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Post-OTA’s Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster Projection

John Williams

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Jason Witten

Every year there are surprises during training camp and on cut down day. In 2018, most who follow and analyze the Cowboys were surprised by the release of long-time kicker Dan Bailey in favor of Brett Maher.

Even from one set of OTA's to another, things change. How we view the depth chart can change. Most players are locked into a role and the Cowboys front office probably already knows what 80-85% of the roster will look like. What the other 15% of the roster looks like will depend on a lot of factors; which positions they can afford to go light, which players are playing too well to release, which players they don't think will make it to the practice squad, players traded and players traded for. The roster churn is real and as the Dallas Cowboys go from 90 players to 53, they'll be adjusting along the way to create competition to make it easier for them to make decisions.

With as deep as this roster is, it's going to be difficult for undrafted free agents like Jaylon Guyton, Jon'vea Johnson, Chris Westry, and Daniel Wise to make the final 53-man roster. They could beat out a veteran, but it's an uphill battle for them.

This is how I think they'll construct the roster when they make their final cuts in preparation for week one of the regular season.

Quarterback (2)

Whether people want to admit it or not, Dak Prescott is entrenched as the franchise quarterback for the next decade. He's done more than enough to be viewed that way by the front office as they're about to back up a Brink's Truck to his front door. He's going to get paid handsomely and based on what we've seen from him in his first three seasons, he'll reward the Dallas Cowboys and the front office for paying him that money.

The quarterback competition that will take place in training camp will determine the backup quarterback spot behind starter Dak Prescott. In training camp last year, neither Cooper Rush nor Mike White did enough to stand out, but the gig went to Cooper Rush. I don't expect things to be much different this year. The team has felt very comfortable with Cooper Rush as the backup quarterback for two seasons now and I don't see that changing.

Mike White still has some practice squad eligibility, so if he's not on the 53-man roster, he's a prime candidate to spend 2019 on the practice squad unless he's claimed after final cutdowns.

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Dak Prescott #4 and Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys celebrate after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Running Back (3)

  • Ezekiel Elliott
  • Tony Pollard
  • Jamize Olawale

This may look a bit thin at running back, but with the three that you have here and a couple of wide receivers, you can afford to have only three backs on the 53-man roster.

Ezekiel Elliott is the best running back in the NFL. He's durable, consistent, and is continuing to grow as a runner and leader for the Dallas Cowboys. He'll get more than 350 touches again this year and will contend for the league's rushing title again. An improved offensive line with Travis Frederick returning will pave the way for Elliott to have his best season as a pro.

Though many have scoffed at the idea of using Tony Pollard as the team's backup running back, he's the perfect compliment to Ezekiel Elliott. He's a little more lightning to Elliott's thunder but has the size to be an every-down back as well. He's garnered comparisons to New Orleans Saints Running Back Alvin Kamara. Though it's unlikely Pollard will get the touches to put up Kamara type numbers, he'll have the opportunity to have a similar impact in the run, pass, and return game. He's capable of taking the ball for a big play every time he touches the ball. Being the first skill position player drafted under Kellen Moore's tenure as offensive coordinator, I believe they have a plan for Pollard in the offense.

Though Scott Linehan failed to unlock everything that Jamize Olawale could be for the Dallas Cowboys, he's a receiving threat that gives Moore another option in the passing game. Look for Olawale to see an uptick in his snap and target count from 2019.

Mike Weber could certainly make the roster out of camp, but because of the depth at OL, DL, and WR I think he gets squeezed in a numbers game. It’ll likely come down to him, Noah Brown, Xavier Su’a-Filo, and Donovan Wilson at the back end of the roster.

Wide Receiver (6)

  • Amari Cooper
  • Michael Gallup
  • Randall Cobb
  • Tavon Austin
  • Allen Hurns
  • Noah Brown

The top three wide receivers are locks to make the roster and will likely be the three guys that sit at the top of the reception and yardage totals for the Dallas Cowboys at the end of the 2019 season. Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb provide Dak Prescott with excellent options in the short to intermediate parts of the field. Michael Gallup showed in 2018 that he's very capable as a down the field threat.

