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Pre-NFL Draft Dallas Cowboys 53-man Roster Locks

John Williams



Amari Cooper

Every offseason, every team turns over a portion of their roster through free agency and the draft. The Dallas Cowboys have already experienced some of that turnover as they said good-bye to players that had been on the roster for years in Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. David Irving was allowed to walk into free agency. There have been several additions to the roster to replace those guys, and with the NFL Draft coming, the Cowboys will continue to build the roster.

Each offseason, I like to take a look at which players are already a lock for the week one 53-man roster. In year's past, I've found that about 38-42 of the 53-man roster are spoken for before the team ever takes the practice field. This year I've got 39 players already locked into the 2019 53-man roster.

Obviously we can't account for injuries that can occur during the offseason training activities, minicamps, training camp, or preseason games.

Quarterback (1)

Dak Prescott

At this point, Dak Prescott is the only quarterback locked into their roster spot. The team likes Mike White and Cooper Rush and both will probably make the final 53-man roster as the team heads into week one. However, depending on how the roster has to be constructed, it's possible the Cowboys only carry two quarterbacks into the regular season.

How he offseason and training camp goes will decide how many and which quarterback the Cowboys will keep heading into the regular season.

Potential Playoff Preview: Cowboys Host Seahawks as Changed Team from Early Loss 2

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, QB Dak Prescott

Running Back (2)

Ezekiel Elliott
Jamize Olawale

If there's a severe hole on the offensive side of the ball at the moment, it's at running back behind All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott.

If the Cowboys have plans on extending Elliott to a long-term contract, then they'll have to figure out a way to make sure Elliott's not getting 25-30 touches a game. At the same time, they need to find a running back who can be effective with 5-10 touches a game.

Darius Jackson is an option at running back for the Cowboys, but there are players in this draft that can help them this year and in the future. In particular, Rodney Anderson or Justice Hill or really good options for the Cowboys in the fourth round or later.

Wide Receiver (4)

Amari Cooper
Michael Gallup
Randall Cobb
Noah Brown

The Cowboys have a lot of depth at wide receiver heading into the draft, but outside of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb, there really isn't a lock on the 53-man roster. Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson will all make a case for the roster, but depending on what they do in the draft, one or two of these guys could be off the roster.

Tavon Austin's role will be determined by how much they decide to use him in the return game. In 2018, the coaching staff seemed reluctant to give him 100% of the opportunities to return punts. The Cowboys don't run a ton of 10-personnel, so seeing four wide receivers on the field will be a rarity. Austin will need to make his mark on special teams to call for a roster spot for 2019.

Allen Hurns is only on the roster bubble because the Cowboys can get some cap relief by releasing him. If they don't take a wide receiver in the draft, Hurns will be on the roster. He's a solid depth piece on the outside and in the slot.

Noah Brown is a valuable piece because of his blocking ability in the run game and play on special teams. While Brown does have two years left on his rookie deal, he'll have to make some strides this offseason to be seen as more than just a blocking wide receiver and opportunities will be limited.

Cedric Wilson is everyone's 2018 pet cat, but a season-ending injury and the depth that they have on the wide receiver depth chart could prevent Wilson from gaining a foothold on the roster.

Blake Jarwin, Eagles

Dallas Cowboys Tight End Blake Jarwin

Tight End (3)

Jason Witten
Blake Jarwin
Dalton Schultz

The only question at tight end this year is going to be whether they draft a player to add to the depth chart. Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz will make the 53 this year. Rico Gathers is still trying to find his way in the NFL and if the Cowboys draft one, it clouds his status on the roster.

This is a great draft for a team that needs a tight end. There are quality players that can be found in the first five rounds of the draft that can add some depth for the Dallas Cowboys.

Even if they don't draft a tight end, they still have a solid group that the Cowboys can win with. With Jason Witten in the fold for 2019,

Offensive Tackle (3)

Tyron Smith
La'el Collins
Cameron Fleming

The signing of Cameron Fleming to be the team's swing tackle for 2019 is one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. With Tyron Smith missing time each of the last three seasons, Fleming may need to play a role this season for the Cowboys to compete for another NFC East division title.

Look for the Dallas Cowboys to draft a player at some point to come in and compete with Fleming for snaps as the swing tackle. La'el Collins' contract expires at the end of the 2019 season so they could use someone to replace Collins in 2020.

Guard (3)

Zach Martin
Connor Williams
Xavier Su'a-Filo

I've seen some talk that there will be a competition between Connor Williams and Xavier Su'a Filo at left guard. That may be true. The Dallas Cowboys love to create competition, especially for their younger guys. However, the Cowboys want Williams to win the job. He'll get every opportunity to win the job in the offseason and in training camp.

Connor Williams struggled with strength in the first half of the season, but over the second half played better. Against Aaron Donald in the game against the Rams, Williams was able to control him fairly well. Williams is on an upward trajectory and should be your starting guard when the Cowboys kick off the regular season.

The question is going to be, how many guards do they carry on the 53? With Joe Looney's ability to flex over to guard in a pinch, he gives you the ability to go lighter at guard to carry an extra player at another position on the 53.

Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

Dallas Cowboys offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick

Center (2)

Travis Frederick
Joe Looney

Of all the things that happened this offseason, including trading for Robert Quinn, getting Travis Frederick back is the most important addition from the 2018 season.

Joe Looney was good in 2018 and was a big reason the Dallas Cowboys were able to make the playoffs. As we saw in 2017, when the Cowboys were without one of their All-Pro players at another position along the offensive line, there are big drop offs from your starters to their replacements. From Frederick to Looney, there was a drop off, but he was good enough for Ezekiel Elliott to lead the league in rushing after playing only 15 games.

If Frederick is back, then Looney will be the backup. If not, then having Looney around for another season helps with the offensive line continuity.

Defensive End (4)

DeMarcus Lawrence
Robert Quinn
Taco Charlton
Dorance Armstrong

If there's a part of the depth chart that is pretty well settled at this point, it's the defensive end position. DeMarcus Lawrence got his pay-day and after surgery will step in at left defensive end. Robert Quinn, who the Cowboys are paying at least $8 million to in 2019 will be the right defensive end. Taco Charlton hasn't shown much in his career to this point, but the Cowboys don't have to make a decision on him until 2020 offseason when they have to decide on his fifth year option.

Dorance Armstrong had a really good preseason in 2018, but didn't really show much in his rookie year, but he has some very interesting skills that could help you at either defensive end spot.

With Quinn's contract only for one season at this point, it's not unreasonable to expect the Dallas Cowboys to draft a player to prepare for snaps at defensive end in 2020.

And that takes us to the biggest wild card, Randy Gregory. Currently expected to serve an indefinite suspension for violating the terms of the substance abuse policy, there is some optimism out there that Gregory could be around for 2019. But banking on Gregory for anything this season is likely a fool's errand. The Dallas Cowboys extended his contract to cover 2020, so the Cowboys are still hoping for big things from their 2015 second round pick. At this point however, he's anything but a lock to make the week one 53-man roster.

Defensive Tackle (3)

Antwaun Woods
Maliek Collins
Christian Covington

The Dallas Cowboys interior played well for the most part in 2018. There were only two games where they got beat up on the interior. The Indianapolis Colts game and the Los Angeles Rams game in the playoffs. They came at poor times in the season and that's why we're seeing the Dallas Cowboys look into the 2019 defensive tackle class.

Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins need some help on the interior in the defensive tackle rotation and that's why the Cowboys brought in Christian Covington who played defensive end in the Texans' 3-4 scheme. He projects as a 1-technique defensive tackle for the Cowboys, but could get some snaps as the 3-tech as well.

This draft class is deep in potential 3-tech defensive tackles in the second and third round, but given that it's also deep at wide receiver and tight end in the top 100, the Cowboys will have some decisions to make.

