Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Cowboys Roster Projections - August 24th Edition

Because it is enjoyable for those of us who study football (or our bosses ask us nicely), it is that time of year where everyone throws out their version of the final 53-man roster.  It is a bit silly - given that we don't have necessary information, such as the following:

A) we don't know the severity of several of the injuries of guys like James Hanna, Mark Nzeocha, Andrew Gachcar, Lance Dunbar, with regards to whether they are ready for Week 1 or need to be candidates for the various NFI, PUP, or IR lists.

B) we don't know what players the scouts and personnel department have identified on the other 31 rosters that they really hope get cut so they can snap them up - because that player is better than anyone the Cowboys have in camp.  The idea that we need to get 53 names from 90 is shown every year to be false, because the Cowboys are often very active on snapping up cuts from elsewhere via waivers and even trades.

C) we don't completely know what role special teams will play.  I harp about this every August, but we only get so many hints from preseason games.  But, know this - about 7 players every year (not including punter, kicker, and long snapper) make the team primarily for their ability to affect special teams coverage, returns, etc.  Their roster spot will be based completely on that.  So, when you are looking for the best 6-7 linebackers, just keep in mind that the first 4 will be there because they are great linebackers.  The other 2 will make the team because Rich Bisaccia trusts them on his special teams.  

With those things said, let's at least go with what we do know after we examine the NFL Calendar for the upcoming days:

August 30: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the Active List.

September 1: Final Preseason Games.

September 3: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List.

September 3: Simultaneously with the cut-down to 53, clubs that have players in the categories of Active/Physically Unable to Perform or Active/Non-Football Injury or Illness must select one of the following options: place player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness, whichever is applicable; request waivers; terminate contract; trade contract; or continue to count the player on the Active List.

September 4: Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction will expire at 12:00 noon, New York time.

You can see above the cruelty of how things are in the NFL.  A guy makes the team on September 3rd and celebrates, calls the family, and dreams of what life will be like in the big leagues.  Then, on September 4th he finds out he didn't really make the team.  He was cut to make room for the guy they want from Chicago or Buffalo.  You can never relax in the NFL.

Ok, with all of that information now in your head, the next thing we should do is examine the roster from a numbers standpoint.  

Here are what the Cowboys have kept on their 53 for the last nine seasons (since I have been tracking this stuff).  It is important to look at their patterns and tendencies to see where the cut line will be.


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
2015: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist

Now, you have that information, allow me to show you my current worksheet.  I have put the entire 90-man roster on here and tried to divide things up into 3 categories (Spot Secured, Bubble guys, and Longshots).

There is still a chance for longshot guys to make it onto the bubble, but history tells us long shots by the final week in August almost never secure a spot.

By each position, I put what I consider to be the number of players they will want from each category.

QB -2 Romo, Prescott
(Moore - Injured)
RB - 5 Elliott, Morris
(Dunbar, McFadden - Injured)
Jackson, K Smith, R Smith
TE - 4 Witten, Escobar, Swaim
(Hanna - Injured)
Gathers, Traylor
WR - 5 Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Butler, Whitehead Street, A Jones, Mayle R Smith, Mullaney, Brown
OT - 4 Smith, Free,  Green Mack, Witzmann, Bradfield, Baldwin
G-C - 5 Martin, Frederick, L Collins, Leary Looney McQueen, Brendel,
DT - 5 T Crawford, Thornton, M Collins T McClain, Jenkins Coe, Wood, Dixon
DE - 4 Mayowa, J Crawford, Tapper, Irving
(Lawrence, Gregory - suspended)
Russell Okoye, McAdoo
LB - 6 Lee, Hitchens, Wilber, Wilson
(J Smith - Injured)
Durant, Gachkar, Nzeocha, Akunne, Morris King, Muamba, McClain
CB - 5 Carr, Claiborne, Scandrick Olatoye, Thomas, McKinnon, Brown Swanson, Colquhoun
S - 5 Jones, Church, Heath Wilcox, Frazier Frey
ST - 3 Bailey, Jones, Ladouceur
TOTALS - 53 38 (+ 7 exemptions) 26 23

I will adjust this again next week with any movement and then one week from Saturday they will cut it all the way down and start adding waivers guys from elsewhere.  Most of the bubble guys are there because the team has tough decisions to make.  They have to figure out where they want to go light on, so they can go heavy elsewhere.  It is a tough decision process, but they pour over it every day.

As you can see, at tackle, I think they want to keep four, but can't even barely find a third that they like.  At RB, I think the final 2 spots will be Bisaccia guys.  Same with LB where you can see they are dangerously thin at players who they are comfortable playing defense with.  I do think they have good depth at CB and even Safety.  I like that group quite a bit, but the tie-breakers will be special teams again.

Several former draft picks are bubble guys - with Devin Street and Ryan Russell likely the first two names you will recognize.  It is time to demonstrate what you can do.  And you will notice that my guy, Shaneil Jenkins sits on the bubble, but I would be keeping him.  I just realize that you might have to decide between Terrell McClain and Jenkins, which makes me think the coaches may arrive at a different conclusion than I do.

I assume Rico Gathers is a guy for the practice squad and Justin Durant will make the squad if he can demonstrate he is fit.  And, obviously, Darren McFadden's best way to make the team might be to stay on the PUP list.

Anyway, it is August 24th, so as you watch these final 2 games, you will notice the team trying to break ties on the field and look for every detail from those bubble players.  It often gives clues on what they are looking at to decide their final verdicts.

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