The 2018 Dallas Cowboys are loaded with young talent, which means there may be some tough cuts as the team puts together its 53-man roster for this season. Players you had high hopes for in the past could be pushed out by the influx of new talent, or just changing circumstances.
Last week, I gave you my first 53-man roster projection for 2018. Today, I thought we'd look at some of the bigger names on the roster who didn't make the cut. How close are they, and what needs to happen to make me change my mind?
Rico Gathers, TE
Perhaps the most surprising and potentially upsetting of my projected cuts, Gathers has tantalized us for two years now with his athletic ability. He had a strong 2017 preseason that got fans very excited, but a concussion put him on injured reserve and he never returned to action.
There have been whispers that the coaches aren't in love with Rico's work ethic, which is disturbing for a guy who has such a long and difficult road to making it in the NFL. Gathers didn't play college football, and the transition from power forward to tight end is one few could accomplish even if they gave max effort.
The biggest problem for Rico will be picking up pro-level blocking, which is especially vital for a team that relies on the run game like Dallas. Gathers could easily be buried if guys like Geoff Swaim, Dalton Schultz, and Blake Jarwin are overwhelmingly superior blockers.
With Fullback Jamize Olawale big enough to also play some tight end, the numbers could be a problem for Rico. Unless he makes a dramatic leap forward in his game, earning the confidence to be a consistent contributor, he may have to continue his NFL experiment with another franchise.
Chaz Green, OT
Some are probably surprised Green's still on the roster as it is after his disastrous 2017 run. But even if he's just a camp body, Chaz looks to be with the Cowboys at least through training camp and preseason.
In the final year of his rookie deal, Green is relatively cheap for his experience. But not all experience is good, and Chaz became a laughing-stock after the Falcons' Adrian Clayborn olbiterated him last year.
Dallas brought in veteran Cameron Fleming to take over as the swing tackle this year, which alone is a big shot to Green's job security. With Joe Looney and Marcus Martin at the interior spots, Green doesn't appear to have a role.
Given his time in the system, though, Chaz would likely be the first man up if someone gets hurt this summer. And if the Cowboys do want to keep nine offensive linemen on the roster, Green's experience at both guard and tackle give him some versatility value.
Chaz Green living up to his third-round draft pick appears to be a lost cause. But he could still hang around for one more year if a few things fall his way.
Charles Tapper, DE
Taken one round after Chaz Green in 2016, Tapper has been held back by injuries these first two seasons. Without a real foothold on the roster, his spot may now be lost to the team's latest fourth-round pick.
Dallas took another defensive end, Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, in last month's draft. He will automatically have an edge on Tapper as the shiny new toy.
To make matters worse for Charles, Randy Gregory appears poised to return from his suspension. If Gregory is anything close to the player Dallas selected in the 2015 draft, he will have a roster spot.
The Cowboys also signed veteran free agent Kony Ealy last month, who they have liked since he came into the league in 2014. Add these depth guys to your entrenched players like DeMarcus Lawrence and Taco Charlton and it's not hard to see how Charles Tapper could be pushed out.
Tapper's always seemed like he has potential, especially after he got a sack in the first game of 2017. But that came against the Giants' version of Chaz Green, Ereck Flowers.
If Charles can make it in the NFL, he may have to prove it elsewhere.
Lewis Neal, DT
One of the fan favorites from last preseason, Neal was a surprising cut who made it to the practice squad. He was signed to the active roster for the second half of 2017, appearing in seven games.
The Cowboys have a lot of guys already who fill the role that Neal does as the athletic 3-technique defensive tackle. He's up against Tyrone Crawford, David Irving, Maliek Collins, and newly acquired Jihad Ward.
Those numbers we discussed at defensive end regarding Charles Tapper also affect the tackles. If guys like Crawford and Irving aren't needed to play on the edges, they can commit more to the inside spots. It's a compound effect that limits opportunities for guys at the bottom.
2018 just isn't looking like a year for rags-to-riches players. The Cowboys have loaded up in recent years with solid drafts and other moves to bring in quality young talent. The decks are stacked against guys like Neal, undersized and undrafted, no matter how hard they work.
~ ~ ~
While we hate to see intriguing players like Rico Gathers or Lewis Neal not make the roster, these aren't bad things for the Cowboys. Project players are fun to talk about, but ultimately you want your roster spots going to guys with more substantial NFL talent and potential.
So yes, there will almost certainly be some tough cuts in 2018. Some we'll mourn more than others. But when guys you like don't make it, it means guys the coaches liked more did.
It means the team, at least in theory, is stronger for it.
Todd Gurley Leaps Ezekiel Elliott on NFL Rushing Leaderboard
After several weeks as the NFL's rushing leader, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been bumped to second place. With a 208-yard explosion last week against the Broncos, Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams has leaped Zeke on the leaderboard.
Elliott was no slouch himself in Week 6, putting up 106 yards on the vaunted Jaguars defense. But Gurley nearly doubled that in Denver, and now leads Zeke by 37 yards.
Here are the current NFL rushing leaders, :
- Todd Gurley, Rams - 623 yards
- Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys - 586 yards
- Melvin Gordon, Chargers - 466 yards
- Kareem Hunt, Chiefs - 456 yards
- James Conner, Steelers - 453 yards
- Saquon Barkley, Giants - yards
- Matt Breida, 49ers - 430 yards
- Isaiah Crowell, Jets - 430 yards
- Sony Michel, Patriots - 400 yards
It's still early in 2018, but it's already starting to look like a two-horse race for the rushing title. And it's no surprise that those two would be Elliott and Gurley.
Last year, Zeke and Todd were the top two in the NFL for yards-per-game. Gurley missed one game that year and finished second in total yards behind Kareem Hunt. Elliott was held back by his suspension.
Week 7 could allow Elliott to retake the lead. He'll see a Washington defense that he ran for 150 yards on last season in a single game. However, they are currently sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed.
Gurley gets a slightly softer opponent in the 49ers defense, who are just 13th in run defense. Both games will be on the road.
While these stats certainly aren't as important as wins and losses, they do matter to the players. Rushing titles come back into the conversation when Hall of Fame credentials are being considered.
If things stay at their current pace for Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley, we may be tracking this race all the way through the end of the regular season.
Michael Gallup Showing Signs of a Breakout
We're only six games into the career of Rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup who was selected 81st overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft. It's been a slow start to his career, mostly because of usage. On Sunday, he took a step toward what many thought he could be for the Cowboys when he was drafted; Wide receiver one.
The numbers, one reception on two targets for 27 yards, may not indicate a breakout is coming, but if you look at the two targets he saw and the quality of the corner he faced, they're more impressive.
Look at this catch by #Cowboys rookie WR Michael Gallup https://t.co/lD1xJ2WemD
On the Dallas Cowboys first drive of the day, Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott looked Michael Gallup's way down the left sideline and hit him on a nice back shoulder fade that looked an awful lot like a Dez Bryant-like contested catch. It was a key play on 3rd-and-9 to get the Dallas Cowboys into Jacksonville territory on a drive that led to a Brett Maher field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Later in the game with the Cowboys driving to score a touchdown, Gallup made a tremendous catch when he got perfect depth behind All-Pro Corner Back A.J. Bouye and in front of the safety help. It looked to be an impressive touchdown catch just inside the end zone, but was overturned on replay. On review, Gallup wasn't able to get his second foot down after he made contact with the defender. Though the touchdown didn't stand, it was an impressive effort for Michael Gallup.
Michael Gallup with a near circus catch to ALMOST haul in his first NFL TD. Ruled incomplete. #cowboys #jags @CSUFootball https://t.co/SePSc3n1Yp
Michael Gallup led the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver group in snaps (81% of the offensive snaps) on Sunday, and according to Mike Clay from ESPN, he led the Dallas Cowboys in routes run as well. Both of Gallup's targets came against Bouye, showing an ability to beat one of the best corners in the NFL.
Michael Gallup paced the Cowboys in pass routes (25) for the first time in his career on Sunday.
As Michael Gallup sees more opportunities to play, his opportunities to make plays are going to continue to grow. With news coming down that Tavon Austin is unlikely to play for several weeks because of a groin injury, more snaps are opening up at the wide receiver position. Tavon played 18 snaps before getting injured on Sunday, so there will be increased opportunities for Gallup moving forward.
Gallup's only seen about 3 targets a game, but with the increased snaps he saw in week six and the potential for even more with Austin coming, the opportunities should grow. As he continues to come down with impressive catches like he did on Sunday (even if only one of them counted), it's going to increase Dak Prescott's and the coaching staff's level of trust in the rookie.
It's safe to say that more big time catches are coming for Michael Gallup and a breakout is coming sooner than later.
