One more preseason game to go until the Dallas Cowboys 2021 season officially starts. Through three preseason games, we’ve gotten a better idea of who will and won’t be on the team for sure. The remaining questions are around those last few players who still have a realistic shot to make the team.
Injuries have opened up more potential spots on the team. Rico Dowdle will miss the season and players like Neville Gallimore, Sean McKeon and Chauncey Golston will miss the start of the season and is yet undetermined how long they’ll be out.
If they will return, they’ll start the year on IR, designated to return, but it also means they’ll need to be on the roster for at least a day before they can return. This would open a roster spot, but also allow promising players be exposed to the waiver wire.
This also means some tough decisions will need to be made; Who has earned a spot? Which players are still alive for a spot? Which players are the team willing to reveal to waivers?
These are the last remaining realistic players who can secure a Dallas Cowboys roster spot. Corner backs and tight ends are not included. The team will keep seven corners; Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, Maurice Canady and CJ Goodwin. Sean McKeon will return early in the season and none of the other tight ends have played well enough to justify an additional tight end spot.
Instead, these positions all have a spot or or two still available.
Garrett Gilbert was the presumed favorite to win the backup quarterback job, as he’s looked best in camp so far. However, Cooper Rush was given the same offensive players that Gilbert was and clearly outplayed Gilbert for the job vs. Houston.
— Dallas Cowboys Network (@TheCowboysNet) August 22, 2021
This has reopened the conversation around the job as it’s clearly still up for grabs between them as Ben DiNucci has done everything in his power to distance himself from the conversation.
We likely won’t know who’s won the job until the final cuts.
Rico Dowdle going on season-ending IR is a huge blow for many reasons. Not only did he show his value as a runner, but he was the favorite to be the team’s starting kick returner, allow Tony Pollard to be more of a focal point on offense.
Now players like JaQuan Hardy and Brenden Knox have gone from practice squad candidates to roster hopefuls.
Hardy leads the competition right now, averaging more yards per rush and is tied for the team lead in receptions this preseason. Assuming he won’t have any more “One in one” situations, Hardy looks like the favorite.
Enjoyed this JaQuan Hardy run pic.twitter.com/HaikrfCHjf
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) August 16, 2021
Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown. All five of these wide receivers are making the roster. This much we know.
The Dallas Cowboys don’t really need to keep anymore receivers beyond these five, but players like Malik Turner and Simi Fehoko might be too valuable to let go.
Fehoko is a fifth round pick who would immediately be snatched up if he were to hit waivers, likely by San Francisco, and Turner has been one of the surprises from training camp this season.
San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch said on the broadcast that the Niners kept an eye on Simi Fehoko during the 2021 NFL Draft.
— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) August 6, 2021
Don’t be surprised if the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep all seven receivers on their roster for season.
Outside the starting five, Connor McGovern and Ty Nsekhe, it’s unclear who the team will keep.
Brandon Knight and Terrance Steele both seem like favorites to be extra swing linemen. Both were on the roster last season and given the health of the starters, it would make sense to stock up.
With Josh Ball likely starting the season on IR, he’ll still make the initial roster. Once he’s put on short-term IR, who will get his spot?
Isaac Alacorn has made strides this offseason, but maybe not enough to make the roster. As an international player, he’ll get a practice squad exemption which seems likely. Matt Farniok was a seventh round pick this year but is still a long shot to make the team.
Braylon Jones and Eric Smith each won’t make the roster and are competing to be on the practice squad at this point.
If the Dallas Cowboys do keep 10 offensive linemen, the last player likely isn’t on the team right now.
Neville Gallimore as mentioned previously, will return this season but will miss the first few games. Carlos Watkins, Osa Odighizuwa, Brent Urban and Quinton Bohanna all are making the team but they’ll need to keep another.
With how bad the team was last year up front, they can’t afford to go small at a large position. Justin Hamilton has had a quietly good camp and is very much in the running for that last spot.
There isn’t another tackle on the team who has the same shot he does, and the team might be forced to look elsewhere for depth.
— 105.3 The FAN (@1053thefan) August 24, 2021
Same at the tackle position, expect the edge group to be loaded with bodies. DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Terrell Basham are locks. Dorance Armstong Jr. and Bradlee Anae have each played good enough to make the roster, but the team might still opt to only keep one.
Ron’Dell Carter and Azur Kamara have each played well this preseason and are both still alive for one last spot. At worst, one or both players are prime practice squad candidates.
Consider the edge players inline with the interior players. The team needs as much depth and skill on the defensive line as possible and overloading the position and going shallow elsewhere is a real possibility.
Like wide receiver, the team may decide they only want to keep five players at the position. With Anthony Hines going to season-ending IR, and Luke Gifford playing nowhere near as good as he did in his rookie season (2019), there’s really only one linebacker who has a real shot to make the team.
Francis Bernard was on the team in 2020 and would largely be used on special teams this season. However, he has battled injuries this offseason and might not be worth the roster spot if he can’t stay healthy.
Aside from Bernard possibly getting a 6th spot, this is the one position on the team already full of depth.
It’s very realistic that the team could keep five safeties. The top free safety’s on the team, Malik Hooker and Damontae Kazee, are both returning from torn ACL’s and depth is necessary.
Israel Mukuamu has made plays all offseason and has fit in well with Dan Quinn’s system. He wasn’t a roster lock going into training camp but has come along as preseason’s progressed.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) July 31, 2021
The last spot is between Darian Thompson and Jayron Kearse. Thompson’s been on the team since 2018 but Kearse has outplayed him in the preseason games. Either one would largely be used on special teams but Kearse was the one given plenty of first-team snaps in practice.
At the moment, Kearse has the edge for the final safety spot.