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Who’s Already Locked Up a Spot on the 53 Man Roster?

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: La Línea Ofensiva 1
James D. Smith / Dallas Cowboys

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.

Right Now, Who's a Lock to Make the 53 Man Roster? 1

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.
Kellen Moore

Kellen Moore, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys

  • 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.
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Oct 16, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving (95) during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Dallas won 30-16. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

  • 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.
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Nov 23, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick (32) before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

  • 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?

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I didn’t start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I’ve now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America’s Team.

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14 Comments
  • George_Johnson

    I am a Kellen Moore fan and have followed him his whole career and read just about everything said about him. This is what I think from following him and reading what S Linehan has said:

    The only way Kellen Moore is not the 2nd team backup is if he starts screwing up. He is the incumbent 2nd team backup, will get all the reps for the 2nd team backup, and will play all the preseason game minutes for the 2nd team backup. It is important for the coaches to get him ready to play and for him to prove himself beyond his season game work in 2015. If they were to have competition for this position, it would take reps/playing time away from K Moore. S Linehan is confident in K Moore and wants to give him the opportunity to get himself ready and to prove himself in preseason against 1st and 2nd team defenses. I don’t see K Moore screwing up. He should be very ready at this point, much more so then in 2015 and is likely to play well in preseason. He has a lot to prove and as usual needs to shut up his critics by playing better than anyone thinks he can play which is typical for K Moore. I would go so far as to say it wouldn’t surprise me if he outplayed D Prescott.

    • John Williams

      I don’t think they will bring anyone for Moore to compete with, but I do see the possibility of signing someone after the final cut down day if they see a better option out there.

      His spot isn’t guaranteed at this point.

      • George_Johnson

        I disagree. If K Moore doesn’t play that well or mediocre, then yes your scenario makes sense. If K Moore plays well or good, then I think the 2nd team position is settled, no matter who is available.

        • John Williams

          But the assumption is that he will play well. We just don’t know enough about Moore to assume such things.

          • George_Johnson

            I know a lot about K Moore. He has almost always played way better than anyone including coaches thinks he can play. From high school until now. This is because he does not look like or throw like an NFL QB. He is a master at pocket passing but with physical limitations. He is also very consistent and is not known for making mistakes. He almost set a new NCAA record for fewest interceptions (28) in a four year career. He is known, even in the NFL for his pocket passing knowledge/instincts/smarts so he is likely to learn and improve with more reps/experience. S Linehan has confidence in him and has said he can play in the NFL and that his arm is strong enough. He has also said he compensates for his physical limitations with his outstanding pocket passing skills/abilities to get the job done. His 2015 season play was mixed (per S Linehan he did a lot of good things but made too many mistakes). However, this was his first time playing against first team defenses, he had limited reps to get ready to play, he was still new and learning the Dallas offense/playbook, he wasn’t very familiar with the players/receivers, and he missed TC and preseason. I bet he stacked up pretty good to most QBs in the NFL for his first two and one half games. If he doesn’t play well in the five preseason games overall I will be surprised. Not only could his 2nd team job be in jeopardy but his career in the NFL could. He would be running out of excuses.

          • John Williams

            Man, I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. If it weren’t for Scott Linehan’s facination with Kellen, he’d probably be a QB coach back at Boise by now.

          • George_Johnson

            I agree if it weren’t for Scott Linehan I am not sure K Moore would have been given a chance to prove himself in the NFL. It could be that K Moore has a combination of skills/abilities that might be as good any anyone who has ever played. These skills/abilities are pocket passing smarts/knowledge/instincts, accuracy, uncanny anticipation, quick release and poise/composure. This combination may allow him to play in the NFL and overcome a lot of his physical weaknesses. We will soon know more.

          • John Williams

            George, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but statements like this make it difficult for me.

            ” It could be that K Moore has a combination of skills/abilities that might be as good any anyone who has ever played.”

            He may be a good backup in the league. Emphasis on the word “may”. We have yet to see him in a game that matters for the Cowboys and even in the games that didn’t matter, he wasn’t good. He was average.

