Roster projections feel eerily like fantasy football rosters, and I’m no fan of fantasy football. There’s no bigger beating than some bloke at work outwardly wrestling in self-debate over whether to start Ryan Tannehill or Carson Palmer. If you’re said bloke, trust me on this, NOBODY CARES……EVER.
That said, I readily admit that roster projections hit closer to home when it comes to our team, especially right now, a mere 18 scorching days from Showtime. It’s good fun to guess along with what the coaches are thinking.
Fascinating machinations are taking place across the league, as position coaches fight for their respective units and guys. Every team is different, heavy in certain positions and dangerously thin in others. The defensive front seven is the painfully obvious worry here, so my list carries the more obvious legal disclaimer: “Ain’t all our dudes here yet.”
And so, my would-be 53…
Quarterbacks (2): Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden
Romo looks like Romo right now. How long that will continue lies in the dastardly mood of a surgically repaired disc that we all hope takes about a six-month spasm nap. Weeden’s tools are apparent, although it remains mysterious if a quarterback can actually be cured from Brown Syndrome. I feel just fine if he has to manage a couple of games this year. Dustin Vaughan would be kept on a better team, but too many holes elsewhere won’t allow such luxury, so it’s practice squad hopes for him here.
Running backs (5): DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams, Tyler Clutts
J.C. Copeland is this year’s Adrian Hamilton, an overhyped internet phenomenon that simply can’t play in the NFL. Clutts is a decent lead blocker who also has some usefulness as a pass catcher, and this offense needs a fullback to go with the road-graders up front. Dallas is going to be one of the best running and screen teams in the league, as weird as that is to write. I simply can’t cut Ryan Williams. I find a way to keep him and Randle, especially with the injury histories of Murray and Dunbar. However, the needs at defensive line might make this a pipe dream. Personally, I keep a good back over a nobody defensive lineman, but they likely won’t think that way.
Receivers (5): Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, Devin Street
The Rubik’s Cube at defensive line will prevent it, but I think the Cowboys would like to go six receivers. Unfortunately, there are some good receivers that have to be cut, including Jamar Newsome and LaRon Byrd (and others). Thankfully, the top five keepers are young, versatile, dynamic, and trusted by the QB. Even Street seems to have the sense when it comes to running routes and knowing what to do, for a young guy. That far exceeds talent in the NFL; just ask Dez, who took time to earn Romo’s trust.
Tight ends (3): Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna
Much uncertainty still, but much hope, too. Escobar shows hints that he is going to arrive soon as a big weapon in an expansive arsenal at Linehan’s disposal. Hanna is in a crux year because he hasn’t done a thing to earn a bigger veteran check. All flash and no sustained substance so far, and that drop Saturday was cankles ugly.
Offensive line (9): Tyron Smith, Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Uche Nwaneri, Darrion Weems, John Wetzel
The days of old are returning. Time to maul some people. This group gives me hope that Romo, in fact, can play a good while longer because the run and screen game could be the best in the business soon. Jermey Parnell is the odd man out, especially if Weems returns healthy soon. Parnell isn’t worthy of the salary he now commands, and he’s not developing at all. Same dude as before, with younger, cheaper players with more upside on hand. Plus, Martin can play tackle, and Bernadeau can play center, so versatility accents what has become a reliable strength of this team. In fact, if needed, this unit could open the season with only eight lineman. Kudos to the rebuilding of this unit.
Defensive line (9): George Selvie, Anthony Spencer, Jeremy Mincey, Tyrone Crawford, Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Nick Hayden, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman
I’m afraid that immediate need will force Dallas to put DeMarcus Lawrence on short-term injury, so he’s out six games. The waiver wire offers some hope to a question-laden group of almosts, coulda-beens, and never-wases. Making the cut won’t mean much until these guys see kickoff on September 7th, because the personnel department will be working overtime scouring cuts around the league. My hope is that they pick the right eight guys by then, and then we see a gradual IMPROVEMENT as the season wears on. The return of Spencer and Lawrence will obviously help (and perhaps Josh Brent), but the other guys have to get better as this season wears on. My only optimism lies in that somewhat logical improvement. Sounds eerily like peace in the Middle East.
Linebacker (6): Justin Durant, Kyle Wilber, Rolando McClain, Bruce Carter, DeVonte Holloman, Anthony Hitchens
Dallas desperately needs Rolando McClain to continue to return to the player he was before. It looks promising, but a lot of work and commitment still to go. Durant is having the best camp of any linebacker, but he needs to be somewhere other than the middle in my opinion. Bruce Carter might be headed for backup status, and ultimately off this team next year altogether. He’d better show big soon and consistently. Still, I do think this could be a decent group in the end, and it’s ultra critical that they are.
Cornerback (6): Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne, Sterling Moore, Terrance Mitchell, B.W. Webb
Scandrick’s suspension might have saved Webb’s bacon for now, and it’ll be interesting to find out if Tyler Patmon can win Webb’s spot in the next two weeks. Still, I think Webb holds on, especially if he can show up in special teams. The waiver wire won’t offer much because teams simply don’t cut good corners these days. When healthy and unsuspended, this is a more than serviceable group.
Safety (5): Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jakar Hamilton, Ahmad Dixon, Jeff Heath
I like this unit when it’s healthy because I’m a believer in Church and Wilcox. They’re going to get better and better. Heath and Dixon will be critical special teamers, but you just don’t want them on the field in anything other than dime packages. Most teams are thin at safety beyond their starters, too, so the same thing generally rings true around the NFL.
Specialists (3): Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
Rock solid here, though I wouldn’t mind a more dynamic punter. Bailey is a godsend to this team, and Ladouceur might be long-snapping here for the next two decades. Why didn’t I learn how to do that? Best gig on the planet.