The starters for the Dallas Cowboys are unlikely to see any playing time in the fourth and final preseason game, which means the 2017 season is nearly upon us. I thought it would be a great time to share with all of you how I would shape the Cowboys final 53-man roster, but that doesn't necessarily mean the coaching staff will do the same.
There are numerous suspensions and possible suspensions that need to be taken into account, which makes predicting the 53-man roster all the more difficult. Since some of the players haven't been officially suspended, and may not, I decided to add them to the roster. But, things can change in a hurry.
Continue to reading below to see my prediction for the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster. Please feel free to express what you would do differently, because I know some of you will certainly disagree with me.
Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
For me, this is an easy decision to make. I'm not sure the Cowboys coaching staff will make the same decision to carry just two QBs on the active roster for the 2017 season, but that's the way I'm going.
Dak Prescott is the unquestionable leader of this team now and will likely be even better than he was last year. I decided to go with Cooper Rush as the QB2, because he has without a doubt looked better than Kellen Moore.
Rush would unlikely make it through waivers if cut, but the same can't be said about Moore. I don't see any team interested in signing Moore and once he makes it through waivers, the Cowboys can re-sign him to their practice squad. This is the best case scenario for everyone involved.
Running Back (4)
Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Keith Smith
Ezekiel Elliott of course still has a chance to start the 2017 season, but with his availability up in the air, I'm keeping McFadden, Morris, and Rod Smith as the RBs. I think the Cowboys can survive with out Elliott for a few games, but hopefully #21 is somehow available to suit up for the entire season.
McFadden will likely carry the heavier workload, but Morris looks to be running with a renewed energy and burst. I imagine the coaching staff will ride the hot hand. Rod Smith on the other hand will be a core special-teams player and emergency backup. He likely won't see very many touches on offense.
Keith Smith has proven to be a valuable asset not only at fullback, but on special teams as well. It looks as if he could have an expanded role in 2017 and be utilized more in the passing game, maybe even get a carrier or two here and there.
Wide Receiver (6)
Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Ryan Switzer, Brice Butler, Noah Brown
It will be interesting to see the if Dallas Cowboys go with 5 or 6 WRs on the roster, but if it was up to me I'm going a little deep here. I believe there are only four who are guaranteed a roster spot right now, largely due to the fact they are really the only ones who have played in the preseason.
Ryan Switzer has yet to suit up in the preseason, but he is likely guaranteed a roster spot as well due to his role as a punt/kick returner and the fact he filled in earlier while Cole Beasley nursed a hamstring injury. Noah Brown is the real wildcard, but since I don't think he will make it through waivers, I will give him the sixth WR spot.
Brown has been used on several special-teams units in the preseason and has done an exceptional job of blocking down in the box. He has also shown up in the passing game, but still needs time to fine-tune his skill set.
Tight End (3)
Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim
It may come to a shock to you, but I don't think the Dallas Cowboys carry more than three TEs on the active roster to start the 2017 season. Jason Witten, James Hanna, and Geoff Swaim have locked down the spots in my opinion, which means they have more depth there than they did a season ago.
You may be wondering what they do with Rico Gathers? I personally believe he will start the season on injured reserve. He has been dealing with a concussion for the past several weeks and placing him on IR could be the best for all parties involved. It would give him more time to get over his concussion/develop and the Cowboys could then add him to the active roster later in the year as one is their designated players to return from IR if needed.
Zack Martin, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green
The only sure thing at the offensive guard position for the Dallas Cowboys is that Zack Martin will be starting on the right side. The left side is still completely up in the air, but as things stand right now, Jonathan Cooper is probably the favorite to start the 2017 season.
Chaz Green still can't manage to stay healthy and it's unfortunate because he is probably the better option at LG. Green simply can't be relied upon, but he will likely be the backup LG and possibly the swing tackle as well. Hopefully he can overcome the injury bug, because the talent is there.
Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Emmett Cleary
Tyron Smith and La'el Collins will start as the bookends on the Cowboys offensive line to start the season, but there is a little concern about both players. Collins is still developing as a RT, but has performed well so far. Smith on the other hand has already had back issues this off-season and that caused him to miss a few games last season.
