Teams around the NFL had to cut 37 players following the conclusion of the fourth and final preseason game in order to get into the league mandated 53-man limit. There'll be a lot of talk about how "final" rosters look ahead of the 2019 season, but we all know there is no such thing as a final roster. Each and every team will continue to make moves in the coming weeks and throughout the year to their rosters, and the Dallas Cowboys are no exception.
Don't be the least bit surprised if the way the roster looks right now isn't the way it looks in Week 1 against the New York Giants. For instance, Running Back Ezekiel Elliott isn't currently on the roster right now, meaning if he returns before the Giants game a move will have to be made. This is true for nearly every position for the Dallas Cowboys.
With all of that in mind, I thought I would go position by position and provide a little breakdown of what I think the Dallas Cowboys brass could be thinking.
Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
It's no surprise the Dallas Cowboys just went with two QBs on their 53-man roster. The QB2 battle between Cooper Rush and Mike White never materialized, making No. 7 Prescott's backup for now in 2019. The Cowboys could be on the lookout for a more proven veteran, maybe Brian Hoyer, but they good just as likely stick with status quo.
Running Back (3)
Tony Pollard, Alfred Morris, Jamize Olawale
Carrying just two traditional running backs on the 53-man roster would suggest that a contract agreement between Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys is close to happening. But when/if it does Dallas will need to cut someone in order to add Zeke to the roster. That could mean Alfred Morris' spot is in jeopardy. He is not likely to see many touches behind Pollard and No. 21 and he doesn't play special teams. That's not exactly what Dallas looks for in a RB3.
Wide Receiver (5)
Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith
There were questions about how many WRs the Dallas Cowboys would choose to carry on the 53-man roster, five or six, but you can't really argue with who they chose to keep. The top four in the Cooper, Gallup, Cobb, and Austin were pretty obvious, but deciding who to keep between Devin Smith and Cedrick Wilson was a tossup. It couldn't have been an easy decision, but Smith edged out Wilson, who was released. Luckily, No. 16 cleared waivers and was brought back to the practice squad.
Tight End (3)
Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
No real surprises here. The only real question about the position is the health of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz for the season opener against the Giants. Both players are banged up right now, but should be able to contribute behind future Hall of Famer Jason Witten when things kick off Week 1 in the regular season.
Offensive Line (11)
The Dallas Cowboys surprisingly went really heavy on the offensive line, but don't expect that to last very long. Rookie Connor McGovern looks to be headed to injured Reserrve (IR) after his latest setback with his pictorial injury and one of the three between Looney, Su'a-Filo, and Redmond could get traded. The biggest surprise though was the decision to keep Brandon Knight. They must not have thought they could slip him through waivers.
Defensive Line (10)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, Kerry Hyder, Joe Jackson, Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, Christian Covington
Having to release talented rookies like Daniel Wise and Jalen Jelks is a testament to the talent and depth the Dallas Cowboys had along their defensive line this offseason. Wise luckily cleared waivers and was brought back to the practice squad, but it was risk to release him to begin with. The rest of the players they decided to keep along the DL isn't all that surprising. It's a talented group and that's without Robert Quinn or Randy Gregory, meaning another roster move will need to be made eventually.
Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Joe Thomas, Justin March, Luke Gifford
The Dallas Cowboys top four (Smith, LVE, Lee, and Thomas) were all no-brainers and provide tremendous depth for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2019 season. Justin March stuck around due to his veteran experience and special teams ability and Luke Gifford edged out fellow undrafted free agent Justin Phillips and second-year LB Chris Covington to stick to the roster. The latter, Covington, was brought back on the practice squad.
Byron Jones, Chibode Awuzie, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, C.J. Goodwin
The only real surprise about the quarterback position is the fact the Dallas Cowboys chose to part ways with Mike Jackson and Donovan Olumba to keep C.J. Goodwin instead. Jackson and Olumba both have more upside as CBs, but Goodwin should end up being the Cowboys special teams ace in 2019. Jackson and Olumba have both cleared waivers and have been added back on the practice squad.
Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, Donovan Wilson, Kavon Frazier, Darian Thompson
Deciding to go deep at the safety position could be the biggest surprise about the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster after making cuts. If Donovan Wilson and Darian Thompson weren't banged up I kind of doubt Frazier would've made the cut, but since both could miss a game or two with their injuries he sticks around for now. Don't be surprised if we see this position see some changes though. Dallas could be watching the waiver wire very closely for a potential upgrade.
Special Teams (3)
Brett Maher, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
Honestly, there are no real surprises here whatsoever. There was some speculation Kasey Redfern could stick around at the expense of Chris Jones due to his versatility to handle the punting responsibilities as well as being an emergency placekicker, but that was clearly just hearsay. The Cowboys however could have their eyes on potential kicking replacements. Maher could be on a short lease, even though he's been kicking better as of late.
What did you think of the Dallas Cowboys "final" 53-man roster?
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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