          • George_Johnson

            I was just trying to explain how he might be able to play when he doesn’t have any of the requisite physical abilities. The skills/abilities I listed are his top strengths and why he was a star in college and given a chance in the NFL. If he can play in the NFL, even at 2nd team it is probably because this COMBINATION of strengths are really strong, beyond most and maybe one of the best ever. I don’t know for sure but feel this statement is reasonable. Also, if he becomes a solid NFL QB the sports writers will need to research/study how he can do this with these serious physical limitations. This may be a first for the NFL and he may be very unique. There is a story there and it has something to do with his dad being a coach and his being in a constant football environment from the time he could walk. He also evidently studied/practiced/played QB relentlessly all his life. There may not be any other QB in the NFL that had this level of absorption while he was growing up. Some receivers have described an ability to know where the receiver is going to be, almost as a sixth sense. What caught my attention was his college coach, Peterson, who is not known to be outspoken, said and I quote, ” HE IS THE BEST POCKET PASSER I HAVE EVER SEEN.”

    • Jess Haynie

      George, you make good points but then go and say things like “it wouldn’t surprise me if he outplayed Prescott.” Come on, bruh.

      • George_Johnson

        My point was I think he will play well. This is his only time to shine and he should be very ready in terms of knowing the plays/offense/game plans, what S Linehan wants, knowing the other players and receivers, having more reps/experience in the Dallas system, understanding the defenses better, etc. D Prescott on the other hand will be trying to improve or work on certain things, getting ready for the season games and trying to not get hurt. The preseason doesn’t mean a lot to the starter and he may not even play very much or as much as K Moore. So I am serious as can be that K Moore could out play D Prescott. I didn’t say he would I just set it wouldn’t surprise me.

  • Jess Haynie

    I love the chaos on the TE depth chart, and I can’t argue with your logic. I think all three of Hanna/Swaim/Gathers are going to make it and competition will continue all through the season, but someone might have to be the fall guy if injuries create numbers problems at another position. It really is hard to know how that will shake out.

    One issue I have is your dismissal of Kavon Frazier. Seems like Xavier Woods is getting a lot of “shiny new toy” love from people, but Frazier was Woods last year. Stephen Jones put Frazier and Anthony Brown in the same sentence as guys they had higher grades on and thought they got as steals in the sixth. The difference is that Brown got to play because of injuries at corner, while Frazier was buried behind the veteran safeties. I think putting Woods over Frazier is a flawed assumption.

    • John Williams

      Yeah, I could be overlooking Frazier for sure. I think what has me intrigued by him is that he could have very well been a fourth round draft pick had they not gone defense the first three rounds.

    • John Williams

      I love the depth they have all over the roster, but especially Tight end. Hanna, Swaim both are solid backups with blocking and pass catching ability when called upon. Rico is sooooo intriguing.

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Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

The Cowboys have just one more game to get through without their star running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Alfred Morris and Rod Smith deserve a ton of credit for the way they’ve been able to fill in out of the backfield for Zeke Elliott. Throughout the time Elliott has missed though, the Cowboys have lacked the explosive plays on offense that he can provide – until Rod Smith was given an opportunity last week at the Giants.

Smith complimented Morris exceptionally well, running with quickness and power to prove his case for more of a role on offense behind Elliott moving forward. It was the Ohio State product’s consecutive touchdowns of 81 yards through the air and 15 yards on the ground that sealed the game for the Cowboys in week 14.

Here is a closer look at Rod Smith’s performance from last week in this latest Sean’s Scout.

Smith3 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

The Cowboys offensive line was dominant as always against a tough New York defensive front, and this first play is a great look at their execution in space and on the move. Rod Smith’s decisiveness when hitting the hole with speed and balance was the first thing I noticed on the game tape.

The best thing Smith does on this play comes at the second level, where running backs can truly make a difference in Dallas. As RG Zack Martin rides his man out of the play entirely, he gets in front of Smith who is seeing the play develop straight ahead. With his long strides, Smith is able to smoothly get through traffic and continue accelerating up field through arm tackles for a big gain.

Smith2 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

These same traits are seen with Rod Smith as a pass catcher – something he does effortlessly to also help fill the void left by Elliott. Watch how quickly Smith commits to his angle up the field after catching this dump pass from Dak Prescott, attacking a defender that has the angle on him after the catch.

Rod subtly leans to the right just enough to make the defender hesitate long enough to allow his burst to evade him and gain extra yards falling forward.

Smith4 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

Smith essentially does the same thing without the ball in his hands here, on his 81 yard catch and run for a touchdown. Setting up the safety out of the slot to be beat across his face, Smith separates from him at the stem and then does a great job getting depth on his route into the vacated middle of the field. With blockers to help him reach the end zone, Smith turns this busted coverage by the Giants into the game’s biggest play.

