Training Camp, which begins on July 24th in Oxnard, California, will have a lot to say about who will make the final 53 man roster for the Dallas Cowboys. There are a lot of guys, however, who are going to be on the roster after the final cuts.
The chart below represents the names I think are etched on the stone tablet depth chart in Jason Garrett's office.
By my count that is 39 players that I'm 99.99% sure will be on the roster when the team gets ready to play the New York Giants in week one.
Several things you may notice about who's missing:
- While I think it's a good bet that Jaylon Smith will be on the opening day roster, I think there is also a good chance he starts the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He's been making strides, but why push it if he's not ready.
- Kellen Moore to me is no sure thing at backup quarterback. There are many of you, out there, including Mauricio Rodriguez, who are certain of his talents, but I think there is a possibility the team can find a more experienced backup after cut-down day. Kevin Brady thinks the team needs to address the backup quarterback position and Brian Martin asks if the backup situation is a cause for concern.
- DeMarcus Lawrence's back issues have been well documented and staff writer Jess Haynie speculated here if 2017 could be his last season in Dallas. I see Lawrence as a P.U.P. candidate as well.
- Another defensive end that has a job on the roster, just not week one, is David Irving. He has been suspended for four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy. By week five he'll be on the roster.
- Defensive end will be a position that needs to be worked out throughout training camp as there are question marks beyond on the depth chart; Taco Charlton, Benson Mayowa, and Charles Tapper.
- Tight end, behind Jason Witten, is a HUGE question mark. Health and readiness will determine the depth chart here. Geoff Swaim and James Hanna are still recovering from season ending injuries from 2016. Rico Gathers has to prove he's ready to play during the preseason to warrant a roster spot.
- The team showed how they felt about Alfred Morris in the second half of last season. Morris was a non-factor leaving his job security in doubt.
- The offensive line will be much of the talk of training camp. It remains to be seen just how they will line up at left guard and right tackle, but I'm pretty sure eight of the nine or 10 roster spots are already spoken for.
- The fifth wide receiver spot (and sixth, if they decide to keep that many) will be an interesting battle in training camp. As you can see above, I believe Ryan Switzer is on the roster. Fourth round draft picks may have to earn it, but a fourth is an investment they would hate to part ways with this quickly. So it comes down to Lucky Whitehead, Brice Butler, Noah Brown, and Andy Jones for the fifth spot. My money is on Butler.
- Cornerback doesn't provide a lot of questions on who will be on the depth chart come week one. The question is how will they be deployed?
- Safety, on the other hand, does have a major question mark. Who will start alongside Byron Jones? Jeff Heath seems to be the favorite, but he'll have to produce with an increased snap count. To me Xavier Woods will be Heath's biggest competition for playing time.
With 14 roster spots available for the remaining 51 guys who will be at training camp, the competition will be hot and heavy in Oxnard to fill out the roster.
We are now just three weeks away from the beginning of football season. Speculation will soon be drawing to an end.
In the meantime, who do you think are locks to make the opening day roster?
WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason
NFL teams have wrapped up their offseason activities with the close of OTAs, especially where the players are concerned, and await the start of training camps next month. In reviewing the last few months, ESPN had their local reporters each pick a surprise standout from their team's practices. Todd Archer, who covers the Dallas Cowboys full time, selected veteran receiver Randall Cobb.
Cobb is in his first season with Dallas after signing as a free agent last March. He's spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, but has struggled with injuries the last few seasons.
Here were Archer's observations on how Randall is doing so far with the Cowboys:
Normally a player with Cobb's résumé -- 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns during his career -- would not be considered for a category like this. But injuries limited him to only nine games and 38 catches for Green Bay in 2018, and it was hard to know what the Cowboys were getting in the veteran receiver.
If the offseason work is any indication, they have found a replacement for Cole Beasley. Cobb's versatility can expand the offense for others, such as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb looked quick in and out of his breaks and fast enough to make plays down the field. Will he put up the 1,287 yards he had in 2014? No, but he gives Dak Prescott a security blanket in the slot who can turn a small gain into a big one.
The notion of Cobb replacing Beasley is a big one. While we'd like to think that Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will provide plenty of firepower for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott has enjoyed a reliable threat from the slot position since he arrived.
Randall Cobb, when healthy, can do more than just make clutch catches. He has good run-after-catch skills and perhaps bring more big play potential than Beasley did.
If Cooper and Gallup do emerge as a dangerous starting duo on the outside, Cobb should have even more opportunities to punish defenses than Beasley did.
If nothing else, it's very encouraging to hear that one of the Cowboys' few 2019 free agent moves is already reaping benefits. Cobb still needs to bring it over a full season to really justify the move, but these early reports are cause for excitement.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
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