With these three and Tyrone Crawford and Kerry Hyder, the Cowboys have a nice group of guys who can play on the interior. They don't have to draft anyone.

Hybrid Defensive Lineman (2)

Tyrone Crawford
Kerry Hyder

I know this isn't really a position, but with how these two guys have played, it's hard to categorize either as an end or tackle. We know that Tyrone Crawford has been solid for the Dallas Cowboys at both defensive end and defensive tackle. He's averaged five sacks per 16 games over the last five years. He's not a great player, but he's a player you need to have to win football games. A player that plays the run well and can make plays in the passing game.

Kerry Hyder is a really interesting player. In 2016, he had eight sacks before tearing his achilles in 2017. In 2018, Matt Patricia decided to play him at nose tackle in the Detroit Lions 3-4 scheme. Pro Football Reference has him listed at 270 pounds. Remember when we though Jay Ratliff was too small to play the nose at 290 pounds.

Hyder will likely get snaps at both defensive end behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn as well as some 3-tech snaps Maliek Collins and rotating with Tyrone Crawford.

Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch

Linebacker (4)

Jaylon Smith
Leighton Vander Esch
Sean Lee
Joe Thomas

With the somewhat surprising return of Sean Lee, the Dallas Cowboys top four linebackers for 2019 is set in stone. Obviously injuries could change this, but if everyone's healthy, this is the group I'd expect to see leading the Cowboys in snaps for the 2019 season.

Joe Thomas is a valuable backup at WILL and MIKE linebacker and a good special teams player.

If there's a spot that there's a weakness, it's at the SAM or strong side linebacker position. Damien Wilson's departure for Kansas City leaves a bit of a hole there. Yes, he was bad in pass coverage, but he was a good run defender and blitzer during his time with the Cowboys. Those snaps need to be filled by someone. Perhaps this offseason, the Cowboys figure out a way to get Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee on the field at the same time.

They'll probably draft someone, because the Cowboys love to draft linebackers. Look for Chris Covington and Justin March-Lillard to compete for the fifth and sixth linebacker spots.

Cornerback (3)

Byron Jones
Chidobe Awuzie
Anthony Brown

The only reason you don't see Jourdan Lewis' name out there is because he doesn't seem to have a home with Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard. Lewis is a veteran player that could become a trade asset during or after the draft if the Cowboys find someone willing to pay for their fourth corner. If he isn't traded, he'll definitely be on the roster fighting for a role.

Byron Jones had a nice first half of the season in 2018, but had some struggles at the end of the season. Chidobe Awuzie flipped the script on a struggling first half of the 2018 season and finished strong in the second half. Anthony Brown was solid throughout and continues to keep the more talented Jourdan Lewis at bay with his work in the slot.

It's possible the Cowboys draft a player at Corner with Brown coming free after the 2019 season, but they could also go into 2019 with this group and play very well.

Safety (4)

Xavier Woods
George Iloka
Jeff Heath
Kavon Frazier

Xavier Woods is going to be one of your starting safeties. George Iloka, Jeff Heath, and Kavon Frazier are each a solid rotational player. They bring a lot of value to your special teams unit. The thing that could upset the apple cart here is if the Dallas Cowboys spend a top 100 pick on the safety position.

They have plans to bring in several safeties for visits before the draft, which means they will probably draft one in the top 100.

Special Teams (1)

L.P. Ladouceur

Afte the 2018 seasons they had, I don't think it's a guarantee that Brett Maher and Chris Jones are the kicker and punter for the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. Both players had good moments and bad moments for the Cowboys last season, so it wouldn't shock me to see them bring in some competition to push these guys for their roster spot.

L.P. Ladouceur, however, is as much of a guarantee as DeMarcus Lawrence is at this point. As long as he wants to play and he's healthy, the Dallas Cowboys are going to keep bringing him back. Nobody ever notices the long snapper until something goes wrong. When was the last time you noticed L.P. Ladouceur?

