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Pre-NFL Draft 53-Man Roster: Where are the Holes?

John Williams

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A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can't Be Taken For Granted 1
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is coming and there is still a lot of work the Dallas Cowboys need to do to fill out the roster ahead of the 2018 NFL season. Yes, I know it's a bit early, but I want to take a look at the 53-man roster and figure out where the holes on the depth chart are, which might give us an indication of where the Cowboys may go in the draft.

The Cowboys Perfectly Handled the Need for a WR

Dallas Cowboys WR Allen Hurns (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Offense (23)

Quarterback (2)

✭ Dak Prescott
✭ Cooper Rush

This should not be a surprise. The Dallas Cowboys felt confident enough in this tandem to release and move Kellen Moore to the practice squad last season. Dak Prescott is the QB1 on this team, of that there is no doubt. What is pretty impressive is the growth Cooper Rush has accomplished in such a short time. From a UDFA to QB3 to the primary backup in less than a year.

You don't hear a lot of rumblings about the Cowboys adding another quarterback. They didn't do it in free agency and you haven't heard much about drafting one during the process.

Now, they still have time before training camp to add a veteran name, if they want to, but it seems more likely they will add another UDFA or two from this year's rookie crop as camp arms and to compete with Rush.

Running Back (3)

✭ Ezekiel Elliott
✭ Rod Smith
✭ Jamize Olawale (FB)

There is room here for the Dallas Cowboys to draft a runner in the middle to late rounds, or to pick up a veteran or UDFA after the draft. They won't go into the season with just these three, and a name that I like in the middle rounds is Nyheim Hines out of NC State.

He's a smaller, quicker back who can catch the ball and serve as a "change of pace" option to Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith. Hines ran for more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final season with the Wolfpack.

Wide Receiver (6)

✭ Allen Hurns
✭ Cole Beasley
✭ Terrance Williams
✭ Ryan Switzer
✭ Deonte Thompson
✭ Noah Brown

I really didn't think there was any way the Cowboys would release Dez Bryant. There's been a lot said on that, and I don't care to get too deep into it here, but Dallas could use a youthful addition to the WR depth chart. Wide receiver now becomes a priority for the Dallas Cowboys in the top 100 of the NFL draft.

Terrance Williams' contract and current injury situation doesn't allow for much movement there. Cole Beasley would have the easiest contract to move on from, but he is a Dak-friendly receiver, so I doubt they'd move on from him.

While these are the six guys they have right now, they'll add a top-100 pick and one or two of these guys will be off the roster -- and perhaps on the practice squad -- come week one.

Tight End (4)

✭ Jason Witten
✭ James Hanna
✭ Geoff Swaim
✭ Rico Gathers

To me, this is the make or break season for Rico Gathers. If he can't earn a roster spot in 2018, it's time to move on.

James Hanna is still a candidate to be cut if the team needs to free up some cap space. The team likes him for his blocking prowess, but they also like Swaim as well.

Blake Jarwin is a dark-horse candidate to compete for a roster spot, but if he wins one, it likely means Hanna is gone and that Gathers didn't make the roster again.

I'd really like to see them take a Dallas Goedert or Mark Andrews if they're available in the third round, but I get that with the current group of tight ends, they may feel they can be a bit more patient in finding the heir to Jason Witten's throne.

Offensive Line (8)

✭ Tyron Smith
✭ Travis Frederick
✭ Zack Martin
✭ La'el Collins
✭ Cameron Fleming
✭ Joe Looney
✭ Chaz Green
✭ Marcus Martin

The biggest question mark on the offense is at left guard on the offensive line. I would really like to see La'el Collins get another year at tackle to see if that could be his spot long-term before moving him back to guard again.

The Cowboys will tip their hand a bit during the draft as far as what they're going to do with La'el Collins. If they draft a guard in the first couple of rounds, then we know Collins is staying at tackle. If they don't, then it might mean a move for Collins back to guard.

Cameron Fleming was a really nice signing. He started the last five games of the season for the New England Patriots and their three playoff games. That definitely counts for something. If the team feels like he could be the full-time right tackle then we might see them move Collins back to guard this season. If they keep Collins at tackle, then Fleming provides a much better tackle insurance policy than Chaz Green.

