Day 1. Today is the start of the NFL work-week for Week 1.
With that in mind, let's write today about the final cut downs for the Dallas Cowboys and what technically is the final roster of the 2014 team.
Of course, that is silly, because the final roster was named at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, and the Cowboys have added several new players who have not even practiced once with the team. We felt that this would happen - they would wait for everyone to cut down and find that other's garbage was better than the best 53 here at Valley Ranch, and now must welcome complete newbies: Donald Hawkins, Lavar Edwards, Korey Toomer, and CJ Spillman all to the 53 man roster.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Dixon and John Wetzel both made the team for a few hours, only to be sent packing within 24 or 36 hours in the cruel way that only the NFL can provide.
You never truly have the team "made". Every day is a competition to keep your spot if you are one of the many on non-guaranteed contracts.
In fact, even for the many in the ranks today as the team prepares for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday must look over their shoulder as Orlando Scandrick and Jakar Hamilton (I guess) need spots in a month, Josh Brent seems to be on his way here, Anthony Spencer is here (sort of) and DeMarcus Lawrence is not (sort of).
So, while I think the first team picture is being snapped, those who are in it are not guaranteed to hang around long and those who aren't in it might end up making a bigger contribution.
Regardless, as of right now, here are you 2014 Dallas Cowboys. I shall start with the latest depth chart from Ourlads.com which is a very useful website for guys like me. They are on top of things and aside from having Lawrence on here and Spencer not, it looks like it is all right.
I used green arrows to show the 19 new (they weren't on the 2013 opening day roster) Dallas Cowboys on the 53 man roster:
24 on Offense, 26 on defense, and 3 specialists is our current count. I would not read too much into that number because several on defense are designated as special teams aces and may not ever step on the field as defenders, but when injuries hit I might regret saying that. Let's go down the list:
QB - (3): I have to admit, I never thought for a second that Dustin Vaughan had a chance to join Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden on the 53 man roster. I don't think the Cowboys should be throwing around roster spots at their leisure, but if you were ever going to allow an indulgence that likely will have zero payoff in the 2014 calendar year, it is to grab a developmental QB that you like after seeing him every day for 6 weeks. I would still say the odds are significantly against Vaughan every making the slightest impact in the NFL and his time may be borrowed with their alleged shopping for Ryan Mallett, but for now, they clearly didn't think he would get through to the practice squad so they kept him up. I am fine with that, but he should likely rent for now.
RB - (4): This is one where they had their mind made up in June and never deviated. Murray, Randle, and Dunbar all had their jobs back then and despite a wild rally by Ryan Williams, in the end it seems he never had a real chance. He has since been stashed on the practice squad, but Tyler Clutts - the star of last December's reversal of direction back towards employing a full back - makes the squad. The Cowboys seem committed (for at least the 1st series of the 1st game) to having a more traditional "under center" base offense in their plans rather than 60% shotgun, and Clutts gives them another tool in that toolbox. Let's see where that goes.
TE - (3): Once again, it was going to take a miracle for the final count here to not be 3, and Witten, Escobar, and Hanna would be those 3. No miracles occurred.
WR - (5): See if you sense a theme here. Going into camp, we knew that the 5 were going to be Dez, Williams, Beasley, Street, and Dwayne Harris. Then, during camp, we talked about the merits of all of the others who flash and make impressions. They huff and puff and do everything that the team asked of them and in the end, they were likely just standing by in case someone got injured. That didn't happen and so the many WRs who looked interesting were victims of the numbers game.
OL - (9): Here we have 6 and maybe 7 who were givens, depending on whether you thought Jermey Parnell was good enough to be a given and cheap enough not to eye his $1.4m this year. But, let's just say that Free, Bernadeau, Smith, Martin, Frederick, Leary, and Parnell were all in. That left 2 or 3 spots for depth - since you are likely only dressing 7 on game day anyway - and the Cowboys continue to dance with the underwhelming Darrion Weems who has some tackle experience and flex and have now brought in an interior rookie in Donald Hawkins who played tackle at Texas, but seems to be an interior zone blocking project here. Hawkins was just cut in Cleveland and Philadelphia last spring and now will get his chance here to impress while enjoying weekly paychecks.
DL - (11): 5 Defensive Ends and 5 Defensive Tackles make up the most pivotal spot on the roster. Keeping in mind that this is where we will also see the most coming and going this season, we assume, and with DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthony Spencer, and Josh Brent all on the radar, we may not want to buy any jerseys yet. First at Defensive End, we have Selvie, Jeremy Mincey (who we have barely seen), Tyrone Crawford, Spencer (unable to join so far but taken off the PUP list), and newcomer Lavar Edwards. We are under the impression that Edwards is a promising nickel edge rusher which we thought about Ken Boatright when he was brought in a month ago from Seattle so I will wait and see. Meanwhile, at DT, we have Nick Hayden back, Henry Melton, Terrell McClain (who we have hardly seen), and the two rookies Ken Bishop and Davon Coleman who were the talk of camp from pretty much day 1. It should not shock us if Brent takes Hayden's spot eventually, but for now these are the 5 leaving the port.
LB - (7): Here is the panic point for the team as they really hope their group is good enough while the rest of the league is cynical. Justin Durant, Kyle Wilber, and Bruce Carter are the likely starters and then Rolando McClain, Anthony Hitchens, Cam Lawrence, and Korey Toomer are the reserves. Toomer is brand new from Seattle and has had people raving about him, but I am not very familiar with his ability, so let me reserve comment until I figure him out a bit. Lawrence is straight special teams, and I am not sure what the plan is if injuries hit. I think Durant is starting in the middle, but also the #2 choice at Sam or Will. McClain may be in on running downs anyway starting on Sunday. This area is a concern.
DB - (8): For now, with Scandrick and Hamilton unavailable for the first 4 games (thanks, guys), they roll with 4 Corners - Brandon Carr, Mo Claiborne, Sterling Moore, and Tyler Patmore. Then, in the middle, it is just 4 Safeties with JJ Wilcox and Barry Church as the 1s and then, what appears to be 2 reserves that are primary special teams guys in Jeff Heath and another newcomer (but 6-year veteran) CJ Spillman.
Specialists - (3): Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, and LP Ladouceur.
Stay tuned, Lawrence will go to PUP today and then we will be introduced to another new DL prospect that we likely haven't heard of (Jack Crawford from Oakland is the report). The roster is always being tinkered with.
2007: 26 Offense/24 Defense/3 Specialist
2008: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist
2009: 25 Offense/24 Defense/4 Specialist
2010: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist
2011: 26 Offense/23 Defense/4 Specialist
2012: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist
2013: 24 Offense/26 Defense/3 Specialist
2014: 24 Offense/26 Defense/3 Specialist
For fun, below is the final chart from last year at this time. The red indicates those who are gone:
That should give you a good idea of how much turnover there is in this league for a team that doesn't have much depth. Always shopping to replace.
Tomorrow, we get going on the Cowboys offense for 2014.