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Earning Their Star: Which WRs Will Make The Cowboys 53 Man Roster?

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Fantasy Football Outlook: Wide Receivers

In the midst of OTAs and with training camp quickly approaching, the Dallas Cowboys are getting their first looks at a lot of the new players on the roster. The team focused heavily on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason, but one position on offense that they worked on is wide receiver.

The Cowboys are currently jam-packed with bodies and a lot of talent at wide receiver.

That depth chart looks a little something like this:

  1. Dez Bryant 
  2. Terrance Williams
  3. Cole Beasley
  4. Brice Butler
  5. Ryan Switzer
  6. Andy Jones
  7. Lucky Whitehead
  8. Noah Brown
  9. Brian Brown
  10. Quincy McDuffie
  11. Uzoma Nwachukwu

Of course, not all of these guys will make the team, but in previous years the Cowboys went a little light at receiver.

In 2016 the Cowboys went into the season with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, and Lucky Whitehead. Could 2017 be the year we see six receivers? Could even more make the 53 man roster?

Sorting Out Wide Receiver Roles

When we look at who is a lock to make the team we, of course, know that Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Ryan Switzer are almost certain to make the team.

Could The Cowboys Keep 6 Wide Receivers?

Nov 26, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams (83) and wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) before the game against the Carolina Panthers game on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams are veteran receivers who don't play much of a special teams role at all. We all have dreamed about the idea of having Dez return punts like he did in his rookie season, but that ship has sailed. Terrance Williams is a quality #2 receiver and isn't asked to do much on the special teams side of the ball.

But Ryan Switzer and Cole Beasley are different stories.

Both, Ryan Switzer and Cole Beasley will play a role in the kicking game this season.

Which Cowboys' Rookie Will Have The Best 2017 Season?

Switzer was drafted in the fourth round by the Cowboys to be a difference maker. While Switzer is showing early signs that he can do just that on offense, the coaching staff had other ideas when they turned in his card.

Ryan Switzer was one of, if not the most productive punt returner in college football throughout his career.

Switzer finished his career at North Carolina with 99 punt returns for 1,082 yards (10.9 YPR) and seven touchdowns. Switzer's vision in the open field, shiftiness to break tackles, and quick feet make him a nightmare to locate and bring down in the open field.

Is Lucky's Luck Running Out?

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Leave Lucky Whitehead In Dallas, Won't Play Giants On SNF

With Switzer likely taking over as the team's punt returner, Cole Beasley being a big weapon on offense who also handed a good amount of punt return reps last year, Lucky Whitehead's future with the team is looking rather bleak.

Whitehead was brought in as a UDFA in 2015 and won the hearts of many fans with his charming attitude, interactions with the fans, and funny snap chat videos. What Lucky has yet to do is make any real impact on the football field.

Whitehead has been the primary kick returner and has slowly let Cole Beasley take punt returns away from him due to his lack of production and propensity to fumble. Whitehead doesn't offer much on offense, just the occasional jet sweep, which is something Ryan Switzer can do just as good, if not better with his running back background.

To make matters worse for Lucky's chances, he is currently dealing with a hamstring injury that is keeping him out of OTAs. Whitehead's off the field issues, injury concerns, and lack of production may have his days in Dallas numbered.

What To Do With Brice Butler?

Brice Butler, Packers

Brice Butler is a tough evaluation. The Cowboys acquired Butler with a fifth round pick in November, 2015 to the Raiders after Dez Bryant went down with an injury. Butler hasn't really disappointed or impressed; he has been an average down-the -depth-chart receiver since joining the team.

Butler has been given the title as the Cowboys' best deep threat, but we have yet to see him win in that way consistently. In his two years with Dallas, Butler has hauled in 28 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns in a limited role.

Even with this stat line, the Cowboys decided to give Brice Butler a one year, $1.1 million contract in the offseason.

That means the team has to save him a roster spot right?

Wrong.

Butler's contract is so small that if he doesn't perform well in training camp or one of the younger receivers out-play him, the team can simply cut Butler and only lose $300,000.

