The Cowboys will go light on Linebackers in favor of keeping more defensive backs and defensive lineman. Also, if McClain comes on strong, he may replace Durant at the MIKE linebacker, allowing Durant (a former 2nd round pick in his own right) to slide over and replace former 2nd round pick Bruce Carter at the WILL linebacker spot. But I think the Cowboys will put 2 linebackers on their Practice Squad in case of injury to one of their top 6 players.
Matt Johnson gets a roster spot based on the coaches’ opinion of his talent, but he is on very thin ice. Ahmad Dixon is waiting on the Practice Squad to replace him. Also, his roster spot is shaky due to all the defensive players the Cowboys have who will start the year on Reserve Lists, but will return some time later in the season. Johnson gets a spot primarily because there aren’t more talented linebackers and linemen on the team. If he wants to keep his roster spot, he’s going to have to move ahead of Hamilton on the depth chart before the beginning of October.
Claiborne wins the starting RCB position by default due to Scandrick’s 4-game suspension. And I believe the Cowboys go heavy at cornerback. B.W. Webb is in danger of being cut once Scandrick returns from his suspension. The Cowboys traded for Green, but his roster spot is not secure. And Mitchell is still eligible for the Practice Squad. Moore starts the year as the 3rd CB, and will stick with the team due to his versatility.
A couple of late off-season free agents, Ken Boatright and Zach Minter have made a case to make the team at the Defensive End positions, and former 3rd round draft pick Martez Wilson has been disappointing. But both of those players are really stop-gap solutions. The Cowboys will be looking forward to replacing both of them with Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Lawrence when they return later in the season.
If former TOP 10 pick Amobi Okoye can regain his football conditioning after his devastating illness, look for Nick Hayden or Ken Bishop to be on the chopping block. Bishop is still eligible for the Practice Squad, but Hayden could be traded or cut if Okoye returns.
With so many defensive players on the reserve lists, I believe the Practice Squad will be imbalanced in favor of the offensive players. The Cowboys will want to keep some players in reserve in case of injury to the front-line offensive players. Also, my opening day 53-man squad is already tilted toward the defense, so the Cowboys will need to keep more offensive reserves on the Practice Squad.
There is guaranteed to be a lot of continuing churn in the roster, so don’t get too attached to the borderline players. The key for a lot of the borderline players will be how well they contribute to special teams, so keep an eye on those players on the kicking and coverage units. Having said all that, here is my initial 53-man roster.
Offense – 23 players
• QB – Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden
• RB – DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams
• TE – Jason Witten, James Hanna
• TE - Gavin Escobar
• WR1 – Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Devin Street
• WR2 – Terrance Williams, Dwayne Harris
• LOT – Tyron Smith, Jermey Parnell
• LOG – Ron Leary, Mackenzy Bernadeau
• OC – Travis Frederick
• ROG – Zack Martin, Uche Nwaneri
• ROT – Doug Free, Darrion Weems
Defense – 27 players
• LCB – Brandon Carr, Sterling Moore, Terrance Mitchell
• RCB – Morris Claiborne, Justin Green, B.W. Webb
• FS – Barry Church, Jakar Hamilton, Matt Johnson
• SS – J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath
• WLB – Bruce Carter, Anthony Hitchens
• MLB – Justin Durant, Rolando McClain
• SLB – Kyle Wilbur, Ernie Sims
• LDE – George Selvie, Tyrone Crawford
• RDE – Jeremy Mincey, Zach Minter, Ken Boatright
• 3DT – Henry Melton, Davon Coleman
• 1DT – Terrell McClain, Nick Hayden, Ken Bishop
Special Teams – 3 players
• LS – L.P. Ladouceur
• PK – Dan Bailey
• P – Chris Jones
Author's Note: The Cardinals released Sims. But since he's played for the Cowboys the last two seasons, I think he is the logical short-term replacement for Holloman. Jones has said the Cowboys are in the market for a veteran to replace Holloman. I think Sims will be that guy.
The NFL has expanded the Practice Squad Roster to 10 players for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Here are my predictions for the Cowboys' initial Practice Squad Members, which includes two of the Cowboys five 7th round draft picks from May. It also includes a backup Center, and a Fullback. If the Cowboys are able to trade Ryan Williams or Joseph Randle prior to the start of the season, then perhaps Copeland will make the 53 man squad, or perhaps the Cowboys will keep a 4th tight end. But for now, I expect Copeland to be on the Practice Squad. He just has not shown enough to make the team.
6 Offensive Players to Practice Squad
• FB - J.C. Copeland
• OG - Ronald Patrick
• QB - Dustin Vaughan
• TE - Asa Watson
• WR- Jamar Newsome
• WR – Chris Boyd
4 Defensive Players to Practice Squad
• SS – Ahmad Dixon
• LB – Cameron Lawrence
• LB – Will Smith
• DT – Dartwan Bush
The Cowboys will likely have 7 defensive players on some type of Reserve List to start the year. Of those 7 players, 4 will be eligible to return at some point in the year. Only Sean Lee, Chris Whaley and Ben Gardner are definitely out for the season. Scandrick can return after 4 weeks, which puts the roster spots of several cornerbacks in jeopardy.
Spencer must sit out the first 6 weeks on the PUP list, and Lawrence will have to sit out the first 8 weeks if the Cowboys choose to put him on IR. Okoye has started to practice, and since he is on the NFI list, he can return at any time once the Cowboys deem him healthy enough to play. As a result of the players who are eligible to return to the team, expect a lot of turnover from the opening day roster on defense as the season progresses.
1 Defensive Player on NFL Suspension List
• CB – Orlando Scandrick
1 Defensive Player on PUP List
• DE – Anthony Spencer
2 Defensive Players on Non-Football Injury/Illness (NFI) List
• DE – Chris Whaley
• DT – Amobi Okoye
3 Defensive Players on Injured Reserve
• LB – Sean Lee
• DE – Ben Gardner
• DE – DeMarcus Lawrence (eligible to return after 8 games)
Wildcard – Tyler Clutts could make the opening day roster if Scott Linehan insists on having a fullback on the team. One of the defensive players (most likely B.W. Webb or Matt Johnson) would likely be cut if that is the case. But in my opinion, neither Clutts, nor Copeland has played to the level necessary to make the team. However, Clutts is also known as a very good special teams player, which may sway the coaches’ decision when it comes to the final cuts.
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial
Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.
Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.
Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.
Pues en Dallas, hoy dos jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.
Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.
Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.
Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.
Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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