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
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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.
Bye Week and Amari Arrive After Cowboys’ Rally Stripped Away by Redskins
Strange things happen when these two NFC East foes tangle and you can add Sunday’s latest chapter to that list. As Dallas was driving late in the fourth-quarter and looking to take their first lead of the game, Dak Prescott was strip-sacked by Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan which was "returned" for a touchdown. That gave the ‘Skins a 20-10 advantage and a lead they would never relinquish.
It didn’t help that in the waning moments Cowboys’ long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur was flagged for moving the ball pre-snap. The attempt was moved back five yards, which certainly didn’t help kicker Brett Maher knock what would have been a game-tying field goal through the uprights.
He missed, Dallas lost, and here we are.
As the Cowboys ride off into the sunset for the next couple of weeks, it should be noted that this is a team that has been as good at home as they have been abysmal on the road. In Jerry’s World, the team is bathed in milk and honey winning all three games at home while on the road their slate stands at 0-4 after their Week 7 loss to Washington.
It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that will be scrutinized by players and coaching staff alike. But one thing the Cowboys have not done is fill the void vacated by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The latter retired voluntarily while the former was essentially made an offer he could most definitely refuse, a severe pay cut. As a result, Dak Prescott has yet to find an elite target to call his own.
Cole Beasley has done an admirable job stepping up but he checks in at No. 45 in receiving yards and is essentially a slot receiver as opposed to a speed merchant screaming down the sidelines. The Cowboys are ranked 29th in passing yards and 26th in points scored, which means something had to give - and it finally did.
Dallas swung a deal with Oakland for two-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper who is struggling through his most difficult season yet. The 24-year-old Alabama product had a stellar rookie and sophomore campaign but 2017 proved to be his first not eclipsing 1,000-yards receiving and this season is even less impressive with only 280 yards and one touchdown thus far.
In return, Dallas sent their 2019 first-round pick to the Raiders who will now have three in the opening round next April.
If the Cowboys were going to make a deal for a skill player then they picked the perfect time. Cooper will have two weeks to get up to speed with the Dallas playbook and foster a relationship with Prescott. Without a legitimate deep threat, the Cowboys were going nowhere and this helps even the playing field.
The question is whether Cooper is a supernova whose time in the league was brief but spectacular or if he merely needed a change of scenery to reignite what was once a promising career. The Cowboys will learn one way or the other and have paid a fairly steep price to find out. However, if this move does bear fruit, it could mean the difference between an early vacation and a postseason invitation. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
As we often do when we turn the chapter on another week in the NFL, we look ahead to see what awaits and there is no better indicator as to which way the wind is blowing than our friends at Bovada, the sports betting industry’s mainstay that is always chief among the best online sportsbooks in the world. Bovada, as well as many other top-rated sportsbooks can be found all in one place, Sportsbook Review, so when in doubt, check them out.
When the Cowboys get back to work they will welcome the Tennessee Titans into AT&T Stadium (it will always be Cowboys Stadium to us) where we will see what the oddsmakers post in terms of the opening point spread. But until then, we will hope that our 'Boys return healthy and ready to roll with a brand-new weapon named Amari Cooper stretching the field and giving Prescott a deep threat… finally!
Dak Prescott: A+ Leader, But “C” Level QB Play
Let me start by saying this: as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I love Dak Prescott.
Prescott is everything you want in a franchise quarterback. He's a leader the players seem to respond to, he says all the "right" things in the media and, most importantly, he competes like hell every Sunday. Never, not even when Chaz Green failed him to the tune of 6 Adrian Clayborn sacks, has Dak Prescott quit on the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the National Football League that simply isn't enough, and never was that more clear than during last Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins.
On the surface, Sunday looks like one of Prescott's better games in 2018. He threw for over 250 yards for just the second time this year, he brought the Cowboys back from down 10 late in the fourth quarter and gave them a chance at overtime, and he battled back from a vicious head shot which Tony Romo immediately said would sideline him the remainder of the game.
As usual Dak Prescott did not quit, and he helped to give the Cowboys a chance to win.
