As training camp begins this week and the Dallas Cowboys begin the process of figuring out who is going to be on their 53-man roster week one. Though the final roster won't be finalized until week one of the regular season, 80% of the roster is locked in for the week one matchup with the Carolina Panthers.
It's a reality in the NFL that most of an NFL roster is set in stone even before they ever report to training camp.
We want to believe that there is competition up and down the roster. While that's true, typically it doesn't impact a player's standing on the roster as much as it does the depth chart.
For example, Dak Prescott is going to be the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys no matter what his preseason and training camp look like.
When I did this exercise a few months ago, I had 42 slots on the 53-man roster already spoken for. I'm at 43 names at the moment. Not many differences from May, but there are a few.
The chart below indicates who I believe has already locked their roster spot down heading to Oxnard, California.
The only difference here is that I've added Cooper Rush as a roster lock. I think I overvalued the idea of Mike White as a draft pick in making Rush potentially expendable in my previous "Roster Lock" piece.
Rush has the confidence of the coaching staff and has the experience edge over White, even if it is only one year. That one year matters to this group of coaches.
Roster construction and injuries could change the dynamic of how many quarterbacks they feel like they can keep, but I'm nearly 100% certain that these three will be on the roster.
In my previous post, I had Tavon Austin listed with the running backs. Since then it's been confirmed by Austin himself as well as people covering the team like Mike Fisher and Bryan Broaddus that he is a WR.
He'll be used in the backfield some, but for all intents and purposes, he's with the WR group.
The training camp battle at running back is between Bo Scarbrough and Darius Jackson.
Special teams play will be the key to this roster decision. It's even possible that the team could opt to run with only two traditional tailbacks on the 53-man roster with Tavon Austin's ability to take a few handoffs per game.
The change here from the previous edition is obviously the move of Tavon Austin to wide receiver. He may be listed by the team as a running back, Austin sees himself as a WR.
And as I've said from the day he was acquired, the Tavon Austin 'web-back' thing is foolish. He considers himself a WR and has mostly been practicing there. Certainly, tho, there is matchup fun to be had by lining him up in backfield WITH Zeke. https://t.co/YGOf9ibop1
The bigger move is the removal of Terrance Williams from the depth chart.
I'm fairly certain that he's on the roster come week one, but allegedly being intoxicated in public and running his Lamborghini into a light pole, his status on the roster could change. There is a chance that a suspension comes for violating the Personal Conduct policy. That's the only thing creating doubt for Williams at this point. If he avoids a suspension, Williams will be on the roster.
Noah Brown and Deonte Thompson are the top candidates to be the sixth wide receiver on the roster, with sixth round rookie draft pick Cedric Wilson and UDFA and practice squad veteran Lance Lenoir as dark horses to make the squad.
I believe that seven spots are already locked down. The starting five of Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins are written in permanent ink on Jason Garrett's depth chart.
Cameron Fleming and Joe Looney are entrenched as the primary backups at tackle and center. This leaves backup guard as the one place where the Dallas Cowboys still have a question.
We know that Looney can play some guard, but other candidates are Chaz Green, 2018 free agent signee Marcus Martin, and Ka'Deem Edwards.
Backup guard will be a competition through camp and most analysts see the Dallas Cowboys only keeping eight offensive lineman, leaving one spot for the three backup guard candidates mentioned.
Even though it's a question, it's much better than having to figure out who is starting at guard.
Randy Gregory isn't officially allowed to practice with the team or take part in the preseason games as Mike Fisher from 105.3 The Fan and 247Sports is reporting he has some conditions he still needs to meet. However, he's on track to be on the roster come week one.
Kony Ealy and Charles Tapper could possibly be the odd men out on the depth chart. With five already looking at a roster spot at defensive end, they will need a strong camp to force the team to keep them on the roster. Ealy has a bit of an inside edge as he can play on the inside in pass rushing situations.
David Irving's suspension means that he won't be on the 53-man roster opening weekend. He will be on the team when he's eligible to return week five, but that's not the exercise we are doing here.
Jihad Ward and Datone Jones are new additions to this chart. Previously it was only David Irving and Maliek Collins, but with the suspension to Irving, I don't see a scenario where Ward and Jones aren't on the week one roster versus Carolina.
They have very little experience on the interior of the defensive line and Datone Jones and Jihad Ward seem to fit the bill of guys who can play 3T and be penetrators on the interior.
No changes here. Love the depth that they have this year after being so weak at the position last year. I've always liked Damien Wilson as a strong side linebacker in a limited role. He's been very good against the run at setting the edge. I like him even better as a player off the bench.
Joe Thomas is a solid multi-positional linebacker who can play the WILL and MIKE positions and will help on special teams.
The lead story will be on Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch. All three have some injury concerns, but if all three are healthy, they will be one of the more dynamic and possibly dominant groups in the NFL.