I decided to keep Emmett Cleary on the active roster mostly due to the fact that he may have to be the swing tackle this season because Chaz Green can't stay healthy. Cleary will likely be inactive most weeks as long as Green can stay healthy, but provides insurance if injuries were to occur. The Cowboys of course may look for options outside of the organization, but who knows if they could find an upgrade.
Travis Frederick, Joe Looney
You may not know this, but Travis Frederick has an Ironman streak going for himself. He has started every possible game since being drafted by the Cowboys and hopefully that streak continues. I believe he is the anchor for this talented offensive line, as well as their heart and soul.
Joe Looney is the backup G/C, but a player no one wants to see on the field at all in 2017. That means everybody remains healthy and he is just on the roster as an insurance policy. That's nothing against Looney, because he is an adequate fill in. We would just prefer if he remains a backup.
Defensive End (6)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper, Taco Charlton, Lenny Jones
The Dallas Cowboys may have gotten younger and more athletic at defensive end, but I'm just not sure if they upgraded the position during the off-season yet. It will be interesting to see who gets the start against the New York Giants in Week 1, but one thing is for sure, they will all get their chance to prove themselves.
There are concerns at the position though. Lawrence and Tapper both have had back issues and Crawford has troubled remaining healthy as well. Charlton has the size and athleticism to be a factor, but rookie pass rushers seldom excel in their first year in the NFL.
I decided to go a little longer at this position and keep Lenny Jones on the active roster to start the season because of suspensions. But, I'm sure the Cowboys will be paying close attention to roster cuts to try to find an upgrade.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Maliek Collins, Cedric Thornton, Stephen Paea, Lewis Neal
The only surprise here to make the final 53-man roster might be Lewis Neal. Collins, Thornton, and Paea are all proven veterans and should get plenty of playing time throughout the season. I expect Collins to have a big 2017 season and I have high hopes for Paea.
Neal is a little undersized, but has proven to be disruptive so far in preseason and practices. Right now, I think he is the favorite to back up Collins at the 3-technique, but his time on the roster could be short-lived until David Irving returns from his suspension.
This is another position the Cowboys could be looking for an upgrade once roster cuts happen, but they could decide to stick with Lewis Neal until suspensions are completed. That would put Irving and Tyrone Crawford back in the mix at DT.
Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, Justin Durant, Mark Nzeocha, Jaylon Smith, Kyle Wilber, (player TBD)
The linebacker position has suddenly become a real concern for the Dallas Cowboys. Right now, Sean Lee is the only LB the Cowboys can rely on to start the 2017 season. Damien Wilson is facing a possible suspension and Justin Durant hasn't really practiced or played so far this off-season. But, it's Anthony Hitchens injury that has really hampered the LB position.
I don't think Jaylon Smith is ready to open up the season at MLB, but the Cowboys might not have a choice. Durant might get the nod to start at MLB, but that also depends on Wilson's availability. I expect the Cowboys to really look hard at LB options outside the organization, hopefully finding a proven veteran who might be a salary cap casualty. Of course, a trade is another option to find a starting caliber LB as well.
Nolan Carroll, Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Marquez White
As things stand right now, Nolan Carroll has yet to be suspended by the NFL, which means he could be available to start the 2017 season. I think Carroll, Scandrick, and Brown will be the starters when the season gets underway, which shouldn't be all that surprising considering their rookie CBs have been battling injuries.
Awuzie looked capable enough to become a starter earlier in the preseason, but the Cowboys have been cautious with him to ensure he is ready when the season gets underway. Lewis on the other hand hasn't really been able to get on the field much, so the coaching staff will have to wait and see what kind of role he will have. White on the other hand has had moments in preseason and practices. He is worth keeping around if nothing more than an insurance policy.
Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier
Like it or not, Byron Jones and Jeff Heath are going to be the starting safeties for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017. Byron Jones is vastly underrated, but I expect him to have a breakout season this year. I also believe Jeff Heath is underrated, but I think he will prove that he is just as capable of starting as the departed Barry Church.