If Dak Prescott is able to improve his deep passing efficiency, the Cowboys will have an offense that can contend for a Super Bowl. In the final day of OTA's, Dak was reportedly very sharp when throwing down the field.

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Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns provide valuable veteran depth to a roster that is ready to contend for a Super Bowl in 2019. Tavon Austin provides a dynamic ability for both the offense and the return game. Like Randall Cobb, Austin's ability to line up in the backfield and take handoffs allows you to go lighter at running back. Austin's a legit deep threat if he can stay healthy and will also give the team some snaps in the slot, where his quickness can take advantage of slower corners.

Per Jeff Cavanaugh of 105.3 The Fan in Dallas/Fort Worth, the team really likes Allen Hurns and his ability on the outside, which gives him a leg up on the fifth wide receiver spot. I think Hurns best spot is as a slot receiver, but knowing that he can do both, probably gives the Cowboys a lot more than one of the rookie undrafted free agents might.

Jeff Cavanaugh on Twitter

@john9williams @DaltonBMiller Coaches love Hurns and he's the primary backup as an outside guy

Noah Brown is the biggest wild card. His spot could be up for grabs if the Cowboys decide to keep a third quarterback or fourth running back. If they're able to go light at either of those positions, then Brown makes the team. He flashed some skill as both a blocker and receiver in 2018 in very limited opportunities. Brown has the ability to threaten the defense down the field and use strong route running to create separation. His work after the catch below was impressive. The Cowboys need to run more 10 personnel (four wide receivers, one running back, no tight ends) in 2019 with Brown as a big slot receiver.

Film Review: “Light End” Noah Brown Makes Big Impact 8

Tight End (3)

  • Jason Witten
  • Blake Jarwin
  • Dalton Schultz

Count me as an advocate for Blake Jarwin to see first-team reps for the Dallas Cowboys and be the starter come week one. Jason Witten's a future Hall of Famer and will be enshrined in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, but Jarwin adds a more dynamic element to the passing game right now.

Witten can still help you, but Jarwin's athleticism and speed down the seem is something you don't have on offense. Someone who can attack deep between the hash marks. This team will use all three tight ends, including Dalton Schultz, but I imagine the one tight end sets to be split between Witten and Jarwin. Witten and Jarwin will be the two tight ends when they go with 12 or 22 personnel groupings.

5 Dallas Cowboys Players Who Could Become Trade Assets

Oct 29, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle La'el Collins (71) blocks Washington Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line (9)

  • Tyron Smith, Left Tackle
  • Connor Williams, Left Guard
  • Travis Frederick, Center
  • Zack Martin, Right Guard
  • La'el Collins, Right Tackle
  • Cam Fleming, Swing Tackle
  • Connor McGovern, Guard/Center
  • Joe Looney, Center/Guard
  • Xavier Su'a-Filo, Guard

There may not be a position group as deep in the NFL as the Dallas Cowboys offensive line group. They have nine guys that could start games for them right now if you needed them to. Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins have been cemented on the offensive line for several years now and that won't change in 2019.

Travis Frederick is the most important offseason addition to the Dallas Cowboys. Joe Looney was good and played admirably in 2018, but he's no Travis Frederick. Frederick is an All-Pro and considered one of the best centers in the NFL. You don't simply replace that level of play and intelligence. Getting one of the leaders of the offense back will be huge for Dak Prescott and for Frederick's line neighbor Connor Williams.

Connor McGovern more than likely sits this season and assumes the left guard spot so that Connor Williams can move to right tackle when Collins leaves in free agency.

Cam Fleming remains the fill-in option at tackle were Tyron Smith or Collins to miss games due to injury. Xavier Su'a-Filo will round out the bottom of the roster and depending on roster composition could see him looking for work elsewhere. The team would prefer to keep him on the roster with the way injuries go in the NFL. He's started a lot of games in his career and is a valuable backup.

