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.
Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett?
Training camp is always an exciting time for the Dallas Cowboys, with 2018's proceedings being no exception. A major difference this year is the hype carrying over to the Cowboys coaching staff, featuring newcomers at the positional level everywhere but running back, safety, and defensive tackle.
Experienced coaches like Kris Richard, Paul Alexander, and Sanjay Lal will have a big impact on the Cowboys development as a 9-7 team that's only gotten younger this offseason. Still likely in need of a playoff appearance to save the job of Head Coach Jason Garrett and his coordinators, one can't help but question Garrett's effectiveness with this year's team.
The Cowboys appearance on NFL Films' latest All or Nothing series offered Cowboys Nation a rare look inside this team's day-to-day activities, including Garrett's role as a motivator and leader to many coaches no longer with the team.
Garrett's walk through a proverbial hall of mirrors at The Star reflects much deeper though. Ultimately, it's the players that decide games on Sundays, and the Cowboys didn't have enough of their blue chip ones on the field together for 2017. Whether or not this changes in 2018, the Cowboys can do little to shake the truth that conditions must be perfect for Garrett to captain this team to success.
If having a future Hall of Fame tight end like Jason Witten around wasn't enough for Garrett, going all in on this team in their first year without not only Witten but Dez Bryant feels foolish.
This underdog status and youthful nature may very well bring the Cowboys back to their 2016 form. I've already mentioned mirrors however, and how about the smoke? Garrett's best year out of eight full seasons, that 13-3 campaign was surely not all 'smoke and mirrors', but it is now far enough in the past to expect improvement from the Cowboys head coach.
Garrett must overcome massive changes on the offense he once coordinated to see third-year Quarterback Dak Prescott put this team back in the playoff picture, or the Cowboys will only continue to change face even more dramatically for 2019.
Long gone are the innocent days of Garrett playing catch under the California sun with a rookie Prescott, who had no idea the impact he'd make on the entirety of this franchise so quickly. Now, the Cowboys may have to quickly separate this duo if looking to preserve a window of contention under Dak's rookie contract.
It truly will be fascinating to see the new points of emphasis this revamped Cowboys coaching staff brings to the team not only on the field in Oxnard but through their team meetings and into the regular season. As Garrett allows the likes of Richard and Lal to oversee important changes at CB/S and WR respectively, his overarching message of character, competition, and respect will still echo throughout the team.
Whether or not the slew of new players Garrett has to coach can inspire him to implement this message effectively, or if his days are numbered given the slack the Cowboys have already provided, is the most important story line for the Cowboys in 2018.
By most team's standards, a 9-7 season given the circumstances around the Cowboys a year ago is acceptable -- which it ultimately was for Dallas as they kept Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli.
This team's shortcomings through a disappointing season was enough for the Cowboys to begin reevaluating the coaches below this trio though, leaving only their ninth year head coach to fall victim to the level of turnover NFL teams are experiencing on the fly right now.
The Cowboys roster has received this message loud and clear. Will Garrett's carry the same impetus, and will it truly matter for the 2018 season?
Is WR Cedrick Wilson the Player With Most to Gain in Training Camp?
Within the Dallas Cowboys' uncertain wide receiver core, is sixth-round pick Cedrick Wilson. Considered a draft steal by many, Wilson's name is often lost in the mix among Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley and third round rookie Michael Gallup. Just days away from the start of the 2018 training camp, Cedrick Wilson might be the player with the most to gain on the team.
Wilson comes from the Boise State Broncos, where he set the school record for receiving yards in a season with 1,511 last year. As a sixth-round rookie, the young 22-year old receiver has an uphill battle ahead of him to earn a spot on the Cowboys' 53-man roster.
It shouldn't come as a surprise if he emerges victorious in this battle, though.
You see, the lack of a #1 receiver has been one of the main story lines for the Cowboys and for good reason. Heading into the preseason, there is no clear-cut "#1." But even though there isn't a big name such as Dez Bryant, I'm sure we'll feel way better about the wide receivers once the season starts and the offense manages to sustain a good passing attack led by Dak Prescott.
Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup seem like the two front-runners for being the "X" receivers on offense, the position in which Wilson lined up at Boise State during his last year in college football. It's tough to imagine a sixth round rookie being the starting "X" receiver in his rookie season, but that doesn't mean he can't earn an important role at some point of the year.
In 2017, the offense struggled due to the receivers failing to create separation downfield. Wilson, although a raw route-runner, was a very dangerous vertical threat in Boise State and could be just that for the Cowboys down the road.
He needs to improve as a player, but with Sanjay Lal focusing hard at route-running with his receivers, Cedrick could become an important target for Dak earlier than expected.
In order to do so, the young wide receiver will have to find success in training camp. Wide receiver will undoubtedly be one of the most intriguing position battles on the team, with many young yet unproven talent.
There's too many receivers that will be fighting for a roster spot over the following weeks, so Cowboys Nation is bound to be disappointed with so many so-called "pet cats." One or two of these guys will be released and I bet it'll hurt, just as it happens every year.
In all seriousness, though, with his ability to stretch the field and be a vertical threat plus his experience as an "X" receiver, Cedrick Wilson might not only make the roster, but become a significant piece for this new-look offense in Dallas during his rookie season.
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
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