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.
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?
Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.
Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.
Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.
This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.
Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.
Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."
Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.
It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.
Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.
Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC
2018 has seen the emergence of high-powered offenses in both NFL conferences. The Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the AFC and the NFC is spearheaded by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Through 14 weeks, these three teams are the top three offenses in the NFL, each averaging over 30 points per game. This year, for the first time in NFL history, two teams scored more than 50 in the same game.
Thanks to this consistent impressive offensive performances, you would think "offense" is the name of the game for the 2018 NFL season. Well, not so fast, my friend. Despite sitting atop the NFC, the Saints and the Rams have recently suffered losses that indicate hope is anything but lost for defensive teams in the league.
The Chicago Bears were able to bring down the Rams last Sunday Night 15-6. The same offense that averages 33 points per game was limited to six points. Sean McVay's remarkable offense went home with no touchdowns to talk about on the plane back home. Instead, they probably discussed Jared Goff's four interceptions.
Weeks earlier, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when they brought down the Saints. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas simply couldn't move the ball against Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones. 13 points were all the Cowboys needed to score to beat an offense that was averaging 37 per game heading into week 13 but was only able to put up 10 in Dallas.
The Cowboys are the #4 seed with the Bears slightly ahead of them as the #3 seed in the NFC. Together, these teams have defeated the top two in the conference. Now granted, playoffs will definitely be different.
For starters, if they are to advance to the divisional round, they'll be on the road. Chicago was surely benefited by playing in such a cold weather versus a Los Angeles team. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, few times has AT&T Stadium been as loud as when they beat the Saints.
Hopefully, we'll get to see both of these elite defenses advance to the Divisional Round to square off against this couple of high-powered offenses again. We will not only be witnessing amazing football games, but a great discussion regarding the everlasting debate between offense and defense.
For years, "defense wins championships" has been a widely accepted statement in football. The Cowboys and Bears have made that same statement resound recently with their impressive wins.
Can they do it again in January football? Can they do it on the road?
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