Defensive Line (11)

  • *DeMarcus Lawrence, Left Defensive End
  • Maliek Collins, 3-Technique Defensive Tackle
  • Antwaun Woods, 1-Technique Defensive Tackle
  • Robert Quinn, Right Defensive End
  • *Tyrone Crawford, DE/3-Tech
  • *Randy Gregory, RDE
  • Trysten Hill, 3-Tech
  • Kerry Hyder, DE/3-Tech
  • Christian Covington, 1-Tech/3-Tech
  • Taco Charlton, LDE
  • Dorance Armstrong, DE

While the offensive line is deep, the defensive line might be just as deep. The Dallas Cowboys have six players who've each had a six-sack season. DeMarcus Lawrence, Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Robert Quinn, Randy Gregory, and Kerry Hyder have all been successful pass rushers at some point in their careers. Throw in second-round pick Trysten Hill, who projects as a very dangerous pass rusher in his own right and the Cowboys literally have waves of players who can get after the passer.

For a variety of reasons DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Randy Gregory are players who may not be available week one of the season. DeMarcus Lawrence is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and his time table puts him close to the start of the regular season for a return. Crawford may face a suspension related to an incident at a Miami bar this offseason.

Still serving an indefinite suspension, Gregory seems like a wild card to be available to start the season. The league has revised its policy on substance abuse and mental health, which could allow Gregory to play in 2019. At the moment, I'm predicting that Gregory will play. Obviously, things could become more cemented on that front, but if the league is softening its stance on marijuana, then Gregory should be allowed to play this season.

Christian Covington is a vital depth piece on the interior of the defensive line and will help give starting 1-technique defensive tackle Antwaun Woods a breather. They'll be very important run stoppers for a team that struggled in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong are going to be battling for snaps at the back end of the defensive end depth chart. With DeMarcus Lawrence rehabbing his shoulder and Gregory not allowed to practice, this is an excellent opportunity for them. Unfortunately, Taco is also recovering from offseason surgery to his shoulder and foot. Armstrong is getting a leg up and it sounds like he's taking advantage of those extra snaps.

A dark horse to make the roster is Daniel Wise from the University of Kansas. The undrafted free agent was a priority signing for the Dallas Cowboys after the draft and he provides some interesting pass rush ability at the 3-technique that could push a player off the roster.

Snap Judgments: Cowboys' Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) falls after taking a hit from Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) during the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Linebacker (6)

  • Jaylon Smith, Middle Linebacker
  • Leighton Vander Esch, Weakside Linebacker
  • Sean Lee, Linebacker
  • Joe Thomas, MIKE/WILL
  • Justin March-Lillard, WILL
  • Chris Covington, Linebacker

Linebacker seems as set in stone as any position but offensive line. The top three guys, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esh, and Sean Lee all have roles in the starting base defense. Each figures to get snaps when the Cowboys go to their nickel defense. The three are all capable of making big plays for the Cowboys defense.

As we saw in 2018, however, the team would be making a mistake if they took Smith and Vander Esch off the field for significant stretches of a game to play Lee. Lee's still capable of making an impact, but the Smith and Vander Esch are faster and more athletic than Lee at this point in their respective careers.

Joe Thomas is the other name of note as he'll get a few snaps here and there on defense, but his primary role will be on special teams like Justin March-Lillard and Chris Covington.

Cornerback (5)

  • Byron Jones, Right Cornerback
  • Chidobe Awuzie, Left Cornerback
  • Anthony Brown, Slot Cornerback
  • Jourdan Lewis, Cornerback
  • Michael Jackson, Cornerback

There are only a couple of changes that could potentially happen from this group. One of those changes, though unlikely, is that the Dallas Cowboys find a suitable trade offer for Jourdan Lewis. Lewis is a good cornerback, but he's been overshadowed by Anthony Brown, who's played very well as the slot corner the last two seasons.

The only other thing that could possibly happen is Chris Westry beating out Michael Jackson for the fifth and final cornerback spot. Jackson is a better cover player right now, but with some coaching, Westry has the speed and athleticism to be a very good player for the Cowboys.

Safety (5)

  • Xavier Woods, Free Safety
  • George Iloka, Strong Safety (backup free safety)
  • Jeff Heath, Safety
  • Kavon Frazier, Safety
  • Donovan Wilson, Safety

The only question here is whether they'll actually keep five safeties and how they'll deploy them.

