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The not-so-final 53: As the waiver wire hangs ominously overhead

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Cowboys Blog - The not-so-final 53:  As the waiver wire hangs ominously overhead

Nothing but a battle of laundry stands between now and Week 1.  Overall, injuries have been reasonably kind to Dallas.  Sean Lee got hurt, but that was somewhat expected.  DeVonte Holloman's injury was less expected, but it wasn't a season-changer.  Ready to return or close are Terrell McClain, Morris Claiborne, Henry Melton, and Anthony Spencer.

Dallas may be big players in the waiver wire market next week, if they don't trade for what they need first.  However, it's a delicate decision because veterans are guaranteed a season's salary if they are on the 53 for Week 1.  Teams don't like to pay stopgaps for 16 weeks unnecessarily, so that might bode well for rookie hopefuls.

So, here are my survivors after all the glitz, glamour, party busses, and compromising selfies that marked another white-knuckling Cowboys camp.

Quarterbacks (2): Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden

This team simply can't afford to keep Dustin Vaughn.  I don't anticipate an issue getting him on the practice squad, but that risk must be taken.  Watch teams like Denver to possibly steal him away and rat-hole him on their rosters, but I don't think so.

Running backs (4): DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams

I'm honestly not sure who's a better running back at this point, Murray or Williams.  Clutts is gone, though I expect they'll re-sign him, or another fullback, sometime after Week 1.  Randle (or perhaps Williams) may be trade bait for a defensive lineman or linebacker.  Loaded at running back right now, but I think a dedicated fullback will ultimately be needed this season.

Receivers (6): Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, Devin Street, Jamar Newsome

Cutting Clutts makes room for Newsome.  I don't want to cut LaRon Byrd, either.  One of the best camp groups of receivers we've ever seen in Dallas.

Tight ends (3): Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna

As a whole, this was a good camp for these quiet soldiers.

Offensive line (9): Tyron Smith, Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Uche Nwaneri, Jermey Parnell, John Wetzel

Weems' ongoing injury may have saved Jermey Parnell from Cowboy extinction.  I still think the first backup tackle is Zack Martin because the depth is at guard, not tackle.  Rumors persist that they may go eight here to make room for others at RB and WR, but that seems unlikely to me.

Defensive line (10): George Selvie, Anthony Spencer, Jeremy Mincey, Tyrone Crawford, Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Nick Hayden, Davon Coleman, free agent, free agent

Here's where the meat and taters are on the decision plate.  I dropped Ken Bishop because I think they'll find better on the waiver wire, and they can get him on the practice squad.  Jeremy Mincey could be in trouble, too, and he'd better be glad DeMarcus Lawrence isn't available right now.  In fact, Lawrence will probably be designated to the injured reserve list and return Week 8 because they need too much help now.  Hayden should also be nervous because I suspect 2-4 players that are about to get cut from other teams are headed this way, either by trade (Dallas has RBs and WRs that can play), or by waiver claims.  Trades reduce the risk of losing in a waiver wire battle with other teams in need.

Linebacker (6): Justin Durant, Kyle Wilber, Rolando McClain, Bruce Carter, Anthony Hitchens, Cameron Lawrence

Gone is Holloman, which created room for either Cameron Lawrence or Will Smith.  I'm going with Lawrence.  Again, watch the waiver wire here, too.

Cornerback (5): Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Sterling Moore, Terrance Mitchell, Tyler Patmon

Hello, Mr. Patmon.  Not only did this guy arrive in camp, he's got to have the coaches thinking about moving him up to the fourth spot ahead of Moore.  This has made life difficult for Mitchell and Webb, who could get axed for Ryan Williams' sake.  In fact, I'm cutting Webb.  Orlando Scandrick doesn't count now, but he'll return, which will mean a player cut at another position.

Safety (5): Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jakar Hamilton, Ahmad Dixon, Jeff Heath

Standing pat here, but Dixon needs to learn that this isn't Rice they're playing, and that yes, you do have to change the way you play or you'll be suspended routinely like Brandon Meriweather in Washington.

Specialists (3): Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur

I doubt the Australian will take Jones' spot, though he's punted well.

Like most lists, mine will no doubt look silly by kickoff on September 7th.  I don't care, I'm just ready for real football once again.



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Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?

Brian Martin

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How Much can RB Tony Pollard eat Into Zeke's 2019 Workload?

Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.

Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.

Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.

Tony Pollard

Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard

There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?

Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.

Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.

In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.

What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?



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Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable

Matthew Lenix

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Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Formidable

Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.

The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.

Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).

Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.

Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.

The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.



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CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season

Kevin Brady

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Seldom-Used CB Jourdan Lewis Could Play Big Role Against Saints

For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.

In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.

After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.

Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.

 "As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."

Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.

Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.

"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."

The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.

That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.

Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.



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