The calendar turns to September which means that trimming the roster time is upon us. First, yesterday was the deadline to get from 90 to 75. The Cowboys did that in a two day stretch and cut a bunch of names from the "long shots" pile and then moved some players around who have injury issues - the most notable being Orlando Scandrick. Here are those two official memos from the team: and then yesterday... Those 15 names are taken off the big board as we head to the final preseason game on Thursday and then the final cut downs which likely are turned in on Friday and are due before the Saturday deadline. As I have indicated earlier, the NFL rule that states those names above cannot play in the final preseason game (when no team wants to play anyone of value) is a silly rule, but clearly the NFL has its hands full with other rules and rulings so that will have to slide for now. Regardless, the 15 names above - aside from the injured - are all unique stories of players who might have seen the end of the road.
It is easy for us to shake this news off as "non essential", but for those guys, it might be their last football story of their playing career, so I always try to keep that in mind.
It is a very tough living and a very difficult job to attain and then to retain. With those rulings in mind, we now proceed to the next round and the questions the Cowboys have before they dismiss another 22 names from their grid. The players who have survived that cut now feel that they are close to their goals, but with 2 dozen more about to be sent home, this is very much "so close, yet so far away." Here is my updated roster grid.
As stated many times during this process, the Cowboys just did not have many jobs open. Virtually the entire roster was determined before camp and it was going to take some titanic performances to change those rulings. I just don't think we have seen that this August.
|Position||Already Made Team||On The Bubble||Longshots|
|QB||(2) Romo, Weeden||(2) Vaughn, Showers|
|RB||(4) Randle, Dunbar, Clutts, McFadden||(1) Johnson||(2) Agnew, Malena,|
|TE||(2) Witten, Escobar||(2) Hanna, Swaim|
|WR||(5) Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Street, Whitehead||(3) Jenkins, Harwell, Gates|
|T||(2) Smith, Free||(2) Weems, Gibson||(1) Wetzel|
|G-C||(5) Leary, Frederick, Martin, Collins, Bernadeau||(2) McDermott, Patrick|
|DT||(4) T Crawford, Hayden, T McClain, J Crawford||(2) Bishop, Coleman|
|DE||(4) Lawrence, Gregory, Hardy, Mincey, Russell||(2) Gardner, Edwards||(1) Obada|
|LB||(6) Lee, Wilber, Brinkley, McClain, Hitchens, Wilson, Gachkar||(1) K Smith,||(3) Baggs, Glaud, Johnson|
|CB||(5) Carr, Claiborne, Jones, White, Patmon||(2) Ross, Sweeting|
|S||(4) Church, Wilcox, McCray, Heath||(1) Scott|
|ST||(3) Bailey, Jones, Ladouceur|
|Totals||46 + 2||12||15|
I have not moved anyone from one column to the next from last week's list, other than to eliminate those 15 who were sent home. What that means is that, to me, the roster is pretty much cut and dried already. But, there are some names to discuss based on your feedback and some legitimate skepticism that keeps these decisions from being the cinch that I have suggested.
JASPER BRINKLEY - I have Brinkley on the roster, but his name often comes up when discussing roster security amongst veterans. He was guaranteed $2 million dollars and signed to a 2-year deal for $6.5m. I remember a camp discussion a month ago about a hypothetical proposition bet of who would play more snaps at the Mike LB this year, Brinkley or Rolando McClain. Unfortunately, in the last month, it does seem like the Cowboys are now wondering why they thought they needed a 30-year old backup LB for that money. Andrew Gachkar, Anthony Hitchens, and Damien Wilson have all had moments lined up at that spot and McClain still seems very much in their plans when they get to October. So, is he an automatic to break camp? I still say yes, but he is on the short list to be sure when McClain returns and they need to cut someone to make room. Working against Brinkley is the major component of special teams. Backup LBs must play a big role there, and it doesn't appear that he is in that mix. Gachkar is a special teams spine piece and seems competent and even solid at LB when given the chance. I think this spot might be one to consider.
