Congratulations, football fans. You have made it to the 14 day mark. In 14 days, the NFL will kickoff its next season with real football of great significance when the Steelers visit the Super Champion Patriots (with or without their QB) for the NFL's kickoff. This means we are 17 days from the Cowboys hosting the New York Giants. It is finally within sight.
But, the teams still have plenty of work to accomplish in that they have 2 more games and countless more employment decisions to work through to determine who makes it to the final 53. September 1 - next Tuesday - will be the cut down day to 75 players and then September 5 - next Saturday - is the day teams drop to 53.
Since the last time we did this study on August 11th, the Cowboys have been pretty busy. It is a bit of a simplistic misnomer to claim that the team simply drops from their original 90 players to 53. In reality, every day the scouting staff is trying to find the right 90 players and if someone is an "easy cut", then shouldn't we just cut them today and bring in someone else to examine? 32 teams are cutting players periodically, perhaps the discard in Houston or Atlanta is better than player #89 on the list in Oxnard. If you spend time at training camp, you can often see the team working out men who hope for just a chance to suit up. It is quite amazing to consider the full player pool that teams cast their nets into to fill out their roster.
Anyway, since August 11th - just 2 weeks ago - the Cowboys have signed 9 new players and waived 10 - because one of their new players, Brandon Smith, was then waived 9 days later. But, since we last did this chart, the Cowboys have bid farewell to Chris Whaley, Jason Wilson, Ray Vinopal, George Farmer, Lache Seastrunk, Deontay Greenberry, Reggie Dunn, and Cody Clay.
New to the chart below are Ben Malena, Michael Hill, David Porter, Rod Sweeting, Dakorey Johnson, Clyde Gates, Phil Bates, and Carlif Taylor. All of them will go directly to the longshot column for now. So let's see how the chart looks, divided into 3 categories - "Made the Team", "On the Bubble", and those who are the "Longshots".
|Position||Already Made Team||On The Bubble||Longshots|
|QB||(2) Romo, Weeden||(2) Vaughn, Showers|
|RB||(4) Randle, Dunbar, Clutts, McFadden||(1) Johnson||(3) Agnew, Malena, Hill|
|TE||(2) Witten, Escobar||(2) Hanna, Swaim||(1) Barden|
|WR||(5) Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Street, Whitehead||(6) Jenkins, Porter, Harwell, Goodley, Gates, Bates|
|T||(2) Smith, Free||(2) Weems, Gibson||(2) Wetzel, Dill|
|G-C||(5) Leary, Frederick, Martin, Collins, Bernadeau||(2) McDermott, Patrick|
|DT||(4) T Crawford, Hayden, T McClain, J Crawford||(2) Bishop, Coleman||(1) Taylor|
|DE||(4) Lawrence, Gregory, Hardy, Mincey, Russell||(3) Boatright, Gardner, Edwards||(1) Obada|
|LB||(6) Lee, Wilber, Brinkley, McClain, Hitchens, Wilson, Gachkar||(2) K Smith, Nzeocha||(4) Brown, Baggs, Glaud, Johnson|
|CB||(5) Carr, Claiborne, Jones, White, Patmon||(3) Steeples, Ross, Sweeting|
|S||(4) Church, Wilcox, McCray, Heath||(1) Scott|
|ST||(3) Bailey, Jones, Ladouceur||(2) Hornsey, Kreiter|
|Totals||46 + 2||14||26|
(Bold names in the middle column are my picks for the team that I have added to the 46 players on the left if I had to pick the 53 this morning).
Chaz Green and Orlando Scandrick have been taken off the chart. They will not count on the 53 now because of injuries. Also, Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain will not count immediately because of suspensions. So, for the original 53, you can take them off, too.
Mark Nzeocha, the draft pick LB who has yet to really make an appearance is more of a practice squad consideration at this point.