Nothing has changed amongst the defensive back groups, though as many of us in Cowboys Nation wish, hopefully a splash will be made to bring in a certain All-Pro safety.
Despite Dan Bailey's end of season struggles in 2017, he's the place kicker. I don't expect that trend to continue into preseason or the regular season.
Chris Jones is one of the best punters in the NFL and his ability to run fakes is a very underrated aspect of his game. He's converted fakes each of the last couple seasons at very important times in the season.
He's such a weapon.
L.P. Ladouceur is as perfect as a long snapper as there is in the NFL. There will come a day when he retires, but hopefully that day doesn't come any time soon.
There will be a few changes to the roster, but typically related to injuries. This is the majority of the roster that will be there come Week One.
Who do you think the other nine guys are that will be on the roster when the team suits up week one at the Carolina Panthers?
Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.
Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
- DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
- DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
- DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
- G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
- G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
- DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
- LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable
The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.
Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.
The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.
Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.
- LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT
It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.
The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.
Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.
So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.
4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator
The big word around the Dallas Cowboys lately is about Jason Garrett and the future of the head coaching job. Some have speculated that either Quarterback Dak Prescott or Jason Garrett will get axed, and the other will stay.
Owner Jerry Jones was quoted on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas about his young quarterback, putting to bed at least half of the conflict.
"Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s young and he’s going to get extended."
This shut the door on the idea of Prescott being replaced.
As far as Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones has been less than committed.
"I’m not in the business of backing anybody; the head coach, or offensive coordinator, I just don’t back them publicly." Jerry Jones said.
So it seems that Jason Garrett’s future is up in the air.
But what about offensive coordinator Scott Linehan? What’s held the Cowboys back this year has been the offense, and a lot of it can be contributed to their predictable play calling and inability to adapt to today’s game and its current players.
Whether or not Jason Garrett retains his job, Scott Linehan’s job doesn’t seem near as secure. His scheme doesn’t really mesh with Dak Prescott and how the offense could look. There’s only so many times you can run a three tight end set and not get furious.
Cowboys fans may want Garrett gone but they might have to settle for a new offensive coordinator instead.
The good news is that there are many options out there. Options that not only could work well with Dak Prescott, but could bring the Cowboys offense into the 2010s.
Jerry Jones once said how the Cowboys offense was like the LA Rams. If they are able to sign their Co-Offensive Coordinator, then they could be.
When Matt LaFleur left to become the Tennessee Titans OC, the job became a shared job between Waldron and Aaron Kromer. I wonder if Waldron would rather have the job all to himself?
What makes Waldron so appealing is he is also the Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Those are two areas where the Rams excel and where the Cowboys need help.
Teams are going to start copying the offensive juggernauts of the NFL and the Rams are definitely one of them. The Cowboys should do themselves a favor and get out in front before other teams beat them to it.
Cam Newton is having one of his best seasons. Not only is he an MVP candidate but he’s set to have career highs in completion percentage and QBR, as well as a career low in interceptions. Cam Newton is a very talented quarterback but some of this has to be attributed to his new Quarterback Coach, Scott Turner.
The son of Norv Turner, Scott has seemingly helped mold Cam into a more accurate passer without compromising who Cam Newton is as an athletic quarterback. That has Dak Prescott written all over it.
He's got NFL lineage and a new, scary Cam Newton to add to his resume. He may not have as impressive a track record as others on here but he looks like he could be a chip off the old block and get the Cowboys where they need to be going.
A popular head coach candidate, Lincoln Riley has shown his creativity and offensive innovation during his short time as Oklahoma’s head coach. It’s uncertain if he’ll get any real offers to be a head coach, but as an OC, he would be a serious grab.
Everyone has seen the work he’s done with Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. How he’s able to incorporate different formations to open up the pass game and have the run game seem unstoppable. Just imagine what he could do with the weapons he would have at his disposal in Dallas.
It's likely that Lincoln Riley is a hot commodity for a head coach position, especially in Cleveland where he could reunite with Baker Mayfield. That shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from trying to lure him to Dallas, though. Lincoln Riley could be the real missing piece that Dallas has been looking for.
Another product of Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former running backs coach has the experience under Andy Reid on not only how to run an offense but to use your weapons at your disposal to the fullest.
Maybe I’m over-hyping this man but when you see the work he helped put in with Pat Mahomes and how he uses those weapons around him, it makes me imagine what he can do for the Cowboy offense.
The team has no shortage of weapons and could benefit greatly from a guy like this.
If the Chiefs make it past their first playoff game, Bieniemy could become a more attractive name when it comes time for new head coaches. However, if Jerry Jones comes calling and the right offer is met, who’s to say?
If Kris Richard can be lured from Seattle to fix the Cowboys defense, Eric Bieniemy can be lured from Kansas City to fix the Cowboys offense.
Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta
The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.
As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.
The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.
It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.
Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.
Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.
If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.
The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.
In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.
Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.
It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.
The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.
Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.
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