Xavier Woods is the unquestioned starter at free safety. The Cowboys declared their contentment with Woods by passing on Earl Thomas in free agency and Juan Thornhill in the second round of the NFL Draft.

In fact, it was Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard who pounded the table in favor of Xavier Woods, believing that he's an ascending player.

Jeff Heath and George Iloka will share snaps at the other safety spot while Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson battle for the leftovers. They'll handle special teams duties. It's unlikely that Wilson will find his way into the starting lineup with this coaching staff's history of favoring veterans over rookies.

Meet Brett Maher, the Cowboys Kicker Replacing Dan Bailey for 2018

Aug 30, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher (2) kicks a field goal during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams (3)

  • Brett Maher, Kicker
  • Chris Jones, Punter
  • L.P. Ladouceur, Long Snapper

Other than L.P. Ladouceur, there shouldn't be a ton of confidence in who will be the kicker and punter in 2019. Both Brett Maher and Chris Jones had okay years for the Cowboys but could have been better.

Jones, in particular, didn't kick as he had throughout his career and just looked off on a lot of punts this season. Hopefully, he can bounce back and have another strong year in what's been a stellar career.

Maher will get the chance to earn the kicking job again in training camp, and I think he'll keep it. He has a big leg and showed he's a capable kicker on a winning football team.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Well, there you have it. My 53-man roster projection for the 2019 season. Like every year, there will be surprises to the roster makeup. The Cowboys will keep more players at a position that wasn't anticipated and they'll release a player that comes as a shock to those who analyze the team.

What would you do differently? Let us know in the comment section. 



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Job Security Rankings: Defense

Jess Haynie

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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys start training camp in July, there will be various feelings of job security throughout the 90-man roster. Throughout the NFL, players know when they're already locked in to a role on the team or when they're fighting for survival.

Yesterday we broke down the current, pre-training camp job security of the offensive players. Today we turn our attention to the defense.

Remember, these tiers aren't just about making the 53-man roster. It also has to do with the players' roles within the roster. Are you a sure starter, fighting for playing time, or just hoping to avoid the practice squad?

Tier 1 - The Untouchables

DE DeMarcus Lawrence, LB Leighton Vander Esch, LB Jaylon Smith, CB Byron Jones

There is no debating these four players. Three of them are coming off Pro Bowl seasons and Jaylon Smith could've easily been right there with them. They are the new leaders of the defense and will be back in their featured roles in 2019.

None of these players will be challenged for their jobs. Even if Byron Jones doesn't get a long-term extension beyond this season, he will be back as the primary corner and playing for his free agency leverage next year.

These guys are easy. Let's move on.

Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

Dallas Cowboys S Xavier Woods

Tier 2 - Slightly Touchable

DE Robert Quinn, DT Antwaun Woods, S Xavier Woods

The Cowboys hope that adding veteran Robert Quinn to Lawrence at defensive end will give them their most dangerous pair of pass rusher since DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. The job is Quinn's to lose; only the decline of age can stop Robert from being a key player in the defense this year.

Maybe putting the Woods boys up here is a little optimistic, but it just seems like the arrow is very much pointed upwards on both Antwaun and Xavier at their positions. If they continue to build on last year, there's little reason to think they won't be starters this season.

Dallas has good reason to be invested in both of them. With Tyrone Crawford and Maliek Collins both likely playing their final seasons here, Antwaun Woods gives them a secured talent going forward. Ideally, Woods and Trysten Hill will be your starters in 2020.

The same goes for Xavier Woods at safety.  Jeff Heath has an expiring contract and George Iloka has just a one-year deal. The Cowboys want Xavier to become a fixture that they can add to going forward.

Assuming all of these players play up to current expectation, they aren't budging.

Leighton Vander Esch Can Prove Value for Good Against High Scoring Saints

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Tier 3 - On the Team, But Where?

DE Taco Charlton, DE Dorance Armstrong, DL Tyrone Crawford, DT Maliek Collins, DT Trysten Hill, LB Sean Lee, LB Joe Thomas, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Anthony Brown, CB Jourdan Lewis, S Jeff Heath, S George Iloka

Most of the Cowboys defensive roster will be filled out from among this group. They should all make the team, but in what capacity? And how much will it matter, particularly on the defensive line, with the rotations that Rod Marinelli uses?

