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?
Will Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods Return This Week?
The Dallas Cowboys have been without one of their defensive starters for the first two weeks of 2018; safety Xavier Woods. A preseason hamstring injury has kept him in street clothes so far, but Woods could make his season debut this week against the Seattle Seahawks.
The positive update on Woods' status was provided by Owner Jerry Jones in his regular radio appearance this morning.
Jerry Jones on @1053thefan said it appears Randy Gregory (concussion) will be available to play Sunday at Seattle. Jones also thinks Xavier Woods (hamstring) has a chance to play this week after missing the first two games
Gregory has already played this year, suffering his concussion and leaving the season opener against the Carolina Panthers. Even in his absence last week, the Cowboys got six sacks on Eli Manning in their victory over the Giants.
That's not to say getting Randy back isn't noteworthy, but the real news here is the potential for Xavier Woods to take his place as the team's starting free safety.
While Woods has been out, Jeff Heath has been the free safety while Kavon Frazier has started at strong. The plan going into 2018 was for Heath to play strong safety, putting him closer to the line of scrimmage where his skills are best suited.
Xavier was one of the team's most exciting rookies last year, flashing the potential to be a game-changing presence.
Woods' upside is one of the reasons some fans haven't been as desperate about the Earl Thomas situation. While Thomas would be an upgrade in almost any defense, including the Cowboys, the chance to see what Xavier has mitigated disappointment over not acquiring the All-Pro safety.
If Woods can provide what the team hopes for at free safety, it has a positive ripple effect for the roster. Not only do you upgrade at FS, but Heath moving to his ideal role at SS is another improvement.
It also moves Frazier, who's been solid in his playing time, into a valuable bench role. It gives Dallas depth at safety which, up til now, they've lacked in Xavier's absence.
The loser in this deal would likely be either veteran backup Ibraheim Campbell, who Dallas signed two weeks ago to deal with their depth issues, or undrafted rookie Tyree Robinson. Robinson has been with the team since they signed him immediately after the 2018 NFL Draft.
With talk that the Cowboys are looking to bring back WR Brice Butler, a roster spot will be needed. Xavier Woods' return could allow for that spot to come from safety rather than receiver, where Dallas is hesitant to part with any of its current players.
In the end, all we have right now is a "maybe" about Woods' status. But with Dallas' defense already performing well this year, the thought of getting even better is enticing. With the tough road environment of Seattle and Russell Wilson coming up this Sunday, getting Xavier back could be timely.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Giants
I don't know about you, but I feel a lot better this week about the Dallas Cowboys after they thoroughly controled the game against the New York Giants last Sunday night. It amazes me how much better they played in the second week of the 2018 season as opposed to what they put on the field Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.
The Dallas Cowboys performed better in all three phases of the game. The defense was simply outstanding, the offense looked much improved, and the fact that there weren't any breakdowns on special teams is an added plus. Overall, it's hard to be too disappointed with the way the overall team performed Sunday.
With all of that in mind, I want to share with you what I believe is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys from the primetime matchup with the division rival New York Giants. I know you may disagree with what I decided to go with in each category, but that's part of the fun of it.
If you watched the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants Sunday night then you pretty much know what the good was. How could I not go with the Cowboys defense? They were simply phenomenal against the Giants and are starting to become the identity of this year's team.
The Cowboys pass rush continuously put pressure on Quarterback Eli Manning and ended the game with six QB sacks. Nearly every defensive lineman got in on the action, which is hopefully a sign of things to come. The secondary was also really impressive. They played man-to-man coverage nearly the entire game and shut down the Giants aerial attack, including Odell Beckham Jr.
I was also really pleased to see the Cowboys linebackers playing much better. You may not have noticed, but the coaching staff is going with a rotation of sorts with the LBs, and it really looked as if it's helping keep them fresh. This could pay huge dividends moving forward, especially with Sean Lee's injury concerns.