Marcus Martin and Kadeem Edwards, while nice depth with potential, shouldn't be counted on as anything more than that.

The only name I'm not sure about being on the roster is Chaz Green. He needs a good camp to keep his job.

Oh the intrigue!!!

Cowboys en Español: El Futuro de David Irving y DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Defense (17)

Defensive Line (5)

✭ DeMarcus Lawrence
✭ David Irving
✭ Maliek Collins
✭ Tyrone Crawford
✭ Taco Charlton

There are other guys currently on the roster who could make the team out of training camp, but the only guys I'm sure of are these five.

Richard Ash, Kony Ealy, Datone Jones, and a few others will be competing for roster spots, but they aren't names that'll prevent the Dallas Cowboys front office from investing draft picks to upgrade the position.

As we know by now, 1T defensive tackle is a huge need for this team. They struggled against the run for much of the season and, while Maliek Collins was serviceable, he was playing out of position for much of the year.

Vita Vea is the hot commodity, but this team hasn't placed a premium on a 1T in as long as I can remember. He would plug in immediately on early downs for the Dallas D. If they didn't spend a first on him, there are options deeper in the draft to make a move.

I don't see them going after a top-100 3T because they already have three of those on the roster in David Irving, Collins, and Tyrone Crawford. Anything is possible, but I don't see them investing a premium pick where they already have three guys who could take meaningful snaps at the position.

Defensive end is still a place where they could upgrade their weakside rusher. At the moment, all their ends are what I like to call "long and strong" guys. Taco Charlton, while still developing, hasn't shown the burst and bend that is needed to be a formidable EDGE rusher. Tyrone Crawford is solid in his role, but could also be a cap casualty at the end of training camp.

Linebacker (4)

✭ Sean Lee
✭ Jaylon Smith
✭ Damien Wilson
✭ Joe Thomas

There are a couple of guys on the 90-man roster who could break camp with the team, but if I were Will McClay and the front office, I wouldn't feel great about my primary backups being Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard, or Tre'Von Johnson.

Thomas would be fine for a spell but not someone who should be counted on long-term.

The Dallas Cowboys need to attack this position with a couple picks and preferably in the first four rounds. They need guys who could step into a rotational role right away. Barring an unforeseen drop by Roquan Smith to pick 19, they should be targeting guys in rounds two through four.

NaVorro Bowman is still unsigned and would be an excellent addition to this linebacker group. If they haven't made inquiries yet, they should look into it after the draft. He would be solid insurance at MIKE linebacker if Jaylon Smith still isn't ready to play.

Cornerback (5)

✭ Byron Jones
✭ Chidobe Awuzie
✭ Jourdan Lewis
✭ Anthony Brown
✭ Marquez White

Dallas could certainly make a late-round selection to add some competition for Marquez White and Duke Thomas -- who could push for a roster spot -- but the top four guys are set and they aren't adding a top-100 cornerback.

This group, along with the safeties, is the unit I'm most excited to see in training camp with the addition of former Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Back Guru, Kris Richard.

He gets the best out of his DBs and was instrumental in the rise of the Seattle Seahawks defense.

Safety (3)

✭ Jeff Heath
✭ Kavon Frazier
✭ Xavier Woods

If there's a place I could see them spending a top-100 pick for the secondary, it's at safety.

The talent here is solid, but aside from Heath, we still don't know what we have in Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier. Even if they don't go safety early on, they'll probably draft one at some point.

I really like Xavier Woods' promise as the ball-hawking free safety we've been looking for since Monte Kiffin installed the Tampa-2 scheme. The fact remains, though, that Woods is a second year player from small-school Louisiana Tech and still has some growing to do. He and Heath should rotate the FS snaps during the preseason and season.

Kavon Frazier really came on strong at the end of the season and provided an edge to the secondary that had been missing. He was a physical tackler and supported against the run very well. He will likely get a chance to earn the "box safety" role on early downs with Woods spelling him on passing downs.