It probably seems odd to have former stalwarts like Tyrone Crawford and Sean Lee listed here, but that's the new reality. I'm actually surprised both are still on the roster at this point, expecting at least one to be released for cap space this offseason. Both veterans will not be as featured as in the past, and I could even still see Crawford being released at final cuts.

Guys like Taco Charlton and Maliek Collins are also fighting for playing time against younger options on the defensive line. Will Dorance Armstrong and Trysten Hill push for snaps, and consequently push the older players into lesser roles?

How will things shake out in the secondary? Will Jourdan Lewis be able to find a larger role after being buried behind the top three corners last year? Will Anthony Brown or Chidobe Awuzie be the number-two CB?  And at safety, who emerges as the second starter between veterans Jeff Heath and George Iloka?

Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Fringe Players Fans Should Follow

Dallas Cowboys S Kavon Frazier (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Tier 4 - Bubble Players

DE Kerry Hyder, DE Joe Jackson, DT Christian Covington, DT Daniel Ross, LB Justin March-Lillard, LB Chris Covington, CB Michael Jackson, CB Donovan Olumba, S Kavon Frazier, S Darian Thompson, S Donovan Wilson

We've used up 19 of our 25-26 roster spots already. That means only 6-7 of these 11 players will make the team.

Dallas took a flier on Kerry Hyder as a rehab project, and the veteran DE is already impressing in the offseason practices. That could make it impossible for rookie Joe Jackson to make the team, getting crunched by the numbers.

Veteran Christian Covington feels like a solid pickup at DT, but what if he struggles to convert to the 4-3 scheme? A guy like Daniel Ross could be ready to steal the spot out from under him.

At cornerback, are rookie Michael Jackson and second-year prospect Donovan Olumba fighting for the same roster spot? What if Dallas doesn't even keep five corner, like they did last year, and leave both guys out in the cold?

The competition is really heating up at safety. Kavon Frazier's in the last year of his rookie deal and may not be able to fight off Darian Thompson, a former third-round pick, or rookie Donovan Wilson. Any one of these three could emerge.

None of these players listed here are guaranteed a roster spot. Even the newly drafted players will have to fight their way on, thanks to the strong talent acquisition the Cowboys have had in recent years.

Jalen Jelks

Dallas Cowboys DE Jalen Jelks

Tier 5 - Longshots

Considering the potential casualties from the Bubble Players, any of this last group making the roster is going to defy expectations. Even 7th-round pick Jalen Jelks will have a hard time making it, and may have to convert to linebacker to have a chance at competing.

Despite his intriguing 6'4" frame, CB Chris Westry will need to be truly exceptional to push past Michael Jackson or Donovan Olumba. Even if Dallas keeps six corners, he may be stuck as the seventh guy and headed for the practice squad.

It will inevitably happen that reports come from training camp of one of these guys, or some other longshot, making plays and creating a sudden surge of attention. You'll see them start popping up on 53-man roster projections while we anxiously await watching them in the preseason games.

Then maybe nothing will happen, and we'll forget about them all over again. Or maybe they do have some big games, but ultimately are among the final cuts despite all of the hype.

In the nearly two decades now that I've been really analyzing the Cowboys' offseasons, I can't remember a year where there seemed to be less opportunity for a dark horse to make the team. That's unfortunate them, but a great problem for Dallas' perceived roster strength.

We'll find out soon enough how it all unfolds.



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Michael Jackson Could Make Things Interesting at Nickel Corner

Matthew Lenix

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Michael Jackson Could Make Things Interesting at Nickel Corner

In a passing league, you can never have too many bodies in your secondary. By the fifth round of the NFL Draft in April, the Dallas Cowboys had addressed both their offensive and defensive lines, as well as the backup running back position. It was time to add more depth at cornerback and with the 158th pick Michael Jackson was selected.

Currently Anthony Brown has the inside track to be the lead dog at that Nickel Cornerback, but his play has dropped off before in the past. Jourdan Lewis is right behind him still trying to find his place in the team's defensive system. Jackson is in the perfect position to make his move up the depth chart, and here are a few reasons why.