But when you look a bit deeper than just the surface narrative you see that Prescott is more of a reason the team lost Sunday than nearly won.
Repeatedly Prescott made the same types of mistakes he's been making since his miracle rookie season came to an end, and once again they were the downfall of this Cowboys offense. Too often he holds onto the ball longer than he should, fails to recognize open receivers, doesn't trust himself to make tight window throws, and abandons clean pockets when he has seemingly no reason to do so.
The two plays which really lost the Cowboys the game on Sunday occurred back to back. And, ironically, they represent Dak Prescott and his Cowboys career in a nut shell.
The first play was third and medium late in the 4th quarter. Prescott and the Cowboys were down 3 and needed the first down to keep a potential game changing drive alive. Prescott stood firm in the pocket, trusted Cole Beasley, and delivered a strike for a huge first down. The problem? Holding was called on Connor Williams and the play was brought back.
Then came third and long, with Prescott backed up near his own goal line. Despite the longer distance, Dak Prescott had at least one if not two open options down the field to convert the first down, and enough time in the pocket to make the play. Instead, Prescott felt phantom pressure and spun out of a clean pocket, getting disoriented and fumbling the ball in the end zone.
It went from 13-10 first down Cowboys, to 20-10 game over in a split second. And while, of course, the holding was not his fault, that sack fumble was absolutely egregious. Especially in their own end zone and especially as Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott were both open for potential first downs.
While the Cowboys skill position players haven't been particularly good this season, the front office went out and tried to make a change to that this week by trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper. There's no more excuses left for this passing offense.
The Cowboys need to be able to play modern offense in the NFL, and to do so their quarterback has to play better than he has for most of 2018. Now that they are without a first round pick in 2019 Dak probably has another uncontested year ahead as the starter. But beyond that Prescott will need prove that he belongs and deserves franchise quarterback type money.
For the Cowboys sake, I hope he raises his play to that level soon.
The Cowboys Are What They’ve Been Since ’96: Average
Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have been trafficking in overzealous fan hope for quite some time. For much of the past 20 years they have spent their offseasons making minor roster tweaks, maintaining the same core and swearing they are one of the more talented teams in the NFL.
If we just got one call... If Tony Romo stays heathy...If Sean Lee stays healthy...If Ezekiel Elliott wasn't suspended...
A whole lot of "ifs." That's what the Dallas Cowboys have been characterized by since they last held the Lombardi Trophy in January of 1996. And even in the more recent years, where Jerry Jones has pulled back a bit of his control and allowed Stephen and company to make the roster decisions, the Cowboys have stayed the same average franchise.
So last Sunday when Dak Prescott took an inexcusable sack in the end zone, missing multiple open receivers and handing a key divisional game over to Washington, I wasn't surprised. When Jason Garrett coached scared down the stretch, settling for a 47 yard field goal in the cold and windy weather to tie, I wasn't surprised. And when the Cowboys were called for a snap infraction to back that field goal attempt up over 50 yards, well, that's the same old Cowboys that I have always known.
If there's a way to lose a football game, the Dallas Cowboys of the last two decades will find it.
Sure there's a couple of 13-3 and 12-4 seasons in there, but there are also multiple 4-12 years to offset that. Sure there have been years where the Cowboys seemed to be just a play or two away from taking that next step, but the bottom line is they haven't.
Yes the Cowboys finally attempted to turn over their roster in recent years, but they rode "the hot hand" right into the ground at quarterback. And at this point, there's simply no denying it.
We are the Bengals. We are the Dolphins. We are the Lions. We are every average, middling, quarterback-purgatory-living franchise in the NFL. And, as usual, it starts at the top. If things are going to change and the Cowboys are going to become the Cowboys ever again, I highly doubt Jason Garrett will be the one to do it.
Ironically, all is not lost this season. The Cowboys will probably win their next game against the Titans and get back to .500 before a big game with the Eagles. And they'll probably hang around 7-9 or 8-8 this season, falsely believing they are "in the hunt" all year because that's who they are.
And unless massive, franchise changing decisions are made this offseason, that's who they'll stay.
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