Cowboys Headlines - Martin's 5: K Dan Bailey Might Be Cause For Conservative Cowboys Coaching

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Special Teams (3)

✭ Dan Bailey
✭ Chris Jones
✭ L.P. Ladouceur

Same story, different year. Other than bringing in a camp leg to spell Dan Bailey during the preseason, the special teams specialists remain the same, and that's a good thing.

The kicking operation with L.P. Ladouceur snapping, Chris Jones holding, and Bailey kicking keeps a great and solid operation together for another year.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

By my count, that's 43 roster spots accounted for, though a lot could change, and with the draft looming a lot of the names I listed could be pushed off the roster.

From my depth chart analysis, I'd argue the most pressing needs on the team right now are wide receiver, left guard, linebacker, 1T defensive tackle, safety and EDGE rusher. If they came away with players at each of these positions, then I will call it a successful draft, even if they don't draft my guys.

Where do you think they need to make additions to the roster?



Dallas Cowboys optimist brining 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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7 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    Im found this quote “The talent here is solid, but aside from Heath, we still don’t know what we have in Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier” a little head scratching. What is it about Jeff Heath that makes Cowboys fans so sure about him??? Xavier Woods should of started from day 1, he’s the most solid safety they have by far. If Jeff Heath was released today, does he start on any other NFL franchise besides the Cowboys, I know the real answer but do y’all know?????

    • John Williams

      You know what you’re getting from Heath. He’s a player that can make some plays for you. He’s not great, but he’s a solid player here.

      I love Xavier Woods, have for more than a year now. I hope they give him a shot. If the rumors about Earl Thomas are true, he may not get a chance to be the free safety this team needs.

      I like Kavon as well, but he still has to prove he isn’t just an early down safety for them.

  • Chuck Wright

    Another good write up, I would argue for adding TE as a pressing need. Whitten is the only NFL quality starting TE on the roster today and this is likely his last season. And if I’m Dallas, I’m targeting 2 LBs this year.

    Solid point about a 1 Tech and Dallas not valuing the position, especially in round 1 (which likely knocks out VV and Payne from Bama). Good news, there are 1 Tech’s available through round 4 or 5. Derrick Nnadi or Tim Settle in Round 2, Phillips (Stanford) 2-3, BJ Hill/Fatukasi/Poona Ford/Shepard rounds 3-4 and PJ Hill or Kendrick Norton rounds 4-5

    Bowman would be an excellent addition but rumors fly he’ll retire before he leaves the West Coast. Hope not, a great fit.

    • EverybodyTalks

      Chuck,
      Hard to see your picture.
      If that is Gunny, may he rest in peace?

    • John Williams

      I would love to add a TE. As a Sooner fan, seeing 6-5 265 Mark Andrews with a Star on his helmet and running seem routes for Dak would be tremendous. Not sure if they’d do it, but I’d set my young QB up with as much talent as possible.

  • EverybodyTalks

    Really liked this article.
    It is a great look at our personnel. You have 43 total players listed in your article. Let’s see, 10 picks in the draft equals 53. If it were only that easy.
    Agree with Chuck Wright on getting 2 LBs – One early, one in later round. We also need a Free Safety. There aren’t many, especially that can be starters. Two, who might fill FS are Rashaan Gaulden and Shaquem Griffin. Griffin has great speed and can also play LB. Gaulden is classified as a CB/S. There are some great choices for DT and we need a good one. I’m not sure how Dallas will go with WR. We have 6. Can they be coached up by Sanjay Lal on route-running and getting separation?
    With a Run-1st Offense, I would like us get a Guard, that can start and grab another RB in the middle rounds. You mentioned Hines and he would be a great pick-up.
    There is the crux of the matter. Do we need a “Z” type WR, if we are a Run-1st Offense?..or…can we use the WRs that we have and get Zeke more involved in the passing game?
    Adding it up – G – 2LBs – DT – FS – RB – that’s 6 picks and use the rest to move up in the middle rounds or get future rounds.

    • John Williams

      Thatnks a lot. I think we can get to LB’s between the 3rd and fourth rounds who could come in and contribute on a rotational basis right away.

