The Dallas Cowboys are done with OTA’s and minicamp(s). Now is the wait until training camp in Oxnard, California.
It was has been a stressful off-season, with the losses on both sides of the ball through players like Randy Gregory and La’el Collins. This Cowboys team will look wildly different from the 2021 NFC East champions.
There will be a large number of rookies, drafted and undrafted, who make this final roster. Many of whom are already turning heads. Included with the few number of outside free agent additions to the team.
We did this exercise in an early addition following the draft. Now that we’ve got reports of how some of the players look, we have a better idea of which players have the edge to make the team. With notable changes.
- Dak Prescott; Cooper Rush
There’s no significant changes here, barring an upgrade at QB2 possibility.
Dak Prescott is this Dallas Cowboys quarterback for the present and future, and is getting paid to do so. Coming off a season where he eclipsed a number of his personal bests, including the franchise record for touchdown passes in a single season, is evident enough.
Now that he’s back to full health. He’s showing off his renewed mobility, his legs will more factored into how he plays, in addition to his arm.
Cooper Rush even showed his value, standing in for Prescott in his single start against the Minnesota Vikings, completing 60% of his throws for over 300 yards and getting the victory. It’s enough for the front office to have confidence in him should he see extended playing time.
Ben DiNucci might want to consider changing positions.
Running Backs (3)
- Ezekiel Elliott; Tony Pollard; Ryan Nall
Cowboys fans can expect a heavy dose of both Elliott and Pollard, and likely for the final time.
Both are healthy from their respective injuries and are looking to make statements of their own. With Elliott looking as lean, fast and in what’s supposedly the best shape of his life to continue to be the primary back, and provide quality pass protection when he needs to. As well as Pollard as a great rotational back, kick returner and even taking snaps in the slot, turning into the team’s most versatile offensive weapon.
As far as the final RB spot, there are plenty of contenders like Rico Dowdle, JaQuan Hardy or Malik Davis. With Nall, the Cowboys get someone who’s taken snaps as both a tail back and full back, plays with plenty of toughness as a blocker and a solid special teams player.
These fill out the running backs room with three players who can play a number of different roles.
Wide Receivers (6)
- CeeDee Lamb; Michael Gallup; James Washington; Noah Brown; Simi Fehoko; Jalen Tolbert
This list is without assuming Gallup starts the season on the PUP list. The Cowboys receiver core at the start is going to take a hit, losing Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson and Malik Turner.
Now that CeeDee Lamb is the unquestioned WR1, the slack will come from the deep play ability of Washington and play-making of Tolbert, who will see extended playing time as a rookie.
Players like Fehoko and Brown are primarily special team’s players but will need to come in on rotation if Gallup misses extended time. Brown being Dallas’ best blocking WR and Fehoko having every asset you could dream of in an outside player.
Unless second-year players Brandon Smith or TJ Vasher continue to impress, it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys keeping seven WRs on the roster again.
Tight Ends (3)
- Dalton Schultz; Sean McKeon; Jake Ferguson
Dalton Schultz is the Dallas Cowboys TE1. For now. What happens between now and the July 15th deadline to sign a long-term deal will be telling. Not just for how the front office feels about Schultz, but about what the position will look like in 2023 and beyond.
McKeon and Ferguson are both young, skilled TEs who’ll continue to get plenty of looks. With Ferguson as the more developed receiving threat, and McKeon coming into year three with a chance to get the bulk of TE2 reps early in the season.
The Dallas Cowboys had no choice but to move on from Blake Jarwin, who’s career’s in jeopardy. Players like McKeon and Ferguson have potential, but a large part of the offense will be put on Schult’s shoulders following back-to-back productive seasons.
Offensive Line (9)
- Tyron Smith; Tyler Smith; Tyler Biadasz; Zack Martin; Terence Steele; Connor McGovern; Matt Farniok; Josh Ball; Matt Waletzko
The starters are essentially set. Unless the Dallas Cowboys decide to move on from Tyron Smith sooner than later, these first five names are locks and your day one starting offensive line.
