It's getting to that time in the preseason where guys are starting to separate themselves. I think my roster reflects the guys that have done so. This is not an easy task folks. I used to think it was. But it is very difficult once you get down to around 60 players.
You have to consider so much - numbers at each position, if you cut a guy will he make it through waivers to your practice squad, do you cut a veteran for the week 1 game with the intent of bringing him back week 2 so that his salary isn't fully guaranteed... and I haven't even gotten into injuries to guys like Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Lawrence that you know will be back eventually, but you probably won't have the first few weeks of the season. Not to mention the suspension of Orlando Scandrick which just throws a wrench into everything.
So we've established the difficulty of a roster projection. Below is my best effort. And yes. If you do the math, I realize there are 54 players listed. Simply because of Scandrick's suspension. He will be on the team for the first 4 weeks but will not count against the roster during that time.
In keeping with the running roster projections by the staff during preseason, players added to this roster are denoted in red below.
Defense (28 players)
Safety – 5
Church and Wilcox are cemented as the starters. Jeff Heath is the coaching staff's pet cat and the new Danny McCray of the special teams unit. Ahmad Dixon put enough bulldozing hits on the Chargers that I don't think they can risk trying to get him to the practice squad. I'm sliding Jakar Hamilton in because, of all the safeties we have, I think he might be the best when it comes to pass coverage. There was a reason early in camp that he was dropping down and covering the slot. He's the only true single high safety we have on the roster.
Cornerback – 6
Same 6 as last week but I could definitely see it changing before San Fran. Webb was better in coverage against Baltimore but I just don't know if he has the physical toughness to play this type of defense. Rod has always had tough CBs that weren't afraid to hit, and I noticed a couple of times against the Ravens where Webb had a chance to get rough and make a play or two but flat-out avoided the contact instead. To B.W. Webb I say, "Sir, you are no Deion Sanders". He cannot afford to make business decisions. Tyler Patmon played very well last night and the coaches really seem to like him. You're on notice, Webb.
Outside Linebacker – 3
While I'm keeping the same guys here - this is starting to get a little tricky. First off, the neck injury that Holloman suffered this week could be serious. As I type this, no reports have surfaced yet on the seriousness of the injury. But it's the same injury that kept him out of 7 games last year. When you start to have multiple injuries to the same body part, there is a problem. When that body part is the neck then it's a HUGE problem. We will have to keep a close eye on this.
Also, while I know Bruce Carter is a lock to make the team - I'm not quite so sure that he is a lock to start on the weak-side anymore. While he definitely played better in coverage this week, he still missed a couple of assignments against the run-game and struggled to get off blocks that led to some big runs. It pains me to type this because Bruce is my man. I mean MY MAIN MAN. But if Rolando McClain continues to play as well as he did Saturday night, I could easily see a starting trio of McClain at MLB, Durant at WLB, and Wilber at SLB. It's all about getting the best 3 players on the field.
Inside Linebacker – 3
While nothing changes here, I sure do feel a lot better about this group than I did last week. Rolando McClain led the team in tackles against the Ravens and had a forced-fumble that rolled out of bounds. Most importantly he seemed to be having fun. Justin Durant also looked a lot better this week. Reports from camp have been that he's really playing well. But that didn't translate at all into the Chargers game. Well it did this week. He seemed to be exactly where he was supposed to be during his time on the field with the 1st team defense, which held the Ravens 1st string offense to 10 points.
Defensive Line – 11
Henry Melton DT
Nick Hayden DT
Terrell McClain DT
Davon Coleman DT
DeMarcus Lawrence DE
George Selvie DE
Jeremy Mincey DE
Tyrone Crawford DE/DT
Dartwan Bush DE
Ken Bishop DT
Anthony Spencer DE
Defensive Tackles: No, I did not forget about this weeks Flash Player of The Week Zach Minter. He was outstanding in the 4th quarter. But I have to see it more than once to justify putting him on the 53. I think the rest of the guys you see listed are pretty much locks. Devon Coleman shined once again against the Ravens. I think it's safe to say he has made the 53.
