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.
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.
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.
Wide Receiver – 6
…………drum roll please………
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.
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.