Game Notes

CIN 21, DAL 14: Dak Prescott Continues Strong Preseason in Loss

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Bengals

The games may not count yet, but Dak Prescott looks ready for the 2018 season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback continued his strong preseason play in the team's 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Prescott played three series, going 10/15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He got the offense out of trouble a few times with his feet, avoiding sacks and ultimately getting the scoring pass off on a redzone scramble.

Dak's strong play has coincided with shutdown performances from the starting defense. The Cowboys' first-team defenders have yet to allow a score in two preseason games. Tonight, the Bengals were forced into four punts and two turnovers on their first-half possessions.

Overall, the Cowboys are a combined 24-7 in the first halves of their first two preseason contests.

The second half has been the problem, and for two weeks now Dallas' reserves have squandered halftime leads and given up losses. Thankfully, most of the responsible players will not be on the final 53-man roster.

Other Notes

  • There were several concerning injuries for the Cowboys tonight. None was scarier than when All-Pro guard Zack Martin went out with a knee injury, but it does not appear to have been serious. Starting defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavier Woods also got banged up; Byron returned to the game but Woods did not. Defensive lineman Datone Jones also left with a knee injury.
  • Even more concerning was the play of the second-team offensive line. Chaz Green was typically awful, but we also saw swing tackle Cam Fleming struggling and just an overall lack of protection for the backups quarterbacks. Green got benched in the second half and may have finally played his way off the team.
  • Credit to Terrance Williams for getting open in the endzone to give Dak Prescott a receiver for the touchdown throw. Even with his warts, Williams' two years of experience playing with Dak can't be ignored in deciding who makes the team.
  • Tight end Blake Jarwin continues to run with the starters on offense and may have quietly taken the job away from Geoff Swaim.
  • Darius Jackson took advantage of some extra playing time tonight after Bo Scarbrough left with a hip injury. He broke off a few nice runs to amass 42 yards on just six carries, plus had four receptions.
  • We finally get to see Dan Bailey kick a field goal again, and it was an easy 35-yarder with no issues.
  • Shout out to Chidobe Awuzie for one of the pretty interceptions that a Cowboys DB has made in some time. Awuzie had to bend like Beckham (Odell, that is) to get a hand on the ball, then tipped it to himself for the pick.
  • Preseason fun continues for the Cowboys next Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals on NBC's Sunday Night Football.



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Game Notes

#DALvsCIN: Can WR Lance Lenoir Continue To Impress?

Kevin Brady

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Lance Lenoir

Entering training camp projecting who would make the final roster from the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving room was a crapshoot. The combination of misfits from other teams, unproven young guys, and a couple of Cowboys veterans makes this position group the most questioned across the entire roster.

But while Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup were stealing headlines, Lance Lenoir was making a name for himself among the Cowboys faithful.

After serving on the practice squad for the Cowboys a year ago, Lenoir seems to have entered 2018 with one goal in mind: to make the official game-day roster. And even if he falls short of this goal, it won't be due to any fault of his own.

Day in and day out Lance Lenoir has been a consistent wide out, catching nearly everything thrown his way and running some of the crisper routes on the team. Under new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, Lenoir has become a technical route runner and dangerous receiving threat.

Maybe most importantly for his future with the team, Lenoir has developed an obvious chemistry with starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has continued to compliment Lenoir throughout training camp, and you know that the Cowboys front office is well aware of Prescott's trust in Lenoir on the field.

During the preseason opener against the 49ers, Lance Lenoir caught his first touchdown of the season, dazzling with his toe-tap ability. If he is going to steal a roster spot away from one of the more seasoned wide outs, however, he will have to remain that consistent target.

This Saturday, Lenoir gets another shot to prove why he's not only deserving of a roster spot, but of a starting spot. Sure, it might be a bit of a stretch, but if he continues to play like he has during camp and preseason, Lenoir could find himself working with the 1's more frequently.

Look out for Lance Lenoir against the Bengals this week, as he makes it harder and harder for the Cowboys to cut him by the second.



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys en Español: ¿Es Tavon Austin Más Importante de lo que Creemos?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Tavon Austin, Cowboys Best Playmaker Not Named Ezekiel Elliott?