Takeaway Tuesday: Cole Beasley is Your Interim WR1
Watching the Dallas Cowboys beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 40-7 was undoubtedly fun for Cowboys Nation. There were not many positive expectations for the Cowboys heading into this game but both the defense and offense put on impressive performances at home in an attempt to remain serious contenders within the NFC East.
We learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday as they beat one of the top defenses in the NFL. Let's talk about in this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!
Cole Beasley Is Your Interim WR1
The Cowboys have yet to find their #1 wide receiver, but Cole Beasley is making a serious statement looking like the most reliable target in Dallas. Being 5'8 and a slot receiver doesn't really help Beasley's case to be the #1 guy, but he's making plays.
Last Sunday, he was the only wide receiver on the team with more than one catch. The other player with more than one reception was Geoff Swaim, who only got his hands on the ball twice. Beasley finished the day with nine receptions for 101 yards and two touchdown catches. The Cowboys need other WRs to step up but in the meantime, let Beasley put the sauce on opposing defenses. Hopefully he continues to hurt defenses like he did versus the Jaguars' feared secondary.
The team still needs a guy who can be a consistent threat on the outside, though. Third-round rookie Michael Gallup could develop into that, but he isn't there yet. We'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, it's all Beasley.
Bright Future for the Defensive Line
Blake Bortles was sacked three times by the so-called "Hot Boyz" last weekend. To be quite honest, the future for this defensive line looks brightest than it ever has. The return of Maliek Collins and David Irving to the field were desperately needed for this defense to take the next step. Collins and Irving were somewhat limited, but their snap counts will surely increase as the season continues.
A lot of little details went into this sack from Maliek Collins. From his alignment pre-snap to his timing on the spin, it was a beautiful display of rushing the passer by @SavageSevv. https://t.co/CYcfLH6AfB
Randy Gregory also got limited snaps versus the Jaguars, but he was able to make an impact either way. He finished the day with one sack, two hits and one QB hurry. I can't wait until these guys' snaps increase. This should be a very scary unit for opposing quarterbacks.
Dak Prescott's Stats Don't Reflect His Performance
The Jaguars are the best defense this team has faced and yet it's been the offense's best performance. Dak Prescott's passing stats may not look great, but his play was. Even though he failed to cross the 200 yard mark on the air, he rushed for 82 yards and kept Jacksonville's defense honest. Dak has faced a lot of criticism this year and will likely continue to do so.
Even still, we've seen him ball out on various occasions now. Dak can play. He may not be an elite passer, in fact he's far from being that, but he can make this offense work if they play to his strengths.
We've heard players talk about "turning the corner" in Dallas. Cowboys Nation should hope that is the case. What's more frustrating than watching an offense being unable to move the chains and score touchdowns, is knowing they could do it with a better execution and play-calling. Thanks to players like Dak, Ezekiel Elliott and Cole Beasley, there's a silver lining for the Cowboys' offense.
Inconsistency is the Problem for Cowboys
Simply put, this is not the team we had witnessed in the first five weeks of the season. Even in the two prior wins this year, the Dallas Cowboys had not looked dominant at all. Specifically the offense. They hadn't faced a defense as tough as the Jaguars', but they were able to drop 40 on them. Now granted, they did it with the help of the defense, but still. We hadn't seen this version of the Cowboys.
Even with a 40-7 win over the Jaguars, it is tough to imagine Dallas will keep this up as the season continues. Hopefully, they do and I'm wrong about this. They need to be more consistent if they want to end up surprising the NFC East and walk away with the division title.
Although they got the big win, they still left points on the field and fail to execute for touchdowns in the second half. Even when the defense forced turnovers. In close games, this cost you wins in the NFL. The Cowboys can't afford to lose many more games, even in a weak division.
Star Blog1 week ago
If Jason Garrett’s Out, Who’s In? Potential HC Candidates
Star Blog4 days ago
Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?
Player News1 week ago
Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL’s Top 10 Rookies
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Did Garrett’s OT Decision Cost Him More Than Just the Game?
Star Blog7 days ago
Is Jason Garrett Losing the Cowboys Locker Room?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
3 Dallas Cowboys Players Who are Performing at an Elite Level
Game Notes6 days ago
Jaylon Smith Looks Healthy, And The NFL Should Be Terrified
Player News2 days ago
Oakland Raiders’ Wide Receiver Amari Cooper On the Trade Block