The ball is in Butler's court.

Taking A Shot With A Young Gun

Like I mentioned earlier, the Cowboys depth chart is loaded this offseason. Rookies Noah Brown and Brian Brown have a lot of work to do to make this roster, but I have a feeling at least one of them will.

Noah Brown

Cowboys Draft: Scouting 7th Round WR Noah Brown

Noah Brown was one of three draft picks the team had in the seventh round of this year's draft and I think they got quiet the steal in the former Ohio State Buckeye.

Noah Brown is a big dude, standing at 6'2 220 lbs, and that's exactly how he plays.

Brown was supposed to be the #1 target for the Buckeyes going into the 2016 season, but he struggled to get things going. Brown had 32 catches for 402 yards and seven touchdowns in his sophomore season.

Noah Brown's style of play is very similar to that of Dez Bryant. Both players use their size and physicality to high-point the ball and bring down contested catches. Brown's upside may force the team to stash him on the roster, because I don't like the chances of trying to get him to the practice squad.

Brian Brown

Brian Brown - Wide Receiver

Brian Brown is a player I am very familiar with. Brown attended the University of Richmond, which is about a 10-minute walk from my house. With Virginia Tech and University of Virginia a ways away from me, and getting most of the college football hype, it was nice to have a player drafted right out of my back yard.

But don't worry, I am not including Brian Brown in this article just because of where he played, this kid can ball!

With all the bodies at the position right now, Brian will have to go above and beyond to make this team, but don't count him out. He finished his senior season with 81 receptions, 1,485 yards, and 11 touchdowns.

Brown has a knack for making some pretty ridiculous catches and creating separation at the top of his routes.

Andy Jones

Andy Jones

WR Andy Jones (Paul Spinelli via AP)

Every year we all fall in love with a player in training camp and believe he will be the next savior. Last year that guy was Andy Jones. Jones made a name for himself last year in OTAs and training camp, but struggled in the preseason.

Andy Jones landed on the practice squad last year and is out working hard again early in the offseason programs this year.

Both Tony Romo and Dak Prescott have commented on how much potential he has and how much he has grown from his rookie season. We will see when the lights come on in the preseason if Andy Jones can finally earn his star.

Final Prediction

My final prediction has the Dallas Cowboys keeping six wide receivers on their final 53 man roster, while sending two receivers to the practice squad and cutting three.

Final 53 Man Roster

  1. Dez Bryant
  2. Terrance Williams
  3. Cole Beasley
  4. Ryan Switzer
  5. Brice Butler
  6. Noah Brown

Practice Squad

  1. Brice Brown
  2. Andy Jones

Cut

  1. Lucky Whitehead
  2. Quincy McDuffie
  3. Uzoma Nwachukwu

Fantasy Football Blog - Cowboys 2015 Fantasy Football Outlook: Wide Receivers

I decided to keep six receivers for a few reasons.

Dez Bryant seems to miss games every year and Brice Butler usually fills in nicely for him, but keeping Noah Brown gives the Cowboys another option to plug-in if an injury or lack of production pushes another player down the depth chart.

Carrying six wide receivers likely means the Cowboys will have to go short somewhere else on offense. Whether it's just keeping two quarterbacks or maybe letting Ryan Switzer fill in as the fourth running back.

This offense was great last year and with the talent they added at wide receiver it has the potential to be even better!

Leave me your thoughts on what you think the Dallas Cowboys 2017 wide receiver depth chart should look like.



Born in 1995, loved Football but more importantly the Dallas Cowboys since day one. Living in Redskins Country flying the Blue and Silver flag as high as possible. Covering the Dallas Cowboys for InsideTheStar.com and CowboysNation.com. Catch me on twitter @ConnorNFLDraft!

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Travis Diggs

    June 1, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Cowboys typically only keep 5, soo I’m guessing Dez, Williams, Beasley, Switzer, Brown or Butler

    They keep Butler for simply being familiar with the offense or they like Brown enough in preseason they keep him. Switzer and Brown were drafted to replace Whitehead and Butler. Whitehead is definitely out, while Butler has a chance to beat out the rookie.