McGovern has proven to be a viable starting right guard, just not as well on the left. Him getting snaps at center, along with Farniok who’s looking to have taken the next step in his development will complete the interior rotation.
Waletzko and Ball are both looking to be the primary swing tackle, though it appears Tyler Smith would rotate outside on the left. Playing as a true left side player.
Both Waltezko and Ball are getting snaps at both tackle spots and the Cowboys are emphatic about not adding a veteran to play the position. Both young players are probable to make the team as added insurance, since neither has taken an NFL snap.
Defensive Line (10)
- DeMarcus Lawrence; Neville Gallimore; Osa Odighizuwa; Dorance Armstrong; Dante Fowler; Chauncey Golston; Carlos Watkins; Quinton Bohanna; Sam Williams; John Ridgeway
Players like Odighizuwa and Golston are versatile across the defensive line, and are going to be relied upon in rotation. With Lawrence, Armstrong and Gallimore serving as the primary starters.
Watkins and Fowler add valuable veteran depth, with players like young Bohanna, Ridgeway and Williams getting playing time in spots to allow for development.
Tarell Basham and Trysten Hill are both odd men out on the edges and interior. While Basham offers play at stopping the run, and Hill still having yet to fully show his upside, it’s a numbers game. The Cowboys have plenty of worthy vets and promising young talent that make these two expendable.
- Micah Parsons; Leighton Vander Esch; Jabril Cox; Luke Gifford; Devin Harper
We don’t need to dive into Parsons. He’ll start inside and rotate on the edges, playing with Vander Esch and Cox, entering his second season. Considering how much the Cowboys play with five or six defensive backs, it’s uncertain how many times we’ll see all three on the field together.
Devin Harper is very much a traits/athletic upside player. Aside from special teams with someone like Gifford, he won’t see a lot of plays on defense in year one.
There’s an urge to add another LB here, but Damone Clark has such a high ceiling, that it makes sense to IR-stash him his rookie year. Aaron Hansford and Storey Jackson both have skills that could add viable depth, but the defense already has a pair of safeties who can play these spots. Making a sixth LB spot expendable.
- Trevon Diggs; Anthony Brown; Jourdan Lewis; Kelvin Joseph; Nahshon Wright; DaRon Bland
Something that hasn’t been touched on much is the return of the Dallas Cowboys starting cornerbacks from 2021: Diggs, Brown a Lewis. A unit that totaled 17 interceptions and allowed only a 75.9 passer rating.
Joseph showed promise at the end of the season, displaying athleticism and tackling skills. Even in the midst of his off-field issue, he and Wright are both likely to see an increase in defensive snaps, as the team will look to move on from their veterans down the line. The same goes for Bland, who’s a twitchy athlete with ball skills, who might be moved to safety down the line.
- Jayron Kearse; Malik Hooker; Donovan Wilson; Israel Mukuamu; Markquese Bell
As mentioned in the LB section, there are a pair of safeties on the team who fill areas in the box and behind the front four.
Kearse was rewarded with a two-year deal, filling the STAR position. Allows him to play in the box, in the slot, near the line of scrimmage and as a modified SAM. He’s a starter along with Hooker at free safety and Wilson as the pure strong safety, often together.
Bell has been asked to do much of the same, playing snaps as both safety and LB. Being the Cowboys most coveted undrafted free agent. He and Mukuamu are looking like they could each be eventual successors at safety. A Dan Quinn recipe, as both stand over 6’2″.
Special Teams (4)
- Bryan Anger; Jake McQuaide; CJ Goodwin; Jonathan Garibay
We won’t need to spend much time here. The Dallas Cowboys bring back their All-Pro punter in Anger, who’s one season with the Cowboys placed him among the best in the league.
The returns of both reliable long snapper in McQuaide, and special teams ace in Goodwin, is a sigh of relief under special team’s coordinator John Fassel. Even if they both play positions rarely recognized in the game, have tremendous value to Dallas.
The only new name here is Garibay, the undrafted free agent kicker from Texas Tech. His clutch kicking and powerful leg made him a name in college football for about a week, but only had to take a trip down Highway 20 to remind people.
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports