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.
Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?
While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?
Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.
Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.
With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.
But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.
Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.
Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.
But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.
Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.
How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.
There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.
But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.
For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall
That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.
Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.
Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.
In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.
Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.
The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.
Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out
The Dallas Cowboys are back in offseason mode, concluding their OTAs and minicamp from The Star. With a hiatus until training camp, it was important for several high-profile players to make a strong first impression on the 2018 season. From the start of mini camp, these impressions were left mostly by Rod Marinelli's defense and -- more specifically -- Kris Richard's young group of cornerbacks.
Still working through significant change on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys did rally on day three under Quarterback Dak Prescott to put out a better performance. The Cowboys coaching staff should love their lasting memories of both FA acquisition Wide Receiver Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup.
There is a strong chance that these two receivers will be the Cowboys starters in Oxnard for training camp. We have heard a lot about the impact new WR Coach Sanjay Lal has had on his group, slowing the game down to focus on route running. This will give the team's rotation of unproven receivers a chance with Prescott, as he can focus on throwing to a 'spot' more often.
One spot that Prescott has struggled to hit in two seasons as the starter in Dallas is the back of the end zone for fade routes. A red zone go-to under Scott Linehan, free agent WR Dez Bryant was often the intended target on these missed passes.
Less of a route running technician and closer to the mold of a physical player like Bryant, Allen Hurns emerging as the Cowboys #1 option would solve a lot of uncertainty at the WR position. In yesterday's practice, Hurns was able to haul in a perfect ball from Prescott on the fade as he beat Byron Jones.
It's going to take some time for Jones to readjust to playing cornerback, but the vision for Kris Richard of him and Chidobe Awuzie starting on the outside is a great one. In a battle of proven players, Hurns got the best of Jones to spark the Cowboys offense at the right time.
Overall, there should be no reason to panic about (well, really anything from mini camp) the Cowboys offense right now, and plenty of reasons to be excited about what this defense will develop into.
Once the pads come on at training camp, the players the Cowboys are paying to play at an elite level will start to shine, including their newly re-signed Guard Zack Martin -- the highest paid guard in the league now. There are no doubts that the bread and butter for this offense will be handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott behind this wall of an offensive line.
From this increase in competition in the trenches, we'll also get more meaningful battles along the defensive line. In shorts and helmets for now, the Cowboys secondary was given their chance at mini camp, and came out solid early.
Another player they've struggled to truly corral though is Michael Gallup. Perhaps pressing a bit thanks to his limited opportunities thus far, Jourdan Lewis was taken across the field by Gallup on a misfire from Cooper Rush.
This is nothing new for Gallup however, who's been ahead of the curve on creating the desired separation as a "violent" receiver on the outside.
A steal with the 81st overall pick in this year's draft, Gallup has a long way to go in beating out the likes of Terrance Williams, Cedrick Wilson (limited through this portion of the offseason with injuries), and even Cole Beasley, who's received some reps on the outside.
With both Hurns and Gallup making plays on the Cowboys final practice until late July, it's easy to let the mind wander with possibilities of the Cowboys offense playing at full strength against a defense that might be up for the challenge better than ever compared to year's past.
As always, the practice fields of Oxnard will serve as a battle ground for a young but deep Cowboys team to earn their spots on the 53-man roster, one that surely won't have room for all of the wide receiver hopefuls seen this week in mini camp.
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