
- Travis Frederick was the 31st pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. A lot of the draft analysts around the league believed that to be a reach at the time when the Dallas Cowboys traded back to 31 to select Frederick. They don't think it's a reach now.
- In 2014 the Dallas Cowboys, yet again, selected an offensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft. It was widely reported that if Ryan Shazier would have been there at pick 16, that he would have been the selection. Shazier's been a great player in the league, but I'm actually glad that they got Martin. He's considered the best guard in the NFL and will probably be so for the next ten years.
- Right Tackle La'el Collins would have been a first round draft pick had his name not been attached to the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Instead of being a first round draft pick, the Dallas Cowboys, led by GM Jerry Jones, wined and dined Collins into signing a pretty nice deal for a UDFA. After rotating with Leary for a couple of seasons, he's now the RT for the best offensive line in football.
That brings us to the newest addition of what has been coined The OLuminati.
Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the whole world knew -- or hoped -- the Dallas Cowboys would address the left guard spot early on. When the first round came and went, most of us, including this writer, thought they'd likely have to trade up in the second to still come away with a plug and play guard at pick number 50.
So when they landed Connor Williams while staying put at 50, Cowboys Nation erupted with joy.
Connor Williams is strong enough to play on the interior but comes with the movement and flexibility to get to the perimeter and the second level. Though he was good last year, Jonathan Cooper was the weak link because of his movement limitations.
Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy
I just watched season one of the YouTube Red production Cobra Kai, which follows the lives of The Karate Kid's main characters Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence as adults.
Johnny, broke as a joke, relaunched the Cobra Kai karate brand based on the philosophy, "Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy." While it's a harsh philosophy to be teaching a bunch of teenagers, it certainly has its place with the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.
This group has the attitude and the ability to ruin days for opposing defenses. They aren't just going to get in your way, they're going to hit you and go through you.
This group of lineman has no weaknesses and if we talk about the signing of Cam Fleming, now you have a guy that played tackle for the New England Patriots during the Super Bowl as your tackle off the bench if you need him.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to be able to run inside and outside and to both sides of the offensive line with regularity because of the strength, physicality, and movement ability of their starting five. Opposing defenses aren't going to be able to load up on one side of the line because of a perceived weakness on the other side.
With Ezekiel Elliott running behind them, who's shown the ability to stretch a play outside and make a big run or find a crease in the middle of the line for a huge play, this is the Dallas Cowboys running game that Jason Garrett has been looking for since he took over in 2011.
While they've had success in the past, I have huge expectations for this group in 2018. 1,600 rushing yards for Elliott if he plays 16 games should be the floor. There's no reason he shouldn't flirt with a 2,000 yard season.
Now, whether that leads to a Super Bowl Championship remains to be seen, but we've seen in the past that when the Dallas Cowboys have success in the run game, it usually leads to wins, and lots of them.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Pasará con el WR Terrance Williams?
El receptor de los Dallas Cowboys Terrance Williams tiene una tarea difícil durante este offseason: mantenerse en el roster del equipo. El sábado pasado , Williams hizo de esa (relativamente sencilla) tarea, un reto mucho más difícil. El receptor fue llevado a la cárcel bajo cargos de intoxicación pública después de que la policía encontró su Lamborghini estrellado con un poste y abandonado.
Después de salir bajo una fianza de $369 dólares, T-Will está bajo investigación y enfrentando un futuro muy incierto en su carrera en la NFL.
A pesar de despedirse de Dez Bryant en abril, el cuarto de los receptores está repleto de jugadores listos para competir por puestos en el roster. Williams, quien no ha podido practicar debido a su lesión en el pie, no estaba en una buena posición para competir por su puesto antes del incidente.
Ahora, con una posible suspensión de por medio, la administración seguramente considerara despedirse del receptor de cinco años.
Vaya que Williams no es indispensable. Durante el Draft, los Cowboys seleccionaron a los wide receivers Michael Gallup (Colorado State) y Cedrick Wilson (Boise State). Semanas antes, el ex-Jaguar Allen Hurns llegó a Dallas. Eso sin mencionar a Cole Beasley y a un puñado de receptores jóvenes como Noah Brown y Lance Lenoir quien han volteado cabezas en los entrenamientos.
Francamente, no es nada descabellado pensar que aún sin el incidente, Williams no estaría entre los tres titulares en la semana uno. Para Dallas, una ofensiva con Gallup, Hurns y Beasley como titulares podría resultar muy efectiva.
A pesar de destellos por aquí y por allá, Williams no ha podido demostrar una consistencia que avale su titularidad. Una semana hace una recepción increíble, a la siguiente es incapaz de salirse del campo para parar el reloj o para utilizar sus manos a la hora de atrapar el balón.
Eso sin mencionar que cuando se le pidió ponerse en los zapatos de Dez cuando este estaba lesionado en el 2015, Williams no pudo hacerlo. Tal fue el caso, que cuando Bryant volvió a caer en el 2016, Brice Butler tomó su lugar.
Tanto Gallup como Hurns pueden ser receptores "X." Williams, lamentablemente, no.
¿El defecto de una ofensiva sin Williams? Sinceramente, lo único que podría salir mal para los Cowboys si se deshacen del veterano, es que Dak Prescott perderá a tres de sus objetivos que ha tenido en su carrera en una sola temporada: Bryant, Witten y Williams.
Sin embargo, todas las contrataciones de nuevos WRs se han realizado para construir la ofensiva amigable para Dak, ¿no es así? Cowboys Nation debe confiar en el plan de la administración.
Incluso antes de ser arrestado, Terrance Williams estaba en Dallas simplemente por su contrato. Por ser apenas su segundo año, para los Vaqueros (desde un punto de vista financiero) no es viable cortar al receptor.
Una suspensión de la NFL podría hacer las cosas un poco más sencillas, pues si está suspendido, el equipo puede olvidarse del dinero garantizado y decirle adiós sin dudarlo. La NFL no ha mostrado ser muy consistente a la hora de asignar suspensiones, pero cualquiera que haya escuchado las declaraciones de Williams y visto el video imagina que una suspensión llegará inevitablemente.
Si es suspendido, Williams seguramente no vestirá la estrella en el 2018. De otra manera, las cosas se complican. Pero si el equipo llega a un punto en el que no están interesados en traer a nadie al equipo y no están preocupados por el tope salarial de la temporada, no veo porque se quedarían con él si prefieren utilizar el puesto de roster en cualquier otro jugador.
Terrance Williams tenía una oportunidad de oro para competir por la titularidad tras la partida de Dez Bryant. Lamentablemente, parece que soltó el último balón que pudo haber soltado.
¿Crees que Williams esté en el equipo este 2018?
Want to help make Inside The Star better?
We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.
Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).
Star Blog3 days ago
Should Cowboys Pursue Recently Released LB Mychal Kendricks?
Player News7 days ago
WATCH: LB Jaylon Smith Moving Without Brace
Star Blog1 week ago
Could Cowboys Have Second Chance at Acquiring RB Donnel Pumphrey?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
The Dallas Cowboys Have Very Few Positions of Need
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Which UFAs Have Best Chance to Make the Cowboys Roster?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Cowboys QB Cooper Rush Has a New Fight in 2018
Player News7 days ago
BREAKING: Terrance Williams Arrested For Public Intoxication After Car Accident
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Is 2018 LB Sean Lee’s Last Season with Cowboys?