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These Cowboys Are Already Locked for 53-Man Roster

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys Post-OTA's 53-Man Roster

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.

These Dallas Cowboys are Already Locked into the 53-Man Roster 2

Quarterback

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.

Running Back

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.

Wide Receiver

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.

mike fisher ✭ on Twitter

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.

Offensive Line

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.

Defensive End

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.

Defensive Tackle

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.

Linebacker

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.

Defensive Backs

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.

Special Teams

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?



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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Dallas Cowboys

Will Dallas Cowboys Address Backup RB in Free Agency or 2019 Draft?

Jess Haynie

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Darius Jackson

The Dallas Cowboys' backup running back spot may not seem like a high priority compared to other 2019 offseason issues. But all it takes is one bad play for Ezekiel Elliott to be lost, and the Dallas offense leans too heavily on the RB position to take his backup plan lightly. Will the team be looking to improve the talent behind Zeke through free agency or the draft?

Right now, the only running backs signed to the Cowboys' roster are Elliott, Darius Jackson, and Jordan Chunn. The backup for the last few seasons, Rod Smith, is currently an unrestricted free agent.

Jackson and Chunn have a combined six carries for 16 yards in their careers, and all of those came from Darius in the Cowboys' meaningless 2018 regular-season finale. Chunn spent all of his rookie season on the practice squad.

A sixth-round pick for Dallas in 2016, Darius Jackson is on his third stint with the Cowboys after stops in Cleveland and Green Bay in between. He has flashed some electric running ability at times but clearly hasn't been able to stick with a team. Could 2019 be his chance?

Jordan Chunn was an undrafted free agent out of Troy last year. He's a big, powerful runner with some deceptive athletic moves as well.

What stands out most with both of these guys isn't positive, though, and that's their mutual inexperience and draft capital. Would the Cowboys really leave their RB depth chart so thin when they're trying to make a championship run?

Dallas Cowboys Need More From RB Rod Smith

Dallas Cowboys RB Rod Smith

Dallas could be hoping to eventually re-sign Rod Smith at a bargain price. He's a solid backup and special teams leader, and the longer he sits unsigned in free agency then the lower his price should be.

But is it time for the Cowboys to invest more in their other running backs? Not only is 2019 a critical year, but upcoming contract negotiations with Elliott could make it a wise move.

This upcoming season is the last one of Zeke's standard rookie contract. Dallas will have to decide if they want to sign him long-term or let him play 2020 on his fifth-year option as a former first-round draft pick, which would pay him about $9 million.

Signing or drafting a player of consequence now, and having them under contract over the next few seasons, would give the Cowboys some added leverage in contract negotiations with Elliott.

What's more, who's to say that Zeke's impressive durability will just continue? He's already had a lot of touches in three years, even with the six suspension games. Maybe it's time to find someone who you don't mind giving some of the workload to?

Some of the top free agents available likely won't want the reduced role, and money, that playing behind Elliott will mean. That would take guys like Jay Ajayi and C.J. Anderson off the list.

What about older veteran who can still ball, like Marshawn Lynch, Darren Sproles, or Doug Martin? You might not want them as a featured player anymore but they could still be effective on limited touches. Joining a potential contender like the Cowboys in a supporting role could be exactly what these guys are looking for.

Other free agent options would be players who are used to backup roles, such as Isaiah Crowell, T.J. Yeldon, or Spencer Ware. They would be probable upgrades from Rod Smith but for minimal money if they stay unsigned much longer.

Justice Hill

Oklhoma St. RB Justice Hill

The draft is another way to add some RB talent, and it could be the smartest one. A drafted player, even as high as Dallas' second-round pick, would have a four-year rookie deal at a minimal salary.

One player that could make a lot of sense for the Cowboys is Justice Hill out of Oklahoma State. He brings a change of pace from Elliott as a smaller, quicker back and could be available for them during Day 2 of the draft.

Hill was featured as a potential Cowboys target by our Brian Martin a few weeks ago.

You might say that having Elliott makes any sort of serious draft pick at running back a wasted pick. But with Zeke turning 26 after the 2020 season, the Cowboys might be willing to let someone else give him a huge deal and move on to a much cheaper option.

And again, who says that Elliott makes it through another 16-game season and playoffs without a major injury? It can happen to the best of them.

Clearly, this could go any number of ways. Dallas might bring back Rod Smith or some comparable player for a cheap, easy answer at backup running back. Maybe they invest in a more proven free agent, or perhaps they draft someone early enough to matter.

However it goes, let's just say that I highly doubt Darius Jackson will be RB2 come September.



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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Head Toward NFL Draft with No Glaring Needs

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten Retiring, Joining MNF Broadcast Booth

When the offseason began after the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs, it was clear that they were a team on the rise, but had several areas they needed to address as free agency and the draft approached.

The team had holes or depth issues at safety, defensive tackle, swing tackle, wide receiver, defensive end, and tight end. Through the first two weeks of free agency, the Dallas Cowboys have taken care of each of those areas.

