The Dallas Cowboys are heading into summer with their 90-man roster, preparing for training camp and pre-season. All the hype is surrounding the potential 2022 schedule, but the team is focused entirely on these players to create the final roster.

It’s never easy to go from 90 to 53, especially with so many talented young players. Players you can be in danger of losing if they’re available on the waiver wire. We explored an early look at our 53-man roster projection, even with months to go.

What we can do is guess which players are locks to make the roster.

Offense

  • Quarterback – Dak Prescott
  • Running Back – Ezekiel Elliott; Tony Pollard
  • Wide Receiver – CeeDee Lamb; Michael Gallup; Jalen Tolbert; James Washington
  • Tight End – Dalton Schultz; Jake Ferguson
  • Offensive Line – Tyron Smith; Zack Martin; Tyler Smith; Tyler Biadasz; Matt Farniok; Terence Steele; Connor McGovern

Total: 15

  • Cooper Rush is the early favorite to win the QB2 job. This time last year, Garrett Gilbert was thought in the same way before the Cowboys went back to Rush.
  • Rico Dowdle is the likely early favorite to win the RB3 spot, and would’ve been last year had he not been put on IR for the season. Players like undrafted rookie free agent Malik Davis (Florida) or second-year pro JaQuan Hardy will give plenty of push. The most likely factor will be their performances on special teams.
  • Outside of the first four receivers, it’s open competition for the last likely 1-2 spots. Simi Fehoko has the most upside of the players to choose from but has the same amount of career receptions.

TJ Vasher and Brandon Smith were brought back from IR and the practice squad, respectively, so the Cowboys are high enough on them to warrant another chance. And what about more undrafted players like Ty Fryfogle or Dontario Drummond? The battle for the final receiver spots are closer than it looks.

  • Even though it’s a bit a stretch, McGovern and Farniok are locks to make the team. McGovern is the swing guard and Farniok will be in competition with Biadasz to start. Even with a player like Alec Lindstrom coming in, he would need to outplay one or both to warrant a spot.

As far as swing tackle goes, Josh Ball and Matt Waletzko could both make the team, but it’s not a lock that either do. The Cowboys are making a statement by not adding a veteran presence, allowing two players who’ve never taken an NFL snap to assume responsibility.

International player Isaac Alarcon could also be a factor into this. He’s been a part of the International Player Pathway Program since 2020 and showed improvement last pre-season. It’s possible he’s excelled to the point of jumping Ball or Waltezko.

Defense

  • Edge Rusher – DeMarcus Lawrence; Dorance Armstrong; Dante Fowler; Chauncey Golston; Sam (De) Williams
  • Defensive Tackle – Neville Gallimore; Osa Odighizuwa
  • Linebacker – Micah Parsons; Jabril Cox; Leighton Vander Esch
  • Corner Back – Trevon Diggs; Anthony Brown; Jourdan Lewis; Kelvin Joseph*
  • Safety – Malik Hooker, Jayron Kearse; Donovan Wilson

Total: 17

  • The edge rusher position is deep and has plenty of bodies to occupy. Even factoring in Parsons, who’s the Cowboys best edge rusher and linebacker, any other defensive end like Tarell Basham, Mika Tafua or Big Cat Bryant is likely on the outside looking in.
  • Good news is the Dallas Cowboys will definitely keep more than just Odighizuwa and Gallimore, but these are the only two we can say with confidence will be on the roster.

Carlos Watkins had a career year in 2021, but was only re-signed to a one-year deal that’s easy to get out of. The Cowboys have two pure nose tackles in Quinton Bohanna and John Ridgeway; will they keep both? How much patience do the Cowboys have left with Trysten Hill, who’s shown flashes but has yet to live up to his second round selection?

  • We don’t need to expand on Parsons. He’ll be an early Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Jabril Cox, coming off injury, is a likely starter across from Leighton Vander Esch, who provides depth and experience in Dan Quinn’s defense.

Will the Cowboys keep five or six linebackers? Luke Gifford is back as a special teams ace, but is far from a lock. Damone Clark is a probable IR stash who might not play until 2023. Sixth round rookie Devin Harper has plenty of potential, but is raw. A traits player.

Could undrafted rookie LBs like Aaron Hansford (an official visit) or Storey Jackson go from undrafted to the final roster? Is veteran DeVante Bond going to stay a practice squad player, or can he find a role?

  • A blessing is the Cowboys are very deep in the secondary. Even with Kelvin Joseph’s legal saga still going on, the team believes in him and his skill to keep him on as CB4. Until he’s able to take a starting spot.
  • Hooker, Wilson and Kearse are all starters with how this defense is played. Hooker plays deep, Wilson in the box and Kearse in the STAR position as a safety/LB hybrid playing at or near the line of scrimmage. Undoubtedly the best depth the Cowboys have had in years.

Second-year players like Israel Mukuamu and Nahshon Wright have the confidence of the coaching staff behind them. Fifth-round rookie DaRon Bland likely plays a part in either the corner or safety room, possessing skills to play either.

Then there’s Markquese Bell. An official visit who was considered one of the best undrafted free agents, as well as the top HBCU prospect in the draft. He might be too talented to risk putting on the practice squad.

Having this much talent on the backend of the roster is a good thing to have. Don’t be surprised if they stack the roster. There are too many good players not to.

Special Teams

  • Punter – Bryan Anger
  • Kicker – Unknown
  • Long Snapper – Jake McQuaide

Total: 2

  • Bryan Anger is an All-Pro, back on a three-year deal. Among the best punters in the league, and possibly the best re-signing of the Dallas Cowboys’ offseason.
  • Jake Mcquaide stepped in to replace L.P. Ladouceur and played well in his first season in Dallas, reuniting with coach “Bones” Fassel.
  • The kicker competition between Jonathan Garibay and Chris Naggar will be close. Naggar is coming into his second season, having only attempted one field goal and two extra points (completing one). Garibay only missed one field goal in all of 2021, a 59-yarder as time expired in the rain at Baylor. He’s become more known for his game-winner against Iowa State to make Texas Tech bowl eligible.

Kicker is going to be one of the most watched competition battles in camp.

There are 19 roster spots up for grabs in 2022

In recent memory, there are usually only around 8-10 realistic spots available. From players lost this off-season and lack of free agency activity. To the amount of players added through the draft and undrafted rookies, there’s going to be new faces on the Dallas Cowboys this fall.

There are going to be some easy names from who is mentioned to fill some slots. Otherwise is open season on this depth chart.

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports