All 32 NFL teams will have to cut down their rosters from 90 to 53 by Saturday afternoon. This year has a new wrinkle in the cutdown process. In years past, teams had scheduled cutdowns from 90 to 75 players, and then again from 75 to 53. Now, with one big cutdown, teams will have plenty of decisions to make at a single time. With players’ NFL dreams hanging in the balance, let’s examine what the Dallas Cowboys’ 53-man roster could look like by Saturday night.
He did it! While the team didn’t want to “rush” (sorry, had to) to anoint Cooper Rush with a spot on the 53-man roster, the gunslinger has given the team no choice. The Central Michigan alum has lit up the preseason stage, and has fans questioning Kellen Moore as the backup quarterback in Big D. Speaking of Moore, there are whispers that he could be ticketed for the practice squad. However, his experience and familiarity with the scheme gets him on this final roster prediction.
Running Back (4):
Boy, oh boy. This position looked like it would be an “easy” decision come final cuts. With Elliott facing a six-game suspension, the team had room to keep all three of the combo of Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, and Rod Smith. Now, Zeke looks more and more likely to be active for week one. As a result, the team could cut one of the veteran backs on the roster if pinched at another position. In this scenario, the team hangs on to their running back depth, if Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal has an unfavorable ruling.
After beginning his career at linebacker, Keith Smith has turned himself into a valuable NFL player at fullback. Smith shows a toughness in the way he blocks for the running game, and he will continue to operate as Ezekiel Elliott’s lead blocker in 2017.
Wide Receiver (6):
The wide receiver group has been set in stone for the entire offseason. However, a rookie has forced himself into the conversation for a roster spot. Sixth-round draft pick Noah Brown has impressed throughout camp. As a result, the youngster has done enough in my eyes to make the final roster. He joins fellow rookie Ryan Switzer as potential impact players in the future. However, both will be part-time players in 2017.
Tight End (3):
After remarkable growth as a player, Rico Gathers looked primed to make this list as of a few weeks ago. However, the young tight end suffered a concussion and is still in the concussion protocol. As a result, the team could stash Gathers on Injured Reserve. That would allow Gathers tme to heal, while allowing the Cowboys to use his roster spot on a healthy player at a position of greater need.
Offensive Line (8):
One of the best lines in the NFL may have taken a small step back from last season. After losing Ron Leary to free agency and Doug Free to retirement, the team had spots to fill on their great wall. La’el Collins has returned from a season-ending injury in 2016 to fill the right tackle position. The left guard spot vacated by Leary has more question marks. Johnathan Cooper has been more consistent in his technique, and has a high draft pedigree. However, he could still find pressure for playing time from former third-round draft pick Chaz Green. Green can’t seem to stay healthy, however, and he joins veterans Joe Looney and Byron Bell on the bench in this prediction.
Defensive Line (9):
Possibly the hardest decisions on who to keep and who to cut will come at the defensive line position. The team has always liked using a rotation of pass rushers under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. However, the team again finds several defensive linemen facing suspension to begin the year. David Irving and Damontre Moore will miss the season opener, which opens the door for someone down the depth chart to push for a roster spot. Enter Lewis Neal, an undrafted defensive tackle who has shown flashes of good play this preseason. He has outplayed seventh-round draft picks Jordan Carrell and Joey Ivie. Both those players look more like practice-squad players in their rookie season. Neal could be headed to the practice squad as well, but the team has a tough decision to make with regards to his roster chances.
All eyes have been on Jaylon Smith’s anticipated return to the field. His return comes at a good time, as the team will be without Anthony Hitchens due to injury to start the season. As a result, the team could go long at linebacker, and a guy like Mark Nzeocha would figure to be in consideration in this scenario.
Defensive Back (10):
The team focused on the youth movement this offseason, at it is apparent in the final prediction at defensive back. Out of the ten defensive backs, four are rookies and two others are entering their second year in the NFL. While some growing pains can be expected, this unit has the potential to outperform last year’s unit.
These guys could be the specialists for the next 10 years and I would be more than okay with it.
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