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?
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstatement Decision Due Soon
The Dallas Cowboys should know by the end of this week if Defensive End Randy Gregory will be reinstated by the NFL from his indefinite suspension.
Gregory, who has missed nearly two seasons with drug-related bans, requested in May for Roger Goodell to allow him to return to football. The exact date of the request isn't known, but multiple sources put it somewhere around May 18-20.
According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL has 60 days to rule on a reinstatement request. That would put the approximate deadline no later than this Friday, July 20th.
Gregory was a second-round pick for Dallas in 2015. He was considered to have potentially elite pass-rushing skills but red flags about behavior and drug use hurt his draft stock.
Obviously those warning signs were warranted. Over three seasons, Randy has missed 30 out of 48 games due to suspension.
But reports from around the Cowboys organization and others who've dealt with Gregory rehabilitation efforts are positive. His appeal request appears strong, backed up by several testimonials that he's turned his life around.
Will Roger Goodell agree? Will Randy Gregory return to the Cowboys 2018?
We should know the answer soon.
Dak Prescott Ranked as Third Least Consistent QB in NFL
Last season could've gone a lot better for Dak Prescott. After a remarkable rookie season, he wasn't able to meet the very high expectations put on him after leading the Dallas Cowboys to the #1 seed in the NFC in 2016.
Inevitably, the "sophomore slump" managed to get to Dak, even though the numbers make it seem worse than it really was. From his 13 interceptions in 2017, not even half can be completely blamed on him. However, even though he made improvements in his game, it's fair to admit that there was indeed, a slump in his second year in the NFL.
Earlier this week, NFL.com published an article listing the most and the least consistent quarterbacks in the league last season. The way the list works is measuring "their average 2017 swing in week-to-week passer rating." In the list, Dak Prescott is listed as the third least consistent QB in the league, with only Cam Newton and Derek Carr behind him.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys' had a roller coaster for a season, constantly shifting between winning and losing, Dak Prescott also struggled at remaining consistent. It makes a ton of sense, of course, for the Cowboys' 9-7 season had a lot of swings throughout the year.
At times, the team was missing its most important defender in Sean Lee. At others, Tyron Smith and/or Ezekiel Elliott weren't on the field either. This is not an attempt to excuse Dak, for he is partly at fault here, as is the entire team.
From week 10 to 12, Dak failed to throw for a touchdown but ended up throwing five interceptions. Later in the season, failing once again to get a TD pass in two straight weeks, he threw for two interceptions at Oakland then another two when hosting the Seahawks in Dallas.
In a season that will likely determine his future with the Dallas Cowboys, Dak needs to find a way to be more consistent week after week regardless of circumstance. Hopefully, with an improved offensive line and with Ezekiel Elliott leaving every suspension drama behind him, his offense will put him in position to have his best year yet.
In 2016 and in 2017, his Total Quarterback Rating has been in the top 4 among all quarterbacks, per ESPN. Now, this is not a stat that tells the whole story, but it does give you an idea of each quarterback's play. In a run-first offense and with a safe passer like Dak, I'm sure consistency will not be hard to deal with for the young QB next season.
As long as he takes advantage of the new set of targets he'll have at his disposal and his offense's powerful running back with recently-signed draftee Connor Williams, this offense will look a lot more like the one we saw in 2016.
We know Dak Prescott has a lot to prove. He has to make longer throws, throw more aggressively to get his receivers open, and more. But consistency is just as important. In order to be continuously successful and to be a contender year after year, you need that in your signal-caller. Even if key players on the team are down, he needs to be able to shine. It's a sixteen-game season, after all.
It's time for Dak to prove he can handle that.
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