As we move through the preseason, DCN staff will present to you their takes on the coming finalization of the Cowboys’ 53 man roster. Today we have Jonathan Day’s projections. Previous staff projections from preseason week one: Mike Harlos.
Tony is the clear no-brainer here. I am hoping the back-up position is an open battle. Weeden very well wins by merit of NFL starting QB experience, but I would love to see the young UDFA Dustin Vaughan supplant him from this spot and prove that he could be looked upon as Romo’s eventual replacement, who is the better long-term solution – Weeden – 31 and Vaughan – 23. Furthermore, given what I saw of Vaughan in his first NFL experience in preseason game 1, I honestly believe he could be worthy of keeping around to develop – he showed elusiveness in the pocket, command of the offense, and threw the ball at all levels with accuracy and zip. He also has the prototypical size at 6-5 233 lbs. At West Texas A&M, a division II school, he threw for 5,401 yards and 53 touchdowns in 2013, setting school records.
This will be one of the battles to watch throughout preseason. I don’t see them keeping more than 6 and the only spot that I believe is truly up for grabs is that 6th spot. Devin Street likely is kept by merit of the fact that he was drafted, but I wouldn’t exactly say his name is written in ink, either. He has to prove he can contribute on special teams and that could prove to be a hindrance.
Transversely, at tight end, I really don’t see there being much of a battle here. This, of course, is largely dependent on whether or not they keep a fullback. I lean towards them keeping at the very least one fullback, which makes the three TEs the Cowboys keep a pretty easy decision, compared to the rest of the battles occurring team-wide.
Perhaps not as difficult of a decision as the WR quandary, but nevertheless, I have a tough time deciding both who and how many as far as running backs. My belief is that should DeMarco Murray get injured, which given the fact he has failed to play a full 16 games thus far in his career due to injuries is a real possibility, the plan is to slide either Joseph Randle or Ryan Williams into the starting role and allow Lance Dunbar to continue to be a relief / change of pace back. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of Randle, but so far, with his experience in the system, he has the inside track. Ben Malena, at this point, is likely viewed as practice squad material, regardless of who and how many are kept.
For now, Clutts has the inside track on J.C. Copeland. Clutts has more experience and has a better chance of being a significant contributor on special teams. But Clutts’ name is by no means written in ink and that final cut will likely be delayed until after the final preseason game.
Smith and Free are solid, but we haven’t had any opportunity to see what the younger guys vying for a spot can do, so for now, I’ll stick with the players who at least know the system.
With the lone exception of the first round pick, once again, experience wins out …for now.
Locked. Inked. Clutch. If you want to move him from that spot, bring a wrecking ball…and just in case, bring a spare too!
Similar to wide receiver, a major battle will occur across the line, which should make the preseason all the more interesting to watch. Every spot, except for that of Selvie, Lawrence, Crawford and Spencer, is up for grabs. The aforementioned would really have to underperform in an extremely noticeable way to not make the final 53, but as far as who will be starting, that’s still anybody’s guess. Considering the Cowboys are planning to send guys in waves, it makes sense to go heavier than conventional wisdom on the defensive line; otherwise, one player sustaining an injury could hamstring the wave (pun intended). Kenneth Boatright, for now, is on the outside looking in. But he could take Gardner’s or Mincey’s position on the final 53 if he is able to show up in a significant way during preseason.
Because of Crawford’s flexibility to slide inside, I initially considered only keeping three DTs. But again, if he or anyone else is injured, Marinelli will likely have to dig into free agency – like last year’s debacle – to duct-tape the line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the defense go deep across the board up front. Nick Hayden is the wildcard; I would like both Coleman and/or Bishop to prove to be an improvement over Hayden, but he could make the final 53 due to having experience in this system.
Many have probably picked Will Smith by merit of being drafted, but Orie Lemon is someone I know can contribute on special teams and, according to reports, he spent the offseason working out with Dez Bryant. Nevertheless, this is yet another one of those decisions that will be left for after the last preseason game.
Four corners may seem light, but I don’t see Moore, Patmon, Webb, or Phillips proving to be more significant contributors than the players kept for the sake of going deep in the front seven. If the Cowboys keep five, likely at the expense of the defensive line, Webb may win. Once again because of his experience in the scheme as well as the fact that he was drafted in the 5th round in 2013.
J. J. Wilcox
A common theme on defense, more so than any year in recent memory, is that pretty much every starting position, with few exceptions, are up for grabs. Church is written in ink; the rest will have to kick, claw, scratch and bite to start and/or make the final 53. Again, Preseason is going to be very interesting. I would not be surprised to see the Cowboys keep more than four safeties given the injury issues that have attacked this position over the last two years. But if they do so, it will be at the expense of the defensive line, which is already one injury away from Marinelli having to dig through the free agent scrap heap. For me, I would rather see the Cowboys take their chances at safety than the defensive line.
Out of all three, clearly Dan Bailey has the most job security. Every year the Cowboys try to find a less expensive option at long snapper, but Ladouceur is so money at what he does, replacing him won’t be easy. The Cowboys’ punter position on the other hand, is as open of a competition as that 6th WR spot; Chris Jones is by no means a lock.