  2. Randy Martin

    June 1, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    I cringe every time I see an article about Dallas Cowboys receivers because I feel another writer is going to misrepresent who Brice Butler is.

    “Dez Bryant seems to miss games every year and Brice Butler usually fills in nicely for him”. Can you give me the data to support this. People just throw this out and expect people to believe it. I’ve watched the games and studied the game logs and it just isn’t true! In 2 seasons Butler has caught 28 of 58 targets! That is a 48% completion rate my friend and that is horrible! It is sub-average! In 4 seasons, including 2 in Oakland, where he could not start when Oakland was hungry to find any receiver that could play, he has never had more than 280 yards receiving and shown absolutely no growth or development. If they only keep 5 receivers I don’t see one of them being Butler unless he flips a switch.

    • Kevin Black

      June 2, 2017 at 10:34 am

      I’ve seen “Brice Butler usually fills in for him.” I’ve never seen ‘nicely’ put in there before. If they did, then they aren’t watching how many times Brice drops the ball.

    • #demboyz

      June 28, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      I agree!! I cringe when they would put him in the game; he’s the pits!!

  3. dallas1966

    June 2, 2017 at 4:28 am

    I think the Cowboys will draft wide receiver again in 2018.

  4. Kevin Black

    June 2, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Cowboys will go long due to having Noah Brown. He can be groomed to replace Dez when his contract is up or at least be a better backup than Brice Butler who you only have for one more season.

  5. #demboyz

    June 28, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Brian Brown is a keeper!!! He has great hands; runs beautiful routes; and has football smarts!! I watched his “Silent Assassin” highlights and was impressed!!! I’m rooting for him. If Dallas doesn’t keep him, he will be swooped up by another team. He will be in the NFL!! Go, Boyz

  6. #demboyz

    June 28, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Great article by the way—Is the Brice Brown, you placed on the practice squad, intended to be Brian Brown?

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Linebacker

Jess Haynie

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

One of the brightest spots on the Dallas Cowboys' projected 2019 roster is linebacker. The young pair of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have already emerged as one of the league's best duos. But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys have no work to do at the position this offseason.

Having Jaylon and Leighton does take a lot of pressure off. Most teams utilize their nickel scheme more than any other these days, which generally utilizes just two linebackers, in the increasingly pass-focused NFL. And thankfully, both Smith and Vander Esch have shown great skills in pass defense.

But there's still a semi-starting role to get figured out in the base 4-3 scheme. Damien Wilson has held the strong-side or "SAM" position for the last few years and has an expiring contract.

What's more, Dallas has a big decision to make regarding the contract of Sean Lee, which is ripe for terminating with $7 million in salary cap savings possible.

It's highly unlikely that the Cowboys would keep both Lee and Wilson. If they decide to re-sign Damien, Lee will be cut to help fund that move and others. If Sean is kept on, Wilson will almost surely be looking for a starting role somewhere else in free agency.

Even if the Cowboys do make Lee a cap casualty between now and March 13th, they may still allow Wilson to test free agency and then try to re-sign him later at a discount. He's unlikely to attract the same attention that Anthony Hitchens got last year.

How Does LB Joe Thomas Fit Into Cowboys' 2019 Plans?

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Another factor in all of this is Joe Thomas, a free agent addition last year who provided good depth and could potentially start in 2019. He is scheduled to count $2.2 million against the cap, which is fine for a primary reserve but a bargain for an occasional starter.

A core of Smith, Thomas, and Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a good foundation to build from. Smith can play the SAM in the base scheme and Thomas can be the primary backup to Jaylon and Leighton in the nickel.

However, going that route would deplete the depth chart. Chris Covington, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the only noteworthy player under contract. Dallas would need to find at least two more guys to fill out the group for 2019.

They could look at re-signing backup Justin March-Lillard, who would at least bring some familiarity and veteran experience. But that might still leave them looking for more of a primary reserve, which would be especially vital if Thomas is promoted to a starting role.