I debated several different things to put in this section, but ultimately I decided the bad for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night was Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game. Yes, it was better than what we saw from them in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done from both Prescott and his receivers.
Unfortunately, Prescott only completed 16 of 25 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown against the Giants. Those are nearly identical numbers to what he put up against the Panthers, the only difference is he was much more successful on the ground, rushing for 45 yards on seven carries. If you take away his long TD completion to Wide Receiver Tavon Austin, those numbers are even more depressing.
The passing game and Dak Prescott needs to improve dramatically. The Cowboys simply aren't going to be able to continue to win games like this. The offense should've been able to put up a lot more points on the Giants Sunday night. Hopefully, things will continue to get better because if not, the Cowboys are in trouble.
There was a number of different directions I could've gone here, but for me the ugly for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night against the Giants was the penalties. Penalties became a problem for the Cowboys in Week 1 against the Panthers and once again reared their ugly head against the Giants. Unfortunately, this has continuously been a problem under the tutelage of Head Coach Jason Garrett.
The Dallas Cowboys were lucky that the untimely penalties didn't have much impact on the outcome of the game. If they would have been playing a better team than the Giants, they probably wouldn't have overcome the long down and distances. I want to believe this can be cleaned up, but Jason Garrett's going to have to start holding his players accountable, which at this point seems a little unlikely.
The Cowboys players are going to take it upon themselves to cut down the penalties. Most of the time it's just mental mistakes, so there is reason to believe they can accomplish this task. But, they are really going to have to buckle down and focus on remaining consistent down after down.
What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Giants?
Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Bounce Back Against Giants
Unlike last week, today's Monday morning hangover isn't nearly as bad. Thankfully, the Dallas Cowboys had a bounce back game against the New York Giants Sunday night, meaning you were probably drinking in celebration instead of drowning your sorrows. Hopefully, this continues.
Today, I want to do a little recap over what took place last night for the Dallas Cowboys and share with you some of the good and not so good I observed. Luckily, there was much more good for the Cowboys compared to what they put on the field Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.
First off, how impressive was the Cowboys defensive play against the Giants? The pass rush consistently put pressure on Eli Manning and finished the night with six quarterback sacks. Nearly all of the defensive line got in on the action. I think we can credit Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard for the aggressive game plan.
The pass rush wasn't all that was dominant against the Giants for the Cowboys defense. Dallas' secondary pretty much shut down Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the Giants aerial attack. They played man-to-man coverage nearly the entire night and it paid off. Again, I think we can give credit to Kris Richard. He's changed how these defensive backs are being utilized.
The one negative I took away from the Cowboys defensive performance was the missed tackles once again. There were several Cowboys defenders who failed to take down Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley on first contact. Barkley unfortunately was able to pick up several yards after contact because of this. Tackling was a problem against the Panthers as well and it needs to be cleaned up in a hurry.
Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys looked like an entirely different unit than what took the field in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan was much more aggressive with his playcalling, evidenced by the long touchdown pass to Tavon Austin on the first offensive series.
Unlike against the Panthers, Linehan put Dak Prescott in the best position to succeed. He didn't have No. 4 sit in the pocket, instead he put him on the move and allowed him to use his mobility to put pressure on the Giants defense. I believe this is where Prescott is at his best and should continued to be utilized in this manner.
Ezekiel Elliott didn't have the biggest rushing totals, but we all know the Giants defense was trying to take him out of the game. He finished the night with 78 rushing yards on 17 carries, but he did manage to pretty much put the game away with a rushing TD. Personally, I would love to see Zeke more involved in the passing game, especially down the field instead of around on a scrimmage.
All in all, the Dallas Cowboys did what they needed to do in order to secure the victory. They still have several things they need to clean up and improve upon, but what team doesn't at this point in the season. Now, they need to carry over this momentum into Week 3 on the road against the Seattle Seahawks.
What do you think about the Dallas Cowboys performance against the Giants?
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