Training camp has begun and preseason is just around the corner. After weeks of position battles during OTAs and minicamp, things are about to get real once the players put their pads on and begin showing what they're capable of in order to make the roster come cut down day.
Although it isn't exactly a "position battle," the race for the 53rd spot on the roster is always one of the most fun and intriguing stories for each team in the preseason.
The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of legitimate candidates for said spot, and the race for the final place on the roster will continue into the season with David Irving returning until the fifth week of the campaign.
Here are my top candidates for this year's 53rd spot on the roster!
DE Charles Tapper
The Dallas Cowboys' depth at defensive end is definitely an upgrade from last year's. The team added Kony Ealy in free agency and drafted Dorance Armstron in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. But the biggest news at the position is the reinstatement of Randy Gregory.
With Gregory coming back, Tapper's task to make the team did nothing but get harder. Health problems have kept the 25 year-old off the field. With just two career games under his belt, I wonder what his odds are in such a loaded defensive end room.
For him to keep his job, the Cowboys would likely need to carry seven defensive ends to start the season.
RB Darius Jackson
Behind Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith will likely be the #2 guy at running back. It seems like Tavon Austin, despite being listed as a running back, will have a different role and will be involved as a pass-catcher and not as a runner.
So who will be behind Smith? The two names that jump out of the page are Bo Scarbrough and Darius Jackson. Just like many in Cowboys Nation, I loved the idea of having Darius in the roster in 2016. However, I'm leaning towards Scarbrough this time.
Even if Bo is on the roster, could one of the fan's favorites pet cats do enough in the preseason to justify carrying a fourth (not including Tavon Austin) running back on the roster? With one of the nation's top running backs starting, it's tough to imagine so.
TE Rico Gathers
The season is getting closer and closer and we still have no clue who will try to fill the shoes of the great Jason Witten. We know there are some candidates that will make the fight for the starting role interesting though.
Rico Gathers would make for one hell of a story, but the hype around him in 2018 isn't close to what it was a couple of years ago. Nothing has changed to make us believe that this time around, Rico will be what the Cowboys thought they could develop with his skill set.
There are many young candidates for the position. Geoff Swaim has the most experience, making him a virtual lock for the roster. The coaching staff clearly likes Blake Jarwin, they proved it by promoting him from the practice squad to the team to keep him safe from the Philadelphia Eagles. Also a potential starter down the road is fourth round rookie Dalton Schultz.
I don't think Rico Gathers is ahead any of these guys. But, if he manages to impress the staff in training camp, he might earn the roster spot. Otherwise, he'll likely be playing elsewhere.
CB Kam Kelly
An undrafted free agent, I like Kam Kelly's chances of making the cut. You see, the team might be set at cornerback with starters Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones and Jourdan Lewis. I expect Anthony Brown and Marquez White to be the team's backups but I won't be surprised if the team decides to carry a sixth cornerback in Kam Kelly.
Kelly is a big guy, and he looks like the CB that Kris Richard wants on his team. The main reason why I think he has a real chance to make the roster is the fact that he'd be able to play safety if needed. This will help the undrafted rookie since the team is very thin at safety.
WR Cedrick Wilson
Finally, my favorite on this list. Sixth-round draft pick Cedrick Wilson was definitely a steal by the Cowboys' front office. He might be the Cowboy with the most to gain in training camp. The Boise State product has experience playing as an "X" receiver, where he lined up last year in college.
Wilson could provide the team with an additional threat on the passing game. He's good at stretching the field and will make a good job as a vertical threat. We all know that despite the young talent the Cowboys have at wide receiver, it's one of the most uncertain positions heading into the season.
Out of everyone on this list, I like Wilson's chances the best. Although he is a sixth-round draft pick, don't be surprised if he ends up with an important role at some point in the season.
Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern
Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.
2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.
As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.
Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.
Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.
Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.
Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.
The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.
Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
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