The projected LB free agent pool for 2019 should make it a buyer's market. Dallas may be able to re-sign Damien Wilson or even add an upgrade, like perhaps the Vikings' Anthony Barr, at a relative bargain. There should be ample options for depth as well.

Barring an extremely favorable value opportunity, don't expect the Cowboys to spend a significant draft pick at linebacker. The fourth-round is the earliest I could see one going based on other needs, and even then it would need to be someone they really like.

Good drafting is why Dallas has flexibility and leverage this offseason. The picks they invested in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch appear to have made LB a strength of the team for the next several years.

There is still business to attend to, but the Cowboys won't have to be too concerned with linebacker in 2019 thanks to their young stars.



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Xavier Woods Versatility Key in Dallas Cowboys FA Safety Pursuit

John Williams

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Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods Is Getting Better By The Week

There has been a debate going on among Cowboys Nation for more than a year now about the prospects of bringing in Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas. Now with free agency approaching, there are several other names that the Dallas Cowboys could consider when looking to upgrade the safety position. Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tre Boston are several of the many quality and really good safeties that are hitting the free agent market in a few weeks. It's a group with varied skill sets and abilities, which makes the debate even more interesting. The Dallas Cowboys, however, will be able to take a look at all of them when free agency opens March 13th because of one player; Xavier Woods.

Xavier Woods, the Cowboys fifth round draft pick from the 2017 NFL Draft just finished his first full season as a starter for the Cowboys and played really well. In two years he's shown the ability to cover from the slot, play deep, play in the box, be a force over the middle, and make plays on the football. He's one of the more versatile players on the defense with his ability to play all over the field. That versatility allows the Dallas Cowboys' front office an advantage when approaching the names mentioned above.

The Dallas Cowboys don't have to be locked in to one particular type of safety. When people talk about Landon Collins, they label him a "box safety." Earl Thomas is a traditional free safety. Tre Boston is a similar player to Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu is like Collins. The Cowboys can go into free agency with the freedom to explore their options and do their due diligence when it comes to these players.

That's a distinct difference from this offseason to last.

Last offseason, the feeling was that the Dallas Cowboys had to go get Earl Thomas. The safety position was so weak that the Cowboys were going to be playing at a disadvantage in the high-flying, pass-heavy NFL. Xavier Woods proved in his first full season that he can be a productive, play making starter in the NFL and should only continue to improve.

According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier Woods was sixth in the NFL in passer rating against among safeties with at least 352 coverage snaps. His 62.8 passer rating allowed in his coverage was tied with Eric Weddle, better than Derwin James, Reshad Jones, Adrian Amos, and Maliek Hooker. Of the safeties drafted in the 2017 draft class, only Eddie Jackson from the Chicago Bears had a better passer rating against than Xavier Woods.

The Dallas Cowboys got a really good player in Xavier Woods and as they get ready to potentially make a run at a big name safety, they can feel confident that whoever they end up signing will be a good fit with Woods. He can play in the box or cover receivers and tight ends. You can run more two deep safety looks, because he has the range to play it.

This year, as opposed to last, they have more certainty at the safety position because of Xavier Woods and the strides he took in 2018. There's no reason to believe that he can't continue to take a step forward for the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to play all over the field allows the Cowboys to be smart and patient in their pursuit of a safety upgrade this offseason.



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3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

John Williams

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3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

The free agency period in the NFL will be here in a little more than three weeks and the Dallas Cowboys will begin the annual tradition of trying to put together the best 53-man roster that they can come up with. Free agency is just one part of the equation that includes the draft, the signing of undrafted free agents, adding and subtracting from the roster during training camp, and picking up players after the final cut down day.

You can rest assured that Will McClay and the entire pro scouting department is doing their due diligence in anticipation of the March 13th start to the 2019 free agency period. They'll look high and low for players that can come in and be contributors for the Cowboys. Even within their own division.

Between the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins, there are some interesting names to consider as the Cowboys peruse the free agent aisles of the NFL superstore. Some of those players like Landon Collins, Ronald Darby, Nick Foles, and Brandon Graham will be new releases that will cost you a pretty penny at the check out stand. Others like Haloti Ngata will be in the used and refurbished section. And then there are those who could be had at a reasonable or discounted rate.