Cada vez más cerca de la verdadera acción en la NFL, tuvimos una oportunidad de ver a los Dallas Cowboys en el campo contra los San Francisco 49ers hace una semana. Francamente, a pesar de perder la ventaja en los últimos segundos del partido, la actuación del equipo dio una muy buena señal a los aficionados de la Estrella Solitaria.

Todavía quedan tres partidos por jugar, empezando por el enfrentamiento contra los Cincinnati Bengals este sábado. Hay muchas cosas que ver de parte de los Dallas Cowboys y quizá algunas de ellas las veamos este mismo fin de semana.

Una de las cosas más interesantes esta semana fue la conversación de los wide receivers (receptores abiertos). Lance Lenoir se ha mostrado como un candidato real al roster de 53 jugadores, pero esa es sólo una pequeña fracción de la conversación de receptores.

Hay muchos receptores de que hablar, y el día de hoy, eso haremos en Cowboys en Español.

¿Cole Beasley es realmente el receptor #1?

A lo largo de todo el offseason, se ha manejado la narrativa de que "los Cowboys no tienen un buen WR." A pesar de que Dez Bryant es un nombre difícil de olvidar, esta aseveración sobre los receptores en Dallas me parece errónea.

Si bien es cierto que Bryant es uno de los mejores WRs en la historia de los Cowboys, también es cierto que Jason Garrett y compañía tienen un mejor grupo de lo que la afición considera. Si somos sinceros, un trío titular de Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley y Michael Gallup no suena mal.

La pregunta será: ¿quién es el #1? Comentarios de Dak Prescott han hecho referencia a Cole Beasley como el dueño de dicho rol. ¿Realmente puede fungir como el receptor líder del equipo siendo un jugador de 1.73 metros?

Se ha hablado mucho de Beasley jugando fuera de los números e intentando vencer a los defensivos por fuera. Es intrigante, pero sin duda un poco difícil de creer.

Tavon Austin: ¿Es un arma más importante de lo que creemos?

Los Cowboys dejaron ir a Ryan Switzer y obtuvieron a su aparente remplazo con el ex-WR de los Rams por una selección de sexta ronda. Tavon Austin ha tenido un viaje extraño con el equipo. Fue listado en el roster como un corredor pero utilizado como un receptor.

Lleva poco tiempo en Dallas pero ha sorprendido en training camp y ha sido utilizado como más de lo que esperábamos. Desde que llegó al equipo, empezamos a compararlo con Lucky Whitehead y Ryan Switzer. Ambos talentosos, pero destinados a ser un jugador "gadget" que fueron utilizados casi exclusivamente en jugadas "en movimiento" o los famosos "jet sweeps."

Pero Austin puede ser más que eso y lo ha demostrado en training camp. No parece que Tavon vaya a tener el mismo destino que Switzer, sino que tendrá un rol mucho más involucrado en la ofensiva constantemente. Bien puede ser un factor sorpresa para la ofensiva en Dallas.

¿Puede Terrance Williams perder su trabajo?

A pesar de que el coraje puede llevar a los aficionados a criticar a Terrance Williams un poco más de lo que merece, la verdad es que Williams está en riesgo de ser cortado por los Cowboys antes de que inicie la temporada en septiembre.

Es uno de los WRs con más experiencia, sí. Pero durante su estadía en Dallas, cada vez que Dez Bryant ha caído lesionado, Williams ha tenido la oportunidad de surgir como un receptor #1 capaz y preparado. Y nunca lo ha logrado.

Con un roster lleno de talentos jóvenes como el de Lance Lenoir y Noah Brown, es probable que la administración y los coaches opten por el potencial joven en vez de Williams, quien ha tenido problemas para demostrar que puede ser un jugador constante.

✭✭✭

Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que conseguir que su ofensiva sobreviva las pérdidas de Jason Witten y Dez Bryant y tendrán que comenzar en la posición de WR. A pesar de que Williams esté en el equipo, Cole Beasley será el único en repetir titularidad del año pasado en Dallas esta temporada.

Dak Prescott tendrá un rol enorme cuando la ofensiva trate de emprender su marcha y definitivamente será responsable del éxito de esta. Es ahora o nunca para Dak.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Es Tavon Austin Más Importante de lo que Creemos?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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