The Dallas Cowboys completely dominated the Houston Texans Saturday night in their "dress rehearsal" preseason game. With state pride on the line, Dallas handled their business and looked quite impressive doing so. With Week 3 of the preseason now over, the shift now turns to shaping the 53-man roster, which is what I will attempt to predict today.
With so much talent throughout the Dallas Cowboys roster this was no easy task to take on. I don't envy the tough decisions the Cowboys brass will have to make here shortly. But regardless of how this turns out this should be a better team than they fielded just a season ago. Without further ado, here is my final 53-man roster prediction for America's Team in 2019.
Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
Practice Squad: Mike White and Taryn Christion
Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush are the only quarterbacks on the Dallas Cowboys roster worthy of making the final 53-man roster. Rush clearly outplayed Mike White to become the Cowboys QB2, but don't be surprised if Dallas looks to add a veteran if one happens to become available after roster cuts. As for White, if he clears waivers expect to see him brought back and added to the practice squad to further develop/season.
Running Back (4)
Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Jordan Chunn, Jamize Olawale
Practice Squad: Mike Weber
I toyed with the idea of just carrying two traditional running backs (Zeke and Pollard) on the Cowboys 53-man roster because I believe Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, and even Olawale can all fill in the backfield if needed. But, I think second-year RB Jordan Chunn has earned the right to stick to the roster due to his play on both offense and special teams. I think he is Dallas' new "Rod Smith" so to speak. I think he will fit in well as the RB3 and as a core special teamer.
Wide Receiver (6)
Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith, Cedrick Wilson
Practice Squad: Jon'Vea Johnson
It will be interesting to see how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on the 53-man roster. Right now I have them carrying six, and I have the top four pretty much set in stone. That leaves two roster spots up for grabs. I think Devin Smith has played well enough to make the cut and with Noah Brown likely to start the season on the PUP list, I'll go with Cedrick Wilson as the WR6 because of his versatility to play on the outside or in the slot and his special teams value.
Tight End (3)
Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Practice Squad: Codey McElroy
The tight end position for the Dallas Cowboys is pretty much set in stone. The only thing that could shake things up is if Dalton Schultz somehow lands on injured reserve (IR) to start the season due to his current ankle injury. If that's the case Marcus Lucas (No. 80) could be the TE3 instead. He's done some good things in preseason. Codey McElroy still needs time to develop, but he's flashed enough talent to stick around on the practice squad.
Offensive Tackle (3)
Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Cameron Fleming
Practice Squad: Jake Campos and Brandon Knight
I don't think there are any surprises here. Tyron Smith and La'el Collins are the Dallas Cowboys starting tackles and Cameron Fleming should once again reprise his role as the swing tackle. Keeping these three on the 53-man roster is a no-brainer, but who to try to bring back to the practice squad isn't as clear-cut. Jake Campos, Brandon Knight, and Mitch Hyatt are all potential candidates, but it's Campos and Knight who are more deserving to be brought back, despite the name recognition Hyatt carries.
Offensive Guard (3)
Zack Martin, Connor Williams, Adam Redmond
If the Dallas Cowboys were going to go a little deeper at any position along the offensive line it would likely be at guard. I have Martin and Williams as the only roster locks with Connor McGovern, Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Adam Redmond all in the running to make the team. I think McGovern could be a candidate to be placed on IR and I went with Redmond over Su'a-Filo due to his versatility to play any interior OL position. Xavier could possibly be a tradable asset for a team looking for an experienced lineman.
Travis Frederick, Joe Looney
Joe Looney will once again have to accept a backup role with the Dallas Cowboys after starting every single game for them in 2018 now that Travis Frederick has triumphantly returned after battling an autoimmune disease last year. The only way this doesn't happen is if the Cowboys receive a trade offer for Looney they can't refuse, which is one of the reasons I kept Adam Redmond over Xavier Su'a-Filo earlier.
Defensive Tackle (5)
Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, Christian Covington, Daniel Wise
Practice Squad: Ricky Walker
The Dallas Cowboys will probably only carry four DTs on their 53-man roster, but I think it would be wise if they start planning for the future now. With Maliek Collins in the last year of his rookie contract and with someone like Tyrone Crawford nearing the end of his deal, the Cowboys need to think about the depth at the DT position beyond this year. That's why I would go ahead and try to keep Daniel Wise. He may be hard to sneak through waivers and his versatility to play DT or DE is something Dallas values in their DL.