Defensive End: The new addition to the d-line this week is Mr. Dartwan Bush. Much like WR Jamar Newsome, he has combined a good training camp with good games as well. After re-watching the game, he was just everywhere. The strip sack that Minter got was in large part because Bush forced the QB right into his arms. He's earned his spot. That bumped Kenneth Boatright down to the practice squad. Boatright had back-to-back splash plays against the Chargers, but he really had zero impact Saturday and, while I'm not reporting live from training camp, I haven't read anything to suggest he is doing anything special. So shame on me for getting caught up in his flash plays last week.
Offense (23 Players)
Quarterback – 2
No changes here. Romo is obviously fine and while Weeden wasn't as sharp as he was against the Chargers - It's important to note that he was playing with the Cowboys 2's against the Ravens 1's. Despite Hanie looking much better than he did against the Chargers, I just can't fathom a way for the Cowboys to keep 3 QBs.
Running Back – 4
Last week I stated that Murray and Dunbar were the only locks. Well I think it's safe to say Randle can be added to that list after a great showing against the Chargers, and then backing that up with 5.9 YPC against the Ravens. The new addition this week is Ryan Williams. That means the exit of fullback Tyler Clutts. Neither Clutts nor J.C. Copeland have done anything to earn a spot on the 53 man roster. Ryan Williams has done the exact opposite. In both preseason games he has taken advantage of his opportunities. Jason Garrett has kept 4 RBs more than once (including last year), and as it stands right now, I think he does it again.
The first 5 - Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Harris, and Street - have been locks from day one. And if you would have asked me last week, or any week during training camp, I would have told you there was no way the Cowboys can keep 6 WRs. But Jamar Newsome has done exactly what an UDFA has to do to make a team. He's had a great training camp and now he's starting to carry that over into the actual games. He's going to make it very difficult for the coaches to cut him. So I decided to call him up from the Practice Squad.
Tight End – 3
No Changes here. The only thing that comes to my mind is if someone comes up on the waiver wire that can actually run-block. While Escobar and Hanna have both improved on their blocking - neither one of them make me feel all giggly inside when it comes to pushing people back in the run game.
The only change here this week is removing Darrion Weems and adding Uche Nwaneri. Simply put, I have to see you play. And I haven't seen Weems play. He's been injured and as old Parcells used to say, "You can't make the team on the trainers table." Nwaneri, on the other hand, has played. And he's played well enough to keep him on the 53 for extra depth. Also, as much junk as Parnell has taken - and rightfully so - he actually played pretty well against the Ravens. Every one will point to the one play where he almost got Weeden killed but, outside of that, he had a very solid night in both pass and run blocking. At one point, he pulled and was the lead man that led Joseph Randle to a 19-yard gain around the left side. And quite frankly, he's all we've got as a backup swing tackle.
Special Teams – 3
Dan MFN Baily K
LP French Canadian Daddy LS
Chris Jones P
Practice Squad – 8
Tyler Patmon CB
Will Smith LB
Caesar Rayford DE/DT
Kenneth Boatright DE
Dustin Vaughn QB
Chris Boyd WR
Ronald Patrick C/G
John Wetzel G/T
A few changes here. Ben Gardner was moved to IR. Jamar Newsome and Dartwan Bush were called up to the 53 which pushed Caesar Rayford and Kenneth Boatright down. I think the Cowboys risk losing both of these to other teams. They could both easily shine enough in these last 2 preseason games to force me into finding a way to get at least one of them back on the 53.
So there you have it. It's what I think is the best 53 players to take into week 1. Good God, I can't even imagine having to figure out which 46 to make active.
Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?
Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.
I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.
Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.
Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.
Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.
After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.
Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.
This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.
If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.
With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.
He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.
Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?
Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys
Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.
The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.
Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.
Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.
Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.
Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.
The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.
Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.
The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.
The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.
The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.
Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history
Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.
Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.
~ ~ ~
Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.
Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.
Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.
Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.
The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.
Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.
It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.
I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.
Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.
As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.
His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.
Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.
Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.
As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.
Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.
Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
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