First, he has all the measurables needed to succeed in the Cowboys defensive scheme. At 6'1 210 pounds, with a 40.5-inch vertical, 32.5-inch arms and 4.4 speed he's definitely an early Christmas present for Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli, and more specifically Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. Long and physical corners are what built the infamous "Legion of Boom" in Seattle under his watch.

His ability to be effective in press coverage is a huge tool in his bag. He does an excellent job jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. So much so, that quarterbacks only completed 5 out of 18 passes on go routes against Jackson last season at Miami. Good for a passer rating of 54.4 and a completion percentage of 27.7, with no touchdowns allowed.

Lastly, his versatility brings his skill set full circle. In addition to playing in the slot, he can also line up on the outside. This gives the Cowboys insurance if something catastrophic happens to the team's starters Byron Jones and Chido Awuzie. It doesn't stop there, however, as his stature gives him the added bonus of transferring to safety if need be. So many possibilities to work with.

The rookie hasn't wasted time impressing Kris Richard as the preparations for the upcoming season have kicked off.

"Very pleased with him. Intelligent. Picks up a lot of things quick. I think he's got corner and nickel combo ability for us. Obviously, the more you can do, the more value you present for yourself," Richard said.

As training camp approaches, Michael Jackson has his opportunity to compete. Every snap must be played like it's his last if he wants to be a big contributor in 2019. There's no lack of skill, only experience, and reps, which he'll get plenty of in late July until the season starts. The stage is set for him to possibly add his name next to starting Free Safety Xavier Woods as another late round steal for the Cowboys secondary.



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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Job Security Rankings: Offense

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

When the Dallas Cowboys start training camp in July, there will be various feelings of job security throughout the 90-man roster. Throughout the NFL, players know when they're already locked in to a role on the team or when they're fighting for survival.

Today, we're going to look at how secure the Cowboys' players should feel in 2019. This not only applies to if they make the final roster, but also their position as a starter, roleplayer, or developmental prospect.

We'll start with the offense.

Tier 1 - The Untouchables

QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, FB Jamize Olawale, WR Amari Cooper, OT Tyron Smith, G Connor Williams, C Travis Frederick, G Zack Martin, OT La'el Collins, OT Cam Fleming

There are no foreseeable issues that could change where these 10 players fit into the 2019 offense. Barring injury or some surprise trade, such as Dallas moving La'el Collins, we know exactly where these guys will fall if they're here and healthy.

Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper are no-brainers, as are your five starting offensive linemen. I also included Fleming as he was clearly brought back to be the swing tackle this season. That could all change in 2020, but for this year at least his role is certain.

You may be surprised to see any fullback in this top tier, but the Cowboys gave Olawale a three-year contract to return this offseason. They made $2.8 million of it guaranteed; you just don't do that if you have any doubts about keeping him on the 53. There's no question that Jamize will be part of the team in 2019.

Some might argue that Connor Williams' starting spot isn't guaranteed, but I just don't see it. They lived the rookie growing pains last year and are hoping for much more going forward. A mid-season switch could occur if he struggles, but Williams will be the Week One starter at left guard.

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

Tier 2 - Slightly Touchable

WR Michael Gallup, WR Randall Cobb, G/C Joe Looney

I almost put Gallup in the first tier but "sophomore slumps" are a real thing. Until we see him building on last year as hoped, there is room for something to go awry.

That also brings Cobb's role into question. Any slippage in Gallup's game could lead to increased opportunities for the veteran. Really, even if both guys are bringing it in 2019, how exactly the targets and usage get split between them isn't entirely certain. If Cobb is back to his peak form in Green Bay, he will be hard to take off the field.

I also put Joe Looney in this second tier because I think he could be trade bait. If a team is hurting at center before Week One, is there a more attractive trade target in the NFL?

Dallas could afford to trade Looney if they feel good enough about Connor McGovern as a backup center. Adam Redmond could also be in the mix, serving as the backup last year when Looney was starting.

It's very unlikely that Dallas would give up one of the best backup offensive lineman in football. But if a team is desperate enough to dangle a third-round pick in front of them, the Cowboys might have an offer they can't refuse.