Defensive End (6)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, Kerry Hyder, Joe Jackson
Practice Squad: Jalen Jelks
I'm not sure the Dallas Cowboys don't have a defensive end not worthy of making the final 53-man roster right now. DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong pretty much have the RDE side covered and at LDE Dallas has Tyrone Crawford and Taco Charlton right now until Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory return from their suspensions. And don't forget about Kerry Hyder, who like Crawford can play DE or DT. That's not even mentioning Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks, who are both playing better-than-expected as rookies. Tough decisions will have to be made, but that's a good problem to have.
Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Joe Thomas, Luke Gifford, Justin Phillips
Practice Squad: Chris Covington
I don't think anyone would argue the top four spots at the linebacker position are locked down. The final two though are up for grabs. Veteran LB Justin March-Lillard has managed to stick around for a few years now, but undrafted rookies Luke Gifford and Justin Phillips could change that. Gifford played well enough pre-injury to stick around and Phillips is playing just as well if not better than March-Lillard these last couple of games. I could see how the Cowboys could decide to keep Chris Covington over Phillips though, even though the latter has played better.
Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Donovan Olumba, C.J. Goodwin
The Dallas Cowboys top four CBs are set in stone, but the depth behind them is unproven. I think both Mike Jackson and Donovan Olumba have shown flashes of their potential and have the size/length Kris Richard wants in his DBs, but I think I'd place Jackson on IR, which would unfortunately end his rookie season. He's just not ready and needs some seasoning. But that means Dallas can carry C.J. Goodwin, who just so happens to be their best special teams player. I have no doubts he will be their special teams ace, which is an undervalued role in my opinion.
Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, Donovan Wilson, Darian Thompson
Since the Dallas Cowboys didn't do much to upgrade the safety position through the draft or free agency it looks as if Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath will reprise their roles as the starters in 2019, at least at the beginning of the season. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson has been playing well and could eventually surpass No. 38 at some point in the season though. I think Darian Thompson is Dallas' fourth safety, but they'll more than likely look for an upgrade when roster cuts are made.
Special Teams (3)
Kasey Redfern, Brett Maher, L.P. Ladouceur
Could this be the second year in a row a "camp leg" comes in and beats out a veteran special teams player? I think it's a very real possibility, and no I'm not talking about Kicker Brett Maher. I can realistically see the Cowboys keeping Kasey Redfern over Punter Chris Jones. Redfern is not only the cheaper option, but he's also punting just as well as Jones this offseason. He also brings the added value of being able to fill in as the placekicker if something were to happen to Maher or if he's struggling, which is good insurance to have.
Agree or disagree? Let me know what you think in the comment section.
Cowboys Offense In-Line For Another Big Day Vs. Lions
There's no doubt the 2019 Cowboys have been disappointing through the first half of the season. But one area which has actually surpassed preseason expectations has been their offense, specifically their passing attack.
Despite the loss Sunday night, Dallas' offense still ranks first in DVOA- ahead of high powered attacks like the ones in Kansas City, Baltimore, and Seattle. Things have fallen into place for Dallas' offense nearly perfectly, with Dak Prescott positioning himself among the elite passers in the league, and La'el Collins having a breakout season at right tackle.
This week's matchup is yet another favorable one for this Cowboys offense, as the Detroit Lions come in reeling on the defensive side of the ball. Detroit ranks 25th overall in terms of defensive DVOA, and have been equally below average against both the run and pass (23rd and 20th in DVOA respectively).
Roster talent wise, there isn't a ton to get excited about on the Lions defense. Where last week's opponent had potential game breakers on each level of their defense, Detroit's talent is much more modest.
Still, free agent acquisition Trey Flowers has proven to be a solid defensive end and Damon "Snacks" Harrison has long been an elite run stuffer on the interior. In the back end, Darius Slay is a legit number one cornerback, but even he isn't enough to bolster this unit on his own.
In theory, the Cowboys should be able to get whatever they want offensively against the Lions this week, making it imperative they remain aggressive through the air. Jason Garrett coached teams love to try to "impose their will" with their offensive line and run game, but this is yet another week where the Cowboys' biggest advantage is likely driven by Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.
If all works according to plan the Cowboys will be able to utilize Prescott to win this game, and then lean on Ezekiel Elliott to kill clock late. The exact formula we had hoped for heading into the season months ago.
Of course, this would require something the Cowboys haven't really done whatsoever this season: start fast offensively.
But if you look at the remaining schedule, it's really now or never for this version of the Dallas Cowboys.