With the signings of George Iloka, Christian Covington, Cameron Fleming, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Kerry Hyder, and Jason Witten, The Dallas Cowboys have set themselves up to approach the draft with “clear eyes and a full heart.”

As they head into April with the NFL Draft looming, the Cowboys won’t be held back by positional need and can allow their draft board to do the work for them and just add good players. It’s an excellent position to be in as they don’t have to reach for a player at a position of need they may not like as much because they have a veteran presence filling that need.

Backup running back appears to be the only position where the Cowboys could use some depth, but that player for this team is more of a special teams player who gets limited snaps on offense because of the greatness of Ezekiel Elliott. It’s generally a position where there is a lot of talent deep in the draft and undrafted free agent pool, which allows the Cowboys to be patient filling that need behind the NFL’s leading rusher.

Mother than that, if the Dallas Cowboys has to go play a football game and win today, they’d be in great shape to do so.

On the flip side, however, the Cowboys can still add players at defensive tackle, wide receiver, tight end, safety, and defensive end because they aren’t restricted by big contracts to those veteran players. Each of them came to the Cowboys on one-year deals. The veterans that they signed would prohibit them from drafting at that same position, and that’s the point.

The Cowboys have created a formula that works really well for them. Sometimes it get frustrating watching the team not make any big splashes in free agency, especially that first week when other teams are bringing in big-name players to add to their rosters. That formula has led them to a 48-32 record over the last five seasons with three NFC East titles, and two playoff wins, and three divisional round appearances.

And the playoff runs could have been deeper with a bit of luck and correct officiating.

The Dallas Cowboys have set themselves up really well as they now set their sights on the NFL Draft at the end of April. Though they won’t have a first round pick to add to their talent pool, the Cowboys have shown that they can find talent in the second round and beyond. This year will be no different.

Now it’s time to sit back and trust the process.



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones

Yet another free agency without a big splash by the Dallas Cowboys. What a surprise. Despite entertaining Earl Thomas rumors for a long, long time, the Cowboys' front office has stuck with its philosophy of not overpaying free agents and building the team mainly through the NFL Draft. However, they've actually had some pretty good signings over the last few days that will really benefit the Cowboys when the season comes around.

They've done so with inexpensive free agents who will contribute at a high level on their respective positions. Sure, top free agent signings are fun. But many times, they end up backfiring to teams for spending so much money in one single player. At the end of the day, the Cowboys' way has gotten the team three NFC East Championships since 2014. Many factors come into play, but their team building philosophy can't be as bad as many claim it to be.

George Iloka

The most recent acquisition came in form of former Cincinnati Bengal and Minnesota Viking Safety George Iloka. The Cowboys had a desperate need at the defensive backfield and finally they've done something about it. On a heavy safety market, the Cowboys sat tight while watching the top free agents get top contracts around the league, including Landon Collins' record breaking deal with the Washington Redskins.

Now, they've gotten a guy who can play both safety positions. I'll be surprised if he doesn't take Jeff Heath's job. He's played as a free safety most of his career but being a good tackler, he should do a good job in the box. Iloka will also shine on special teams in Dallas.

So far, my favorite signing may be that of former Green Bay Packer, Randall Cobb. The Cowboys had an important need at the wide receiver position despite counting with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup leading the room. Cole Beasley is a tough guy to replace and although Cobb may not be a better slot receiver than him, he certainly has the experience and the skill set to be a starting slot WR.  What's more, he'll only cost the Cowboys five million while Beasley got a four year deal with which he'll earn $17M over the first two years.

Cowboys en Español: La Afortunada Llegada de Randall Cobb

Cole Beasley will be missed, but the good thing is the front office did a pretty good job at filling the concerning hole on offense. Cooper, Gallup and Cobb are definitely not a bad starting trio to have.

Other under the radar moves will also help the Cowboys. Kerry Hyder may not be a well-known in the NFL but he'll surely contribute to this defensive line as a rotational player. Hyder had eight sacks in 2016 with the Detroit Lions before suffering an Achilles injury in 2017 and dealing with a scheme change last season. Hyder will surely be happy about being back to a 4-3 defense in Dallas.

Christian Covington was another overlooked signing. Covington will help on the interior of the defensive line and although he'll likely not be a starter, he'll be an important piece in the rotation for a very reasonable contract ( also a one-year deal).

For a football team that's constantly criticized for not being active in free agency, the Cowboys have done something at pretty much every position where they need help. Safety, defensive end, defensive tackle, wide receiver and tight end have all been addressed this offseason prior to the NFL Draft. This will give them great flexibility in April and could lead to a pretty good "best player available" strategy.

Now granted, there are still concerns regarding the young "to be extended" group of players. DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't reached an agreement with the Cowboys and will continue to postpone surgery until he does. If the front office doesn't strike a contract with the star pass rusher, it won't be possible to consider this offseason a good one no matter what happens. Dallas can't let him leave.

In the meantime though, they've had a pretty quiet yet successful March. And they're not done yet. Robert Quinn could end up wearing the Star if a trade with the Miami Dolphins does end up taking place. We'll see if the Cowboys continue to build on an already pretty good free agency.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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