Blake Jarwin

Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin (Kevin Terrell via AP)

Tier 3 - On the Team, But Where?

RB Tony Pollard, TE Jason Witten, TE Blake Jarwin, TE Dalton Schultz, OL Connor McGovern

This tier is dominated by the mysterious tight end position.  How much playing time will Jason Witten really get? How have Jarwin and Schultz developed and how will it all shake out?

Witten should be the ceremonial starter, but what really matters are total snaps and targets. Even if Jason is the first man out on game days, Jarwin could still wind up being the most-used TE of the group. It all remains to be seen.

We are also expecting a lot from rookie RB Tony Pollard this year, but we don't know yet how much responsibility he'll be given. Will he be the true backup RB or more of a gadget player? Will he take the KR and PR jobs aways from Jourdan Lewis and Tavon Austin? Lots to still be determined here.

Another rookie with question marks is third-round pick Connor McGovern. Will he be given a significant job right away or be carried, perhaps with several game day inactives, for development towards 2020? It's doubtful that he could push Joe Looney out of a job, but will he show enough that Dallas is willing to part with Xavier Su'a-Filo?

Mike White

Dallas Cowboys QB Mike White

Tier 4 - Bubble Players

QB Cooper Rush, QB Mike White, RB Mike Weber, RB Darius Jackson, WR Tavon Austin, WR Allen Hurns, WR Noah Brown, WR Cedrick Wilson, TE Rico Gathers, G Xavier Su'a-Filo, OT Mitch Hyatt

In the top three tiers we've named 18 players who are locks to make the 53-man roster. You generally have 24-25 player on each side of the ball, so that means only 6-7 roster spots left on offense. That means some of the guys named here won't make the team.

Will Cooper Rush and Mike White both have jobs? If Rush remains the backup QB, Dallas will probably hang on to White for another year. But if White beats Rush, the Cowboys could easily let Cooper go to save a roster spot for another position.

Assuming Dallas doesn't add any veteran RBs between now and camp, it seems Darius Jackson and Mike Weber are competing for the same job. There's also a chance that neither makes it; the Cowboys could use Jamize Olawale as the emergency third back. They may be happy to stash with Jackson or Weber on the practice squad.

Things get really interesting at receiver once you get past the top three. Do veterans Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin's experience edge lift them above guys like Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson? Or will Dallas choose the upside of youth and their cheaper contracts? The bottom half of the WR depth chart appears entirely open right now.

The Rico Gathers Experiment seems close to ending, but he's still here and has a chance to change perceptions. The one-game suspension won't matter if the Cowboys like what he has to offer the rest of the season. But keeping a fourth TE could be tough with the numbers at other spots, and Gathers is unlikely to leap above Jarwin or Schultz.

Numbers are also an issue for the offensive linemen. We know the top eight; five starters, Fleming, Looney, and McGovern. If the Cowboys keep nine guys, they may go with Mitch Hyatt as an additional tackle rather than bring Xavier Su'a-Filo back. They already have the interior line covered.

Codey McElroy

Dallas Cowboys TE Codey McElroy

Tier 5 - Longshots

We'll all have our "pet cats" and favorite underdogs over the next two months, but they will all be hard-pressed to make the roster given the current depth.

Maybe a guy like RB Jordan Chunn shocks us by beating out Weber and Jackson, or perhaps a dark horse WR like Jalen Guyton or Jon'Vea Johnson forces his way into the conversation. Crazier things have happened.

But this 2019 Cowboys roster is about as stacked and predictable as it's been in a long time. Strong drafting has give us a lot of young talent with years left on their rookie deals, and those guys are hard to budge.

The key for these players is to be too good to risk losing on the practice squad. Convince Dallas to make room for them, perhaps by keeping just two quarterbacks or going short somewhere else.

Because only 46 guys are active on game days, roster spots 47-53 can be dedicated to securing players and development. These young prospects want to force their way into those spots, and likely cost a veteran like Cooper Rush or Allen Hurns a job in the process.

~ ~ ~

Where players fall in these tiers could change once we start getting some reports form training camp. How expendable you are can shift depending on performance, or if the circumstances change at your position.

We'll hit the defense tomorrow.



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