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. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: DeMarcus Lawrence Silences Doubters vs Eagles

Mauricio Rodriguez



Takeaway Tuesday: DeMarcus Lawrence Silences Doubters vs Eagles

Dallas Cowboys fans should be happy about the change of pace in the conversation surrounding America's Team. A week ago, the talk in Cowboys Nation was all about just how hot was Jason Garrett's seat. Three consecutive losses will do that to most fan bases. Fortunately, though, we can put a pin on that conversation for a while after the Cowboys handily defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 37-10 last Sunday Night.

It was a great team performance all around, but we should dive in to the specifics. Overall, it was a good win to claim the NFC East division lead as the Cowboys get ready to rest this upcoming bye week. Let's get to this week's takeaways!

Ezekiel Elliott Played His Best Game of the Year

The way Ezekiel Elliott ran versus the Eagles' defense reminded me of his rookie season. Elliott has had a pretty good season even though the Cowboys haven't leaned as much on the running game as they had the last few seasons.

Last Sunday, he accounted for 111 rushing yards and 36 receiving yards. But it wasn't about his total yardage. What was special was the way he juked defenders, broke tackles and fought for the dirty yards.

There was a fire about #21 and I'm sure Cowboys Nation is just as excited as I am to watch it. He truly was something versus the Eagles.

Mauricio Rodriguez ✭ on Twitter

Ezekiel Elliott's best game of the season BY FAR. Look at this chart from Next Gen Stats. Green lines mean 5+ yards gained or touchdown.

Not to mention, Elliott was extremely effective as he found multiple ways to have 5+ yard run after 5+ yard run. Simply put, an impressive performance from the Cowboys superstar running back.

DeMarcus Lawrence Silenced Doubters

I don't know if it was his huge contract that turned many fans against DeMarcus Lawrence early in the season, but the Cowboys' defensive end managed to silence doubters against the Eagles. On his way to one sack and one forced fumble, Lawrence dominated in the trenches.

He was solid versus the run and kept pressuring Carson Wentz all game long.

The truth is that D-Law has played well this offseason, but constant double-teams and the lack help from the interior defensive linemen have kept his box score stats down. However, when you look at more advanced metrics such as pass-rush productivity, you'll notice Lawrence is still playing at a very high level.

His play versus the Eagles proved that to many fans watching at home.

I was intrigued by the Cowboys lining him up against the Eagles' LT, trying to exploit the fact that Jason Peters was out injured. I wonder if Rod Marinelli continues to look for favorable match-ups in the future and keeps moving him around occasionally.

Amari Cooper Continues to Feast on the Philadelphia Eagles 2

Amari Cooper is Fine

After Amari Cooper's quad injury against the New York Jets, reports emerged on him being in "terrible pain." Many doubted he'd even play against the Philadelphia Eagles but he did, along other key players who were dealing with injuries too. In his return to the field, Cooper led the Cowboys receiving core with 106 yards in only five receptions (five targets).

Once again, his route running was on full display. He managed to burn a secondary that has been far from great this year. The Cowboys needed him to show up, and he delivered. He even caught a 44 yard pass when he absolutely destroyed Eagles DB Rasul Douglas on a double-move. Cooper would also have a diving jaw-dropping catch later in the game.

It's fair to assume he's healthy and ready to go for the rest of the season.

Cowboys Run Defense Still an Issue

Takeaways and a strong defensive performance against the pass secured the win for the Cowboys, but the run defense continues to be a problem for Rod Marinelli's unit. The Eagles running backs combined for 103 rushing yards and Dallas was beaten in the trenches a handful of times on this game.

The linebackers looked drastically better, and Leighton Vander Esch had his best half this season so far. Fortunately, it seems like his injury isn't serious enough for him to miss any additional playing time.

However, there were a handful of plays in which the Cowboys' defensive tackles were pushed around again. If I had to choose one position to upgrade, I wouldn't hesitate to address the interior defensive line. It's a problem.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: DeMarcus Lawrence Silences Doubters vs Eagles" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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Game Notes

This Defensive Drive Sealed the Game for the Dallas Cowboys

John Williams



This Defensive Drive Sealed the Game for the Dallas Cowboys 3

Things couldn't have started off any better for a Dallas Cowboys team that was desperately in need of a fast start in this pivotal week seven matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. In the midst of a three-game losing streak, tied atop the NFC East at 3-3 with the Eagles, and hosting their division rival on Sunday Night Football, the Cowboys needed to put their best foot forward early in this game.

After a couple of fumbles recovered by the Dallas defense, the Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead by the midway point of the first quarter. In a two-score hole early in this contest, the Philadelphia Eagles came out guns blazing on their third offensive series of the game and marched right down the field in seven plays, aided by a couple of personal foul calls, and brought the game to within a score.

At 14-7, the Dallas Cowboys offense was then forced to punt on the ensuing drive setting the Philadelphia Eagles up with an opportunity to tie the game in the second quarter if they were able to put a drive together. Getting the score even in the first half after pretty much gifting the Cowboys with a two-touchdown lead early would be a huge momentum swing in the game and provide the Eagles with a ton of confidence.

The Dallas Cowboys defense, however, wouldn't allow that to happen.

With the Eagles pinned back on their own 10-yard line after a Chris Jones punt, the Dallas Cowboys defense went to work with some excellent team defense and individual open field tackling performances on three plays that led to a Philadelphia Eagles three and out.

On first and 10 from their own 10-yard line, the Eagles attempted to run Jordan Howard through the right side of the line. There was nowhere to go on the play as Maliek Collins got excellent penetration into the left "A gap" making first contact behind the line of scrimmage and getting an assist from DeMarcus Lawrence to finish off the run stop for just a one-yard gain.

This Defensive Drive Sealed the Game for the Dallas Cowboys 2With a failed first-down run, the Eagles were set up with a 2nd and 9 at their own 11-yard line for the first play of the second quarter. Here they run Jordan Howard off of left tackle on a shotgun sweep handoff and he's able to pick up a nice bit of yardage to set up 3rd and 4.

This Defensive Drive Sealed the Game for the Dallas Cowboys 1To me, this was a huge third-down play for the Dallas Cowboys defense. On their previous drive, they had just given up a touchdown and needed to find a way to get of the field. If the Eagles are able to pick this up, it continues to put pressure on the defense and Philadelphia has some momentum.

Needing just four yards for the first down, the Eagles had both run and pass options at their disposal. As the Eagles are in have a tight bunch on the left side, the Cowboys have seven into the box to face six blockers, including the tight end who has a wider than normal split from the left tackle. Jeff Heath is the seventh man and on the snap is able to remain untouched as Carson Wentz hands off to Miles Sanders and snakes his way through the mass of humanity to stop the running back just shy of the first down.

This Defensive Drive Sealed the Game for the Dallas CowboysThey had the play fairly well blocked, but nobody accounts for Heath who is able to stay clean and track down Miles Sanders before he's able to get to the first down marker.

In a game that had a ton of highlights, this was a play that may go unnoticed when people talk about the outcome of this game but was huge given the current game situation. The Dallas Cowboys needed to get a stop on defense.

The Philadelphia Eagles attempted to attack the Dallas Cowboys' defense on the ground on this drive, which has been an area of vulnerability for the Cowboys in 2019. Their attempt to ground and pound in order to gain some momentum and reassert themselves in the game didn't come to fruition because the Cowboys defenders rallied well to the football on three straight running plays. The Dallas Cowboys turned a weakness into a strength on this drive and did their part to help the offense put the game away early.

After forcing the three and out, something the Dallas Cowboys defense doesn't do a lot of this year, the offense was able to take the ball and go on a 12 play, 71-yard drive for a touchdown that took nearly seven minutes off the clock. The Cowboys were able to go up two touchdowns again on their division rival and pretty much put the game out of reach, but it wouldn't have been so had the defense not stepped up and forced the three and out on this early second-quarter drive.

The defense played arguably their best game of the season on Sunday Night Football on a night where they desperately needed to play their best game of the year. There are still nine games to go and have a pretty rough seven-game stretch coming out of the bye starting with another divisional matchup on the road against the New York Giants in week nine. If the Dallas Cowboys defense can show this kind of consistency against the run moving forward, they'll be very difficult to beat.

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Game Notes

The Brady Report: Cowboys’ Fast Start Dooms Eagles

Kevin Brady



The Brady Report: Cowboys' Fast Start Dooms Eagles

It's been nothing but doom and gloom around the Dallas Cowboys in recent weeks. After a 3-0 start propelled them towards the top of the league's elite, three straight disappointing losses had fans wondering if it was time for a regime change at head coach.

They went into Sunday night's game with the Eagles needing a win to salvage hope at earning a playoff spot, and boy did they answer the bell. The Cowboys dominated the Philadelphia Eagles from the opening snap, routing their hated rivals 37-10 and improving to 4-3 on the season.

Let's get into my game notes from this overwhelmingly positive performance.

  • Let's start with the quarterback. Dak Prescott was tremendous yet again on Sunday night, and we're getting to the point where his sample size of positive play is too large to ignore. Prescott was 21 of 27 for 239 yards and a touchdown (and an interception as well), but he also had a rushing touchdown to add to his totals. Prescott has complete control of the offense, and even checked out of a negative box count to exploit the Eagles blitz look down in the red zone. He leads the league in QBR this season, and he is the unquestioned franchise quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. As he should be.
  • Sticking with praise on offense, Ezekiel Elliott looked like Zeke on Sunday night. From his very first carry you could tell Elliott was running with a different burst and energy than we'd seen in recent weeks, and he later ran right over Malcolm Jenkins to set up the team's second score of the game. Elliott was impossible to bring down all night, to the tune of 111 yards and a touchdown on 5 yards per carry.
  • La'el Collins has been incredible this season, and Sunday was no different. The Cowboys recently extended right tackle shut Brandon Graham down for basically the entire night, and kept Prescott upright and comfortable in the pocket. Tyron Smith was clearly not healthy or himself on the other side, but the rest of this offensive line picked up the slack and had their best performance since the season opener.
  • Connor Williams deserves a shoutout as well. He was getting off double teams to the second level and cutting linebackers off to clear rushing lanes for Zeke all night long.
  • Defensively, the Cowboys had their best performance of 2019. They hadn't been able to force turnovers all season, but they came away with four in this week's win. Xavier Woods' interception of Wentz might've spoken the loudest, as it proved how good this defense can be when the game script is working in their favor. When things go according to plan early for this team, they have the talent to take total control and dominate.
  • Jourdan Lewis was inserted into the starting lineup due to injury, and he was awesome from the opening snap. Lewis came away with a big sack on Caron Wentz and had 4 tackles overall as well. Byron Jones returned from the injury he suffered a week ago, and was back to his old shutdown ways. Jones is clearly the best cornerback on this team, and is one of the better corners in all of football. When he's healthy and playing as he did during Sunday's win, few have an argument over him.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence also had his best game of 2019, creating consistent pressure on Wentz throughout the night. His biggest play, of course, was his sack fumble which set the Cowboys up for a 14-0 lead just two possessions into the game. Lawrence has been taking a lot of heat from the fanbase in recent weeks, but he responded in a big way on Sunday.
  • Those are the linebackers I remember from 2018. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch were all over the field during this game, and Sean Lee had a pretty nice game as well once Vander Esch went down. Lee and Smith each finished with 7 tackles, and Smith forced the Eagles' first fumble of the night on their opening drive. Lee made a nice play on the ball on a late fourth down throw that easily could've been an interception as well.

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