Although Xavier Woods was bitten by the injury bug, I think he more than proved he is capable of contributing in several ways as a rookie. He can play both safety positions or in the slot. His versatility could prove to be invaluable throughout the season. Frazier on the other hand will more than likely be a core special-teams player, but has the capability of filling in as a strong safety.
Special Teams (3)
Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
There is nothing surprising about these three players. All three could be chiseled in stone. This is probably the only position that the Cowboys coaching staff are completely comfortable with.
Do you agree or disagree with this 2017 Cowboys roster prediction?
Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018
For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.
After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote
As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.
Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.
Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!
Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Week 15 Impact Games
It's hard to believe that we're looking at the Dallas Cowboys potentially clinching the NFC East this week, but that's how dramatic the turnaround has been over the last five games. Week 15 could lock Dallas into the playoffs and give them a lot of freedom over their final two games.
If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:
- New Orleans Saints (11-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
- Chicago Bears (9-4)
- Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
- Carolina Panthers (6-7)
- Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
- Washington Redskins (6-7)
- The Cowboys lost to Seattle earlier this year, but still remain the 4th seed as a division winner over a wild card team.
- The Panthers are ahead of the Eagles thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker.
- The Eagles are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker. They play each other again in Week 17.
- The Redskins beat the Panthers earlier this year, but their loss to Philadelphia within their own division negates that tiebreaker.
In truth, there's not much intrigue left for the Cowboys in this regular season. One win gives them the NFC East, and it would take the Saints or Rams dropping all three of their remaining games for Dallas to have a shot at a top-two seed.
So, barring the nearly impossible, Dallas is locked into either the 3rd or 4th seed. They will host one of the Wild Card teams in the first round of the playoffs.
The biggest thing to watch now is how the seeding shakes among the bottom four playoff teams. The Seahawks seem a cut above the likes of Minnesota, Carolina, or one of our NFC East friends, so avoiding them in the first round would be lovely.
Here are this week's games involving the NFC playoff contenders:
Dallas Cowboys @ Indianapolis Colts
We've already discussed what the Cowboys need to do, so let's talk about the Colts. Not only do they have home field advantage this week, but they are fighting for their playoff lives.
Indianapolis is one of four teams with a 7-6 record battling for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs. The Broncos are also in the mix at 6-7, giving none of these teams any cushion for losing.
Dallas has its own incentive to win, though. If they want to avoid Seattle in the first round, they probably need to take the #3 seed from the Chicago Bears. They need to keep winning and hope for the Bears to drop a game or two.
Ultimately, getting into the playoffs and starting at home is a huge reward. But anything that can help make the road a little easier is worth pursuing. It's no time to rest on your laurels.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
As we just discussed, we'd like to see Chicago drop a few games to give Dallas a shot at the #3 seed. This week isn't the worst opportunity, with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay still not completely eliminated from playoff contention.
Expecting much from the Packers here is unwise. They've had a coaching change and appear to be in a state of organizational disarray. But they still have Rodgers, and crazy things always happens in rivalry games.
So while these are two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, you never know what could happen given the variable elements. By all means, root for the Cheeseheads.
Miami Dolphins @ Minnesota Vikings
Your rooting interest here comes down to a simple question; who do you prefer to play among that last bunch of Wild Card teams? Who does Dallas match up best against between the Vikings, Panthers, and Eagles?
I think we'd all agree that we don't want to see the Eagles a third time. Beating a team three times in one year is tough to do, and especially given how close last week's meeting was.
The Panthers beat Dallas in the season opener, but that was in Carolina and well before the Cowboys were playing at a high level. A second meeting could go very differently, especially with the recent slumping by the Panthers.
Both Carolina and Minnesota are struggling, with one on a five-game losing streak and the latter having lost their last two. The Vikings just fired their offensive coordinator, so neither of these teams appear to be going into the postseason with any real momentum.
At this point, I'd say it's a toss-up between the Panthers and Vikings. Both are much preferable to seeing the Eagles again, so I would just keep rooting for both to win. In either case, they knock out Philadelphia.
We'll reassess the threat level of Carolina and Minnesota as playoff opponents in a few weeks.
Washington Redskins @ Jacksonville Jaguars
I didn't mention the Redskins among those last three teams because they may not win another game this year. Their QB situation is so bad that even the Jaguars look good by comparison.