3 Things the Dallas Cowboys Need to do Against the Detroit Lions
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off yet another disappointing loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. Their season and playoff hopes could be hanging in the balance now, which makes just about every game from here on out all that more important. They need to start playing as if their backs are against the wall, because that very well could be the case.
Luckily the Dallas Cowboys should be able to take care of business this week when they hit the road to take on the Detroit Lions. This is one of the more winnable games left on the Cowboys schedule this year and they should use it as a bit of a refresher game of sorts in order to get things back on track. The objective of course remains the same… Winning. But, this is also an opportunity to clean a few things up.
Let's take a look at a few things I think the Dallas Cowboys need to do against the Detroit Lions in this Week 11 matchup.
Hit the Ground Running
No more slow starts! The Dallas Cowboys have to hit the ground running against the Detroit Lions instead of digging themselves into an early hole like they've done quite a bit this season. I honestly don't care if it's on the arm of Quarterback Dak Prescott or on the legs of Running Back Ezekiel Elliott, the offense has to figure out some way to be the aggressor in order to put points on the board early.
The Dallas Cowboys fell behind early in nearly every single one of their losses this season. I don't think a single team has really outplayed them yet this year, but when they have to scratch and claw their way back to get out of the hole they've dug themselves into it makes it exceedingly more difficult to win. It's time to change that narrative this week against the Detroit Lions so that hopefully it carries over for the rest of the year.
Execute! Execute! Execute!
The second thing the Dallas Cowboys need to do this week against the Detroit Lions is to clean up their execution, especially in the defensive side of the ball. Offensively things are going pretty well for the Cowboys, but the same can't be said about their defense. Despite all the talent they've added this season they are still struggling to put everything together and play up to expectations. Hopefully this Week 11 matchup helps them right the ship.
This is a game the Dallas Cowboys should be able to focus on their execution. That means maintaining their gap integrity in the running game, staying assignment sound in the passing game, and most importantly finish the tackle. Tackling was especially poor last week against the Vikings which is why Dalvin Cook ran wild. This has to be a group effort here. Yes, individuals need to improve, but for the overall defense to play up to expectations they have to execute as a unit.
Establish the Running Game
Dak Prescott has been playing phenomenal these past few games and has proven he's more than capable of carrying the offense on his back, but the Dallas Cowboys still need to establish the running game. Just about everything Prescott does in the passing game is built off of play action. If the running game isn't producing that hurts the overall offensive output. Plus, the best way to control the game is by running the ball.
I think Ezekiel Elliott should have a pretty big game against the Detroit Lions this week. After being bottled up by the Vikings last week that should be news to the Cowboys ears. This offense feeds off of Zeke and it needs him to find his groove now that we're getting into the do or die part of the NFL season. No. 21 isn't the only RB who needs to find his groove though. Tony Pollard needs to start being more involved and what better game to get him going than against Detroit.
What do you think the Dallas Cowboys need to do against the Detroit Lions?
Lion Down: QB Matthew Stafford Ruled Out for Cowboys Game
The Detroit Lions will be without starting Quarterback Matthew Stafford this Sunday when they host the Dallas Cowboys. He has been officially ruled out due to fractures in his back; the second-straight game that Stafford will miss with the injury.
Fourth-year backup QB Jeff Driskel will get the start as he did last week against the Chicago Bears. The Lions lost that game 20-13, and Driskel went 1-4 as a starter last season when playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stafford's status was confirmed this morning by Lions' Head Coach Matt Patricia.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Cowboys
Losing Stafford could leave Detroit completely crippled on offense. While they have one of the league's top passing offenses so far in 2019, that was all Matt's work at QB. Now they are missing both their starting QB and their top running back, Kerryon Johnson, who went on injured reserve in Week 7.
That said, Detroit did put up 357 total offensive yards last week against the Bears with Driskel starting. Given the quality of Chicago's defense and that the Lions were playing on the road, that's a strong number.
It will be interesting to see how Dallas strategizes on defense after last week's loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys were completely run over by Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, so will increased focus on run defense creates opportunities for Driskel and the Lions' receivers?
However it shakes out, Matthew Stafford's absence definitely helps the Cowboys. He is still one of the top quarterbacks in football and had a top-five passer rating before the injury.
We never root for injuries but such is life in the NFL. Sometimes you get the benefit, sometimes you're on the losing end.
Hopefully, this turn of fate helps Dallas get a much-needed victory.
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