With free agency and the NFL Draft officially concluded, the 2019 Dallas Cowboys are starting to take shape. While there is obviously a lot of time left until the start of the season, it’s never too early to break down the current roster. Based on everything we know now, let’s take a stab at predicting the Dallas Cowboys roster.
Dallas Cowboys Roster Prediction 1.0
In: Dak Prescott, Mike White
Dak Prescott is the unquestioned starter, but the battle for the backup spot should be one of the most entertaining battles of training camp. Cooper Rush has been the primary backup since early 2017 but his role could be in jeopardy. The Cowboys selected Mike White in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft and hope he develops into the backup of the future.
For now, White wins the backup role. Rush struggled in the 2018 preseason but looked like a competent quarterback in 2017. That said, White should have a strong grasp of the playbook in his second season and should be even better than he was a season ago. Rush still has practice squad eligibility, so he could stick around if no other team picks him up.
Running Back (4)
In: Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Weber, Tony Pollard, Jamize Olawale
Ezekiel Elliott will remain the top option in the running game, but he has more help now than ever before. Seventh-round rookie Mike Weber is a good north-south runner who can take some early-down runs while Tony Pollard is a jack of all trades type runner who can win as a runner or a receiver.
The Cowboys are a run-heavy offense, so keeping a fullback makes sense. Jamize Olawale didn’t play much last season, but he looked good in limited action. The Cowboys should take a page out of the New England Patriots book and use Olawale the way New England utilizes James Develin.
Wide Receiver (5)
In: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin
Bubble: Jon’Vea Johnson, Noah Brown
Nobody really knows what the wide receiver room will look like in Week One. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb will be the top three options, but everything else is up in the air. Allen Hurns carries a $6 million cap hit and is coming off a gruesome ankle injury. He should be ready for the start of the season, but the Cowboys might choose to move on from the former Jacksonville Jaguar. Tony Pollard and Tavon Austin have similar skill sets and Austin could be the odd man out if Pollard impresses in camp.
Should those two not make the team, the most likely replacements are Jon’Vea Johnson and Noah Brown. Johnson has NFL athleticism but his lack of receiving polish led to him going undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. If the Cowboys can coach up his skills, he could develop into a serviceable depth receiver. Noah Brown, meanwhile, has just nine catches in his NFL career. However, he’s a good downfield blocker, and that skill has value in the Cowboys run-heavy attack.
Tight End (4)
In: Jason. Witten, Dalton. Schultz, Blake. Jarwin, Rico Gathers
Jason Witten is back after an ill-fated one-year hiatus. While he wasn’t his Hall of Fame self when last on the field, he can still play a role while mentoring the younger players. Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin are the future of the position and should remain in their respective roles.
The Cowboys typically use four tight ends, so Rico Gathers has one more year to prove his worth. If he has a bad camp, the Cowboys could easily decide to only carry three tight ends. If that happens, Olawale could see some time at tight end.
Offensive Line (9)
In: Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, Mitch Hyatt, Connor McGovern, Cameron Fleming, Joe Looney
This projection assumes that Travis Frederick is fully healthy and ready to go for the start of the season. If Frederick is truly back, then the offensive line of Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Frederick, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins should return to being one of the best in the league.
Connor McGovern was a great value in the third round, but this was a pick made for the future. He’ll start his career as a backup before taking over as a starter in 2020. It’s a minor miracle that Mitch Hyatt went undrafted. He has the versatility to play guard or tackle and should be a valuable backup. Cameron Fleming showed enough in 2018 to spend another year on the active roster. Joe Looney earns the final spot on the depth chart, as the Cowboys need a backup center in case Frederick cannot return to form.
Defensive Line (10)
In: Demarcus Lawrence, Trysten Hill, Antwaun Woods, Robert Quinn, Maliek Collins, Taco Charlton, Joe Jackson, Daniel Wise, Dorrance Armstrong, Tyrone Crawford
The Dallas Cowboys love their front seven, so this projection has the team carrying 10 defensive linemen. Demarcus Lawrence is the obvious star with Trysten Hill, Antwaun Woods, and Robert Quinn rounding out the starting unit. Taco Charlton needs to stay on the field and improve his consistency, but for now, he makes the roster. Maliek Collins loses his starting position, but he’ll still remain a valuable depth piece.
Joe Jackson has NFL build and could use a year on the bench to develop his pass-rushing moves. The same goes for Dorrance Armstrong, although he could be a regular gameday inactive if he doesn’t show something in the preseason. Tyrone Crawford’s ability to line up all along the line earns him a spot, while Daniel Wise gets a job because the Cowboys need all the interior line depth they can get. Kerry Hyder misses the roster in this projection but could easily beat out Dorrance Armstrong for the final defensive end spot.
In: Leighton Vander. Esch, Jaylon. Smith, Justin. March-Lilliard, Sean. Lee, Christian. Covington, Joe. Thomas
The Cowboys know their strength lies in the front seven, so they carry six linebackers into the regular season. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith took the league by storm in 2018 and should only get better with experience. These two could easily comprise the best linebacker duo in football. Justin March-Lilliard earns the last starting spot and would be a nice complement to Vander Esch and Smith.
Sean Lee is no longer a starter but he still provides valuable depth. As a lifelong Cowboy, it’s hard to imagine Jerry Jones parting ways with the former lifeblood of the defense. Christian Covington and Joe Thomas round out the depth chart and should contribute on special teams.
In: Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, Michael Jackson
Byron Jones is one of the better cornerbacks in the league and should continue his impressive career. The starting spot opposite Jones is up for grabs, and right now Chidobe Awuzie has the best chance to win it. Anthony Brown holds down the slot to round out the starting cornerbacks.
Jourdan Lewis looks good when he’s on the field, but the coaching staff seems turned off by his relatively undersized frame. He’s a great option off the bench. Michael Jackson is listed as a cornerback, for now, doesn’t have the ability to follow receivers around in man coverage. He’ll probably convert to safety at some point during his career.
In: Xavier Woods, George Iloka, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, Donovan Wilson
The Cowboys are banking on George Iloka playing like he did with the Cincinnati Bengals. Xavier Woods is a decent starter but Jeff Heath can be upgraded. That said, the Cowboys didn’t invest in safeties so these three should see the majority of the playing time.
Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson are similar players in that they’re both better suited as box safeties. Both players can deliver huge hits in the run game while providing valuable depth on special teams. However, in today’s pass-happy NFL, it’s hard to see either player seeing the field on a regular basis.
Special Teams (3)
In: Chris Jones, Brett Maher, L.P. Ladouceur
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