The Dallas Cowboys will hold their first training camp practice on July 22nd. After months of waiting, Cowboys football is back (kind of). This year, America’s Team will be featured in HBO’s Hard Knocks, making your usual camp battles all the more exciting.
Here’s my pre-training-camp 53-man roster projection. Keep in mind, injuries will change things up as training camp progresses, making many of these decisions easier for the front office.
Dak Prescott, Garrett Gilbert
Some would call for a third QB on the roster, and the Cowboys might consider it if they don’t want to risk losing Ben Dinucci through waivers. However, I believe they’ll sneak him into the practice squad. Backup QB is one of the biggest questions heading into next season.
Running back (3)
Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
Rico Dowdle is an exciting developmental player for the Cowboys, but his path to the 53-man roster isn’t guaranteed. Dowdle’s main competition might come from fullbacks Sewo Olonilua and Nick Ralston. However, I lean toward Dowdle and his experience on special teams from 2020 (44% snap count) to earn him a spot on the team.
Wide Receiver (6)
Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown
The Cowboys opened last season with six wide receivers. Now, they’re in an even better place at the position as they added Simi Fehoko in the Draft. The rookie should find a way to contribute to special teams. Noah Brown is valuable in the running game but more importantly, one of the team leaders on special teams.
Tight End (3)
Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Sean McKeon
Jeremy Sprinkle and Sean McKeon will battle it out for the third spot at this position while Jarwin and Schultz battle it out for the starting role. I’m leaning toward the younger guy, but Sprinkle’s experience will make it a tough task for McKeon, who’s yet to see the playing field in the NFL.
Offensive Tackle (5)
Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Ty Nsekhe, Josh Ball, Terence Steele
Ty Nsekhe has emerged as the team’s favorite at swing tackle for Week 1. While Josh Ball has the physical traits to develop into the future swing tackle, he’ll have to compete against a couple of tackles with experience in Steele and Brandon Knight.
For now, I’m leaning toward Ball since the team believed in him enough to make him a fourth-round draft pick. However, if he doesn’t have a strong training camp the Cowboys might try to sneak him into the practice squad to favor Knight and/or Steele.
Offensive Guard / Center (5)
Zack Martin, Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, Connor McGovern, Matt Farniok
Tyler Biadasz has clearly taken over as the starting offensive center as he’s drawn comparisons to Travis Frederick from his teammates. McGovern provides position flex at center and guard while Farniok played inside and outside in college. Farniok’s versatility should be enough for him to make the 53-man roster since there’s not plenty of competition at the position. The Dallas Cowboys’ depth for the interior offensive line could definitely be better.
Defensive End (6)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Chauncey Golston, Bradlee Anae, Tarrell Basham, Ron’Dell Carter
In my prior projection, I wasn’t high on Basham. However, his production with the New York Jets in 2020 makes him an intriguing backup at defensive end and he’s expected to have a significant role with the Cowboys. Ron’Dell Carter is a darkhorse, but the Cowboys showed interest in him when they brought him back from the Colts last season. However, he’ll have to beat Dorance Armstrong to make the roster.
Defensive Tackle (5)
Brent Urban, Quinton Bohanna, Osa Odighiziwa, Trysten Hill, Neville Gallimore
In my earlier 53-man projection, I had listed Urban as a DE since that’s where the Cowboys are listing him officially. However, he’s expected to start inside, likely as an undersized one-technique. This is a deep unit, yet one that doesn’t seem to have a clear set of starters. Carlos Watkins misses the cut in this projection, but expect him to fight for a spot as he fits Dan Quinn’s defensive tackle archetype. Trysten Hill seems to be on the roster bubble as Quinn will be his third defensive coordinator.
Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Micah Parsons, Jabril Cox, Keanu Neal
Without a doubt, linebacker is one of the deepest positions on the Cowboys roster. Francis Bernard is on the roster bubble as he’s one of the team leaders in special teams snaps. But carrying six linebackers is tough with so many question marks in both the offensive and defensive line.
Trevon Diggs, Kelvin Joseph, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, C.J. Goodwin, Nahshon Wright, Reggie Robinson
Despite it being one of the weakest position groups for the Cowboys in 2021, the projected players to make the roster seem pretty clear. Wright is a lock a third-round draft pick. Goodwin’s job could be in danger, but it’s unlikely that John Fassel will lose the player he used the most on special teams.
Reggie Robinson’s position remains unclear, but he provides the team with some position flex as he can move over to safety. Watch out for Deante Burton as a surprise player as he played more than Robinson in 2020 and he’s a former Falcon CB.
Damontae Kazee, Donovan Wilson, Israel Mukuamu
Three safeties maybe don’t sound like enough, but the Dallas Cowboys have plenty of position flex with guys like Reggie Robinson and Keanu Neal to play some snaps at safety if push comes to shove. Also, Jayron Kearse was signed in free agency and could step up in case of a training camp injury. He’ll battle for a roster spot but misses the cut in this projection in favor of other special teams’ contributors.
Special Teams (3)
K Greg Zuerlein, P Bryan Anger, LS Jake McQuaide
Personally, I’d like to see John Fassel betting on Hunter Niswander. However, he’s publicly said that Anger is the favorite to start when the regular season kicks off.
Cowboys ST coordinator John Fassel said he considers Bryan Anger "a top-flight guy" and the "leader" to be team's punter in 2021. Hunter Niswander still developing and will compete. Niswander not here in spring for personal family reasons, COVID-19 precaution.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) June 4, 2021
I’m still not used to not penciling in L.P. Ladouceur’s name to close the 53-man roster, but here we are.
Featured Image via James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys/USA TODAY Sports