LUCKY WHITEHEAD - It has certainly been a long, strange trip for Whitehead as the Cowboys showed they weren't willing to spend a draft pick on him, offered him the smallest signing bonus imaginable at $10,000, and then all but guaranteed he would be their answer at kick returner back in May. Talk about mixed messages! Now, since then, he has certainly revealed that he has amazing speed, impressive competitiveness, talent, and some rough edges the team is going to need to be patient with. However, because of his flashes and because of the lack of push from guys below him, it sure seems like he has the 5th WR spot grabbed. Now, that might be a bit deceiving because the Cowboys will be using Gavin Escobar as their option in the slot before they go with Whitehead or even Devin Street, but for roster accounting purposes, I think this is their guy. And you know what? I think he will be an option in the offense before too long. I like his ability to lose guys underneath and while it might not be in 2015, if he can keep his job as return man, then I bet he can add some use as a receiver as his career develops. But, it is returning that will keep him employed. Otherwise, here are a few battles to consider for Thursday Night and cutdown day:
TE JAMES HANNA vs TE GEOFF SWAIM I know in this battle we are talking about a 3rd TE and a 4th TE, so we need to consider a few things here. 1) can they play on special teams? Yes and Yes. Although Hanna can do it better from the limited action I have seen. 2) contract situation. Swaim is obviously at the start of a rookie 4-year deal and Hanna is in the final year. Does this decide it? Or, do the Cowboys just carry 4 TEs? I think I keep Hanna and cut Swaim, but they may disagree due to the contract. Swaim to the practice squad is an option, of course.
DT DAVON COLEMAN vs DT KEN BISHOP Here is another good one, and while Bishop runs with a higher motor, Coleman can do more for the team in terms of versatility and positional flex. I think that when it is all said and done, I go with Coleman here, but the team might find that they don't have room for either. Coleman has really flashed in all 3 preseason games so I believe he has secured his spot and Bishop might be able to hang on for the first month with Greg Hardy's spot open.
T DARRION WEEMS vs T LAURENCE GIBSON I don't think either of these guys have done enough to make the team, but they need to keep one for their emergency tackle. If push comes to shove, most of us believe La'el Collins would be your long-term 3rd tackle until the Chaz Green era begins, but they need one for game day to come in on 2nd down and play tackle in the middle of a drive. I figure that has to be Weems for now. Gibson to the practice squad, though.
DE BEN GARDNER vs DE LAVAR EDWARDS Assuming Ryan Russell has the team made (he does), then it might come down to a roster spot with these two as well. This one comes down to the scouting question posed by my buddy Bryan Broaddus all the time of "what flavor of ice cream do you like?" That means, of course, that the margin is slim, each does things well, and you simply choose which one you like more. I go with Gardner, because of his college tape and his motor, but I would not criticize anyone who rolls with Edwards. I just think Gardner offers a bit more special teams value and that is all you are seeking when you are selecting roster spot #52 or #53.
WR AJ JENKINS vs LB KEITH SMITH Odd pairing here, but I think this might be the last spot. I know a lot of people want to get Jenkins on because of his pedigree, but I think Smith is a dependable special teams option and probably takes that last job. I just haven't seen much from Jenkins in the games, so the flashes on the practice field have not convinced me to go with him.
DUSTIN VAUGHAN vs JAMEILL SHOWERS Sorry, but I just don't see a scenario under which I would keep 3 QBs - at least of the 4 that are presently here. You only keep 3 if you are worried one of them would be snapped up by someone else and while it is possible, I am not worried about losing either. Showers has some really interesting traits and Vaughan has shown things during his stay, but they look like QBs who are a long, long ways away from having a real impact. I don't keep 3 QBs. Keep shopping.
So, if I am correct, those are the last several decisions to be made and the final game might enlighten us on those battles. But, most of this final process is a series of formalities and then we shall see what the scouts have in mind over the weekend. Remember, last season the Cowboys claimed 5 players after the final preseason game and before the opener. Lavar Edwards was brought in via trade from Tennessee. Donald Hawkins claimed from Cleveland, Korey Toomer claimed from Seattle, Jack Crawford claimed from Oakland, and CJ Spillman from the 49ers. All 5 were on the 53. So, even though we think we know the decisions, they have a giant room with hundreds of names elsewhere in the league they are sifting through. By Saturday, this will be mostly sorted out. Even though, as we have said, your roster is never finalized.