Here are three from within the NFC East that the Cowboys could have their eye on.

Mario Edwards, Defensive Line, New York Giants

The former Oakland Raiders second round pick out of Florida State University has already played for two teams in his young four-year career. That isn't a good sign for Mario Edwards as he approaches free agency for the first time. You don't generally see many top 100 picks get released from the team that originally drafted as they usually wait as long as they can to see if the player is going to hit.

For Mario Edwards, he found himself caught in a numbers game and outplayed by two rookies in Oakland's training camp in 2018, leading to his release. It also sounds like the Raiders couldn't quite figure out where to put him on their defensive line.

We know that the Dallas Cowboys love looking around the league for those reclamation projects. Edwards could be the next David Irving or Antwaun Woods. A player that isn't highly thought of, but in the right situation and with the right coaching could flourish.

Edwards has played 14 or more games in three of his first four seasons, missing his second season with a hip injury. He totaled more than two sacks a season in those three seasons. He isn't by any stretch of the imagination someone who is going to come in and replace DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory, but he could be a nice depth piece with potential to see significant snaps both at defensive end and 3-technique defensive tackle.

Edwards could be the next Rod Marinelli special.

Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles

The Dallas Cowboys could be in the market for a slot wide receiver this offseason if Cole Beasley is allowed to walk in free agency, which seems like a near certainty. There are several intriguing options on the roster in Allen Hurns and Cedric Wilson that could play in the slot some, or play on the outside allowing Amari Cooper to play in the slot. They could also look to the draft for Beasley's replacement as well. In the free agent pool, there are several interesting names, one of which is Jordan Matthews.

Jordan Matthews just finished his second stint in Philadelphia and while he didn't have huge production in Philly in 2018 -- 20 receptions on 28 targets for 300 yards and two touchdowns, he's a player with a track record in the NFL and could be a "big slot" option.

In Matthews first three seasons in the NFL, he averaged 75 receptions on 115 targets for 891 yards and 6.3 touchdowns in his first stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2014, Matthews caught 64 of his 67 receptions from the slot, which was second in the NFL that season. In 2015, he led the NFL in receptions from the slot with 81, while also scoring eight touchdowns. In 2016, his final year with the Eagles, he was ninth in the NFL with 53 receptions. So, in those first three seasons in the league, he averaged 67 receptions, 796.3 yards, and six touchdowns. He caught eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons for the Eagles in the slot.

He's not the same player that Cole Beasley is, but he's a player that knows how to win in the slot and because of the past couple of years could be a cheaper option to try and replace Cole's production.

Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins

If Jordan Matthews is the inexpensive option for the Dallas Cowboys in the slot, Jamison Crowder would require paying a pretty penny. Spotrac.com estimates that Crowder could be worth $8 million per year over four years on the open market.

Interestingly enough, he's never been as productive as Cole Beasley or Jordan Matthews, but because of his age and his work the last couple of seasons, injuries not withstanding, he's seen in a more positive light than Matthews.

Crowder is cut from a similar cloth as Beasley. Smaller in stature and uses quickness and speed to win games. As Cowboys fans, we know all to well the effect that he has in game. Crowder, however, has never had more than 66 receptions in a season and has only scored more than three touchdowns once in his four seasons in the NFL; back in 2016 when he scored seven.

Crowder is coming off of an injury this season that limited him to just nine games, 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. In his three full seasons prior to 2018, Crowder averaged 64 receptions on 93 targets for 746 yards and four touchdowns.

If for some reason, his market comes in less than the $8 million per year that Spotrac.com is projecting, I'd be very interested in bringing Crowder to Dallas.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Each of these guys offers something intriguing that the Dallas Cowboys could use. Whether it's a defensive lineman or a slot wide receiver, they all bring something to the table. The Dallas Cowboys need to approach this offseason with a "go for it" mentality, but if they continue to follow their free agency philosophy, Mario Edwards and Jordan Matthews could be nice pieces to add to the team that offer a lot of upside.



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