Technically 46 (but 48 with the suspensions are locked up). I confess that of the 26 "Longshots", I may be misreading a few of the new signings, but until I get a better handle on those new 8 names, I will leave them over there. Let's just say a big game against Minnesota may not be a horrendous idea for those guys.
Let's go position by position:
QB - You likely have heard my riffs about the 3rd QB spot. For what it is worth, I think Showers is the most interesting of the 3 men behind Romo. I can't tell you how impressive his interest and willingness in special teams work generally is to the front office. He literally is doing anything he can to stay. With Weeden and Vaughan, there are strengths, but also considerable weaknesses. But, Weeden has the Cowboys affection, so he is safe. For me, I think if you really like Showers, you would prefer the practice squad, but you also realize that if you try to slide him through, he might get grabbed. This is a tough call, but I think PS for Showers is my call right now.
RB - I moved McFadden off the bubble, because let's be honest - they aren't cutting him for now. They believe he can really make a difference this year and until they have a better option, I am not going to argue. There are simply no upgrades. Gus Johnson has separated himself from the others, but I also think his ultimate home is the practice squad in 2015.
TE - Again, this is one of the real either/or decisions of camp. James Hanna is a NFL player for sure and if the Cowboys don't employ him, somebody will. But Geoff Swaim has been featured plenty in the preseason and they like what they see. Swaim is under contract through 2018, Hanna through December. That might make the difference, but in this case, it might not be either/or. It might be both. They could keep 4 Tight Ends and dedicate the back 2 to special teams.
WR - I think Lucky Whitehead is in and off the bubble. The other 6 WRs who are in the longshot column are going to have a tough time convincing the team to keep 6. PS is a real option for a few - especially TCU's Porter.
T - You have your 2 starters. But, is the best reserve tackle La'el Collins or Zack Martin? If so, do you dare keep only 2 tackles? No. Darrion Weems or Gibson stay. Weems on the 53 and Gibson to the PS seems likely.
G-C - Easiest spot on the team. The 5 are clear and easy.
DT - It is pretty clear now that the Cowboys see Jack Crawford as the best replacement for Tyrone Crawford at the 3-technique (leaving Greg Hardy out of the discussion for now). I think Jack has flashed quite a bit at every opportunity this year and has made the team after trying to find the right fit positionally. Hayden and Terrell McClain are both on at the 1-tech spot and I believe the final spot will go down to Davin Coleman and Ken Bishop. Personally, I would lean towards Bishop because I love his style and motor, but Coleman does offer a little more flexibility.
DE - I think Ryan Russell has made the team since we did this last. That leaves Ben Gardner and Lavar Edwards fighting for the last spot. If Gardner can prove he is a special teams option, the edge goes to him. Otherwise, this is a photo finish.
LB - 7 Linebackers are in. But, Rolando McClain being suspended makes it 6 on opening day. Keith Smith is interesting for sure and squarely on the bubble. I see he is being used on all special teams so they might go heavy there to save him.
CB - With Orlando Scandrick's news hurting the team, this is a real job opportunity for the next man up. Tyler Patmon and Corey White are on the squad for sure and now, you wonder if there is a spot for one of the long shots through special teams. Is that Joel Ross or Rod Sweeting?
S - The two starters and the two special teams leaders in McCray and Heath. I think all 4 are locks.
ST - Bailey, Jones, Ladouceur. Easy as can be.
For reference, here is a chart I have used since 2007. It is the final 53 man roster for the Cowboys based on the numbers they have used at each spot. Of course, you should be aware of the scheme affecting this as when they went from 3-4 to a 4-3, the DL/LB numbers were impacted. Otherwise, this might be useful if you choose to try to make your own roster.
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
Ok. 46 are locks (not including Rolando or Hardy). Let's add the final 7 names as of this morning: Hanna, Swaim, Weems, Gibson, Bishop, Gardner, and Smith. Of course, the fact is the Cowboys will sign a handful of players in early September that will make their 53 that are on another roster right now, but using the info we have, those are my 53 as of this morning.
Set me straight with your comments below.