Earlier this week the Cowboys’ website updated the team’s depth chart. While interesting, it’s also inexact as it doesn’t reflect players who are currently out with injuries.
Using that chart and all of the latest information on players’ statuses, here is a projected depth chart for tonight’s preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams.
- Dak Prescott
- Jameil Showers
Tony Romo is going to sit this one out. It appears that Dallas will give Prescott the first half and probably switch to Showers. However, Prescott is their priority and could get more than 30 minutes.
- Alfred Morris
- Darius Jackson
- Rod Smith
Fans will have to wait at least one more week to see Ezekiel Elliott in action. He is expected to be held out tonight as he nurses a hamstring injury. The veteran Morris will get the start but the majority of carries should go to sixth-round rookie Darius Jackson.
Remember, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar are still on the NFI and PUP lists. They have yet to practice with the team but both could return within the next few weeks.
- Rod Smith
- Keith Smith
Rod Smith will likely serve as the fullback in the first half and then it will switch to Keith in the second. Rod will be needed as the third running back due to injuries there.
- Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams
- Cole Beasley, Brice Butler
- Lucky Whitehead, Devin Street
- Andy Jones, Vince Mayle
- Chris Brown, Rodney Smith
The two question marks here are Bryant and Street. If Dallas lets Dez play at all, it will likely only be one or two series. They could still hold him out to be precautionary with his foot issue.
Street suffered a back injury late last week but returned to practice a few days ago. He also had Andy Jones, an undrafted rookie, breathing down his neck. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jones get a majority of the reps at WR in this game.
- Gavin Escobar
- Geoff Swaim
- Rico Gathers
James Hanna is still on PUP and will not play. Witten will get veteran treatment and Escobar still has lingering concerns with his Achilles injury. That likely means we’ll see a lot of Swaim, who’s had excellent training camp per reports, and the raw rookie Gathers.
- Doug Free, Chaz Green
- Cam Bradfield
- Ryan Mack, Bryan Witzmann
- Darryl Baldwin
Tyron Smith is sitting out and Free will only get a series or two, if any. We will likely see Bradfield and Green for the majority of the game.
Dallas still has to figure out who their swing tackle will be this year. Bradfield was signed just before camp as veteran insurance, but you know they’re rooting for Green to take the job. A third-round pick in 2015, Green has been inconsistent so far in camp and needs to earn their confidence.
- Zack Martin, La’el Collins
- Ronald Leary, Jared Smith
- Boston Stiverson
We will probably see a lot of Smith and Stiverson tonight. Dallas knows what it has in the top three guys. The only reason to play Leary is if you’re trying to showcase him for a trade. Otherwise, Dallas needs to see what the young guys have.
- Travis Frederick
- Joe Looney
- Jake Brendel
We could see Looney playing some guard so that Brendel gets some extra work at center. If they do end up trading Leary, they’re going to want the best combination of interior linemen going forward.
- DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving
- Ryan Russell, Charles Tapper
- Lawrence Okoye, Mike McAdoo
- Shaneil Jenkins
Tapper’s status for tonight is uncertain. He sat out of the last practice with back soreness. Dallas certainly wants to give the rookie some reps if he can go, but they will play it safe if needed.
Though he will start, Irving could get more the reps the other first-team defensive players. He is part of the large evaluation process as Dallas tries to figure out regular season starters during the suspensions of Lawrence and Randy Gregory.
Benson Mayowa will be in that conversation, but is still out on the PUP list. He is expected back within the next few weeks.
- Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain
- Cedric Thornton, Jack Crawford
- Rodney Coe, Zach Wood
- Gerald Dixon Jr.
Although they paid Thornton starter money to come over in free agency, it appears the Cowboys will still defer to Terrell McClain for now. We will likely see Thornton in nickel packages and McClain in the base defense. Given the health issues that McClain and Tyrone Crawford have had, a three-man rotation is prudent.
Keep your eyes on Coe, an undrafted rookie. His stock was low mainly for academic and behavioral issues in college, but he’s very athletic. Preseason games tend to allow defensive linemen to show off as they take advantage of weak blocking. Coe could be the next in line of guys like Davon Coleman and Ben Bass who gained a lot of hype in August.
- Anthony Hitchens
- Brandon Hepburn
- James Morris
- Sean Lee, Kyle Wilber
- Justin Durant, Mark Nzeocha
- Deon King, Derek Akunne
- Henoc Muamba
Lee will play little-to-none tonight. Hitchens may get a little extra work but not much more. I wouldn’t expect to see much of Durant, either, as a veteran.
I would expect for Nzeocha to get a lot of minutes and play both middle and outside and they find what role suits him best. Dallas will be without Andrew Gachkar likely all preseason due to a thumb injury.
Damien Wilson is also still out with his offseason eye injury. He is expected back as soon as next week. Like Nzeocha, Wilson still needs to establish his role.
- Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr
- Deji Olatoye, Anthony Brown
- Josh Thomas
- Jeremiah McKinnon, Dax Swanson
- Arjen Colquhoun, Isaiah Frey
I do not expect Orlando Scandrick to play tonight. Claiborne and Carr will only get a series or two, meaning it will be a big night for Olatoye and Brown.
Jeff Heath left the team’s Thursday practice with a concussion and has been ruled out for tonight. This will give Frazier, a sixth-round rookie, more opportunities to show what he can do.
We could also see Byron Jones get some extra reps as he works to make the transition to full-time safety.