Smith1 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

This last play I chose to show is probably the least well-blocked attempt for Smith out of the ones in this Sean’s Scout, but there is still a lot to like about what Rod does here with the ball in his hands.

The Giants might be a two-win football team, but they still have marquee players up front, particularly DE Olivier Vernon. Smith does well here to keep his feet moving as he cuts this play to the backside. Vernon does well to limit the potential gain on this play by staying away from the block of Jason Witten, as Smith is taken down by Darian Thompson.

The numbers the Giants had to commit to stopping the run was still a huge reason why Prescott had a career day throwing the football, and Rod Smith’s readiness to step in at RB was a deciding factor in getting Dallas to 7-6.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Proving to be one of the Dallas Cowboys most valuable players, considering his cost (under contract through 2018), and ability to contribute on special teams and offense, Rod Smith is the perfect RB3 for this team.

Smith is not elite in any one area, and is not a prototypical RB from a physical standpoint, but his contributions as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker could remain critical to the Cowboys’ hopes of reaching the playoffs behind this offense – even when Ezekiel Elliott is back in the fold.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who’s The Cowboys Real RB1?

Brian Martin

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Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who's Cowboys' Real RB1?

The Dallas Cowboys are less than a week away from welcoming back their talented Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott, but until then they still have a game to play against the Oakland Raiders. That means we will have one more week of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith handling the workload, but which RB is sitting at the top of the Cowboys depth chart?

Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of decision that can end up winning or losing a game. Both Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have had their moments during Ezekiel Elliott’s absence, but neither one of them have really distanced themselves from the other. So, should Rod Smith or Alfred Morris receive the majority of the workload against the Raiders Sunday?

A Case for Rod Smith

RB Rod Smith and QB Dak PrescottRod Smith might just have had is coming out party last week against the New York Giants. Against their divisional rival, in what was a must win game for the Cowboys, Smith rushed for 47 yards on six carries and added another 113 yards through the air on five catches. He also found himself in the end zone twice, once on a rushing touchdown and the other on a receiving touchdown.

You may or may not agree, but I believe that “Lightning” Rod Smith was largely responsible for igniting the Cowboys offense and helping them pull away from the Giants last Sunday. He accounted for over 160 total yards and two touchdowns by himself and didn’t receive the majority of his playing time until later in the game.

Rod Smith certainly has traits that make him a more desirable RB over Alfred Morris. First off, he is a more complete back. He is better in pass protection and at catching the ball out of the backfield. But, he is also starting to show up in the running game and is averaging 4.5 yards a carry this season. His size (6’3″, 235) also makes him a better short yardage back, although I wish he would deliver more of a blow at the end of his runs.

A Case for Alfred Morris

RB Alfred MorrisAlthough there’s nothing particularly special that stands out about Alfred Morris, he has proven time and time again he is more than capable of carrying the workload. He has received the majority of the workload during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and has performed pretty well. In fact, he is averaging 5 yards a carry this season, which is better than any other RB on the Cowboys roster, including Elliott.

Alfred Morris has looked pretty good this season and is playing with more of a spring in his step than I have seen from him in probably his entire career. Last Sunday against the Giants he received the the majority of the workload and finished the game with 19 carries for 62 yards. Not particularly spectacular, but the week prior he did rush for 127 yards on 27 carries in the victory over the Washington Redskins.

Like I mentioned earlier, Morris is a tried-and-true RB in the NFL and is at his best when he can continue to pound the rock and wear down opposing defenses. That is what he did against the Redskins, but he has his limitations as well. Despite his years in the league, he still struggles in pass protection and is limited in what he can do in the passing game. But, he does seem to have the trust of the Cowboys coaching staff.

✭✭✭✭✭

Personally, I would like to see more of Rod Smith this coming Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. I really like what I’ve seen from him in both the running game and in the passing game. I just think he is a more dangerous and versatile weapon then Alfred Morris. His presence on the field really opens up what the Cowboys can do offensively.

I don’t mean any disrespect to Alfred Morris at all. I just think that Rod Smith has proven he is a more dangerous offensive weapon of the two. I don’t know if the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will agree or not, but I truly believe Rod Smith could once again be the X factor against the Oakland Raiders.

Of course, both Rod Smith and Alfred Morris will have to take the back seat once Ezekiel Elliott returns. So, this discussion really only has any credibility for this week in yet another must win situation against the Oakland Raiders.

Who do you like better… Rod Smith or Alfred Morris?

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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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