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.
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
How The Tables Have Turned for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
The 2018 season was a two-part tale for the Dallas Cowboys. The first is the story of a mediocre 3-5 team that couldn't get it going offensively. The second part is about a football team that turned its season around, made the playoffs, got a win in the postseason and ultimately lost to the team that ended up representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII, the Los Angeles Rams.
Surely, 2018 didn't go as planned. The storylines leading to last season are actually very different from the ones we're hearing today. Let's take a look at a few examples of how the tables have turned for the Dallas Cowboys.
The need for a true WR1
Last season, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys preached the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver. While that could've sound encouraging at the time, once the season began the team was proven wrong. They did need a WR1. Fortunately, this season we won't have to worry about it. This year, Dez Bryant shouldn't be a discussion topic among Cowboys' fans.
Amari Cooper is in the house. And he's been pretty good since he started playing with a Star on his helmet. If we have conversations about the WR position, they will not be about who's the #1 guy. With Michael Gallup showing up late in the season, it probably won't be about who is #2 either.
Back on top of the NFC East
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were not really the favorites to win the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles had just made history by winning their first Super Bowl ever and it seemed like the Cowboys would have to get a wildcard spot to play in January. Now it's the Cowboys back on top after sweeping the Eagles and turning their once 3-5 season around.
That of course, means a tougher schedule next season. However, it's nice to be back on top of the division. These two teams will surely have an intense race for the division title next season. Maybe we even see them both in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Sean Lee's uncertain future
I'm pretty sure no one expected Sean Lee to be considered a potential cap casualty for the 2019 season. Even if he was, it would've probably been anticipating an injury or something like that. No one would've imagined that Leighton Vander Esch would be so good to take Sean Lee's job.
The Cowboys' first round rookie truly earned the starting role as the defense's weak linebacker and he should keep it. With Sean Lee set to return to the field, I'm sure we didn't expect him to be a backup by now. We'll have to wait and see if the Cowboys decide to part ways with him. As a fan, it would certainly be painful. But we can't deny it would be a move that makes sense.
It's a crazy franchise on a crazy league. Who knows how things will go from now on, but the Dallas Cowboys certainly look like a promising team heading into the 2019 offseason. Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with the latest on your favorite NFL team.
Cowboys en Español: Volviendo a la Idea de Earl Thomas
El año pasado, Earl Thomas fue uno de los temas de conversación más frecuentes para los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys. Después de que los Seattle Seahawks no le dieran su deseada extensión de contrato, Thomas se convirtió en un candidato a ser intercambiado de su equipo. Entre los favoritos estaban los Cowboys, quienes tenían una necesidad en su defensiva secundaria. Ahora que la temporada 2018 llegó a su fin, la misma necesidad por un safety de calidad está presente en Dallas.
Sólo que en esta ocasión, Earl Thomas no está bajo contrato con ningún equipo. Su último momento con el uniforme de los Seahawks fue en un carro de lesiones, donde salía lesionado en dirección a su vestidor. Esto mientras se despedía de su equipo con el dedo de en medio extendido hacia sus entrenadores y compañeros. Así concluyó su temporada y su carrera en Seattle.
Ahora, listo para cumplir los 30 años en mayo, Earl Thomas probará la agencia libre cuando comience en marzo. Y sin lugar a dudas, uno de los equipos candidatos a firmarlo serán los Dallas Cowboys. Es un equipo que a pesar de tener una de las mejores defensivas la temporada pasada, se vería muy beneficiada con la llegada de un profundo del calibre de Thomas.
A pesar de su edad y las lesiones, Thomas continúa siendo uno de los mejores en la liga. Su talento es innegable y tendrá toda la disposición de demostrar lo que vale cuando tome el campo la próxima temporada. Cuando llegue el momento, podríamos ver una guerra de ofertas entre varios equipos de la NFL para llevarse al veterano a sus respectivas ciudades.
La pregunta es: ¿estarán los Dallas Cowboys en esa guerra de ofertas?
Los Cowboys tienen espacio en el tope salarial. Sin embargo, este no durará mucho considerando que DeMarcus Lawrence está esperando su merecida y cara extensión después de jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia en 2018. Además, jugadores que aún están bajo contrato también estarán buscando ofertas este offseason.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, y Byron Jones están en la lista de quehaceres de la administración. Eso sin mencionar a Cole Beasley, cuyo contrato ya expiró y podría llegar a la agencia libre en marzo.
A pesar de esta complicada situación, los Dallas Cowboys deberían buscar conseguir a Thomas. Siendo sinceros, la defensiva tiene mucho talento y podría mantener su nivel en 2019. Pero hace falta un jugador en la posición de safety para llevar a esta unidad a otro nivel. Un nivel realmente capaz de ganar en postemporada enfrentándose a cualquier tipo de ofensiva. Sin importar que tan explosiva sea. Y además de esto, un jugador que sea capaz de robar el balón y hacer jugadas de impacto constantemente.
Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a Seahawks en temporada regular, Thomas dio un buen ejemplo de esto interceptando en dos ocasiones a la ofensiva de Dak Prescott.
A pasos de un equipo de campeonato, un movimiento agresivo para obtener a Earl Thomas sería algo genial para Dallas. Vimos como los Rams de Los Angeles fueron agresivos al construir su equipo y llegaron hasta el Super Bowl este febrero. Quizá es tiempo de que Jerry Jones y compañía sean igual de agresivos y vayan por ese safety elite que la afición lleva pidiendo desde el offseason del año pasado.
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