Granted, Jacksonville is lousy right now. Washington might be able to go down there and get a win, but neither team has anything to play for now. This one may come down to whether or not the Jaguars have gone into tank mode.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Seattle just walloped the Niners 43-16 a couple of weeks ago, and changing venues is unlikely to make that much difference. The Seahawks are a legit NFC contender and San Francisco is already thinking about the offseason. A Seattle loss would be great, but it ain't happening this week.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams
While catching the Rams and getting a top-two seed would be great, it's barely plausible. The far more concrete benefit here is seeing the Eagles lose and getting them further away from a possible Wild Card spot.
In fact, an Eagles' loss this week would give Dallas the NFC East even if the Cowboys fall in Indianapolis. That's not the way we want to win the division, but you take what you can get.
With the breaking news that Carson Wentz is unlikely to play this week with a back injury, you'd generally think this suits the Cowboys' interests. But Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is still the backup in Philadelphia, so is anything really for certain?
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
We have every reason to root for Carolina here. For one, it helps the Panthers stay ahead of the Eagles in the Wild Card race. Also, it brings the Saints one loss closer to possibly being caught by Dallas. A Saints win doesn't really benefit us all.
Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess
The Dallas Cowboys came away with a huge win against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles, putting them in a commanding position in the NFC East. They're up two games in the division and one of the more underrated story lines from the victory is Ezekiel Elliott's game. He had a huge day that no one is talking about.
Elliott had 28 carries for 113 yards and then caught 12 passes on 13 targets en route to his big performance in the 29-23 win over the Eagles. That's probably the quietest 40 touch, 192 total yard game you'll ever hear about. And yet, that's where we are. Please read that stat line again, because in all of our talk about Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and the defense, Ezekiel Elliott's stat line is absolutely ridiculous.
The receiving element that Elliott is providing the biggest difference to the offense this season. He's been a huge asset to Dak Prescott in the passing game as both a primary target and a check down option in the short part of the field. If Elliott isn't showing that he's the best running back in the league, with what he's doing with a broke down offensive line, then people will never give him the credit he's due.
For the last three years, the Dallas Cowboys and their fan base has known what an elite player the Cowboys have in Elliott. He's easily one of the best runners in the NFL, but if you talk to the general NFL fanbase or analysts around the league, Elliott doesn't get the same kind of love as players like Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell receive from the national media. The knock against Elliott has been that he doesn't bring the same value as a receiver. With what he has done over the last six weeks, and really all season long, it's safe to say, that won't be a knock against the Cowboys All-Pro running back.
Among running backs this season, Ezekiel Elliott ranks sixth in targets (77), fifth in receptions (65). seventh in yards (502), and is tied for 12th in receiving touchdowns with three. Elliott is the seventh highest rated running back when targeted among running backs with at least 50 targets this season.
Over the last six weeks, since the Amari Cooper trade, only Christian McCaffrey has more targets, receptions, and yards than Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott's previous career high was in 2016 when he caught 32 passes on 39 targets. With three games left in the season, Elliott has more than doubled his previous career high from that season. Over the last six weeks, he's caught 40 passes with an average of 6.7 receptions per game.
Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best total yardage season in the NFL. If he continues at his current per game averages, Elliott would finish the season with 330 carries for 1,553 rushing yards, 80 catches on 100 targets for 618 yards and 10 total touchdowns. He's been great this year, but he's been even better over the last six games. At his per game averages for the last six games, over a 16 game season, Elliott's numbers would look like this; 363 carries for 1,715 yards rushing, 107 receptions on 120 targets for 872 yards, and 13 total touchdowns.
It's rare that Ezekiel Elliott has a game like he did on Sunday and it goes largely unnoticed by Cowboys Nation, but that's just how tremendous Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were. In a game where the Cowboys got big games and big plays through the passing game, it was Elliott's steadiness that held things together and helped sustain drives like the fourth and one conversion in overtime. Even with Amari Cooper elevating his game since coming to the Cowboys, there's no question that Ezekiel Elliott is the Cowboys best skill position player. Expect more big games for Elliott as the Cowboys continue to "Feed Zeke."
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