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Predicting the Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster

With the preseason having wrapped up, the Dallas Cowboys must now tackle one of the tougher tasks of the NFL season, trimming the roster to 53 players. Thanks to their participation in the Hall of Fame Game, Dallas got the luxury of having one extra game to evaluate their team.

Now, it’s time to choose the squad that will give them the best chance at winning this division, and possibly a playoff game or two. Expectations are always high for America’s Team, and considering the financial resources used to build this team, success is a must in 2021.

Let’s take a look at who I’ve got making this team, including three players that are likely to be signed a day after cuts so that the Cowboys can slide Neville Gallimore, Josh Ball, and Sean McKeon onto the Injured Reserve with a designation to return. To do that, they must be on the roster for at least one day.

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott dallas cowboys roster predictions
Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Predicting the 53-Man Dallas Cowboys Roster | Offense

QB:

Dak Prescott, Garrett Gilbert

To be honest, I don’t think Dallas’ second quarterback is on this roster, and it’s a bit frustrating that the Cowboys didn’t address bringing in someone much sooner. I’d be shocked if Dallas didn’t bring someone in from outside the current group to back up Prescott, and at this point, either Gilbert or Cooper Rush will have to stick around long enough for that guy to learn the system.

Fortunately, they could do that from the practice squad, where they can be one of two players that dress every week on the game-day roster. It adds to the frustration to watch a player like Gardner Minshew get traded for a sixth-round pick, knowing we have the need, and his cap hit is only $850K.

Still, this team was recently able to clear some cap space by reworking Ezekiel Elliott’s contract. Hopefully, that provides the space to obtain some necessary insurance behind Prescott.

As of now, I’m giving the second spot to Gilbert over Rush. Rush made a late push but proved ineffective in this last outing while Gilbert had more success. In the end, Gilbert is the physically superior player with an arm that can make all the throws and feet that can extend plays.

RB:

Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Nick Ralston

What a disappointing break for Rico Dowdle, who would have made this team had he not suffered a season-ending hip injury. Elliott and Pollard have been locks from the get-go, and I’ve got Ralston being one of the three players that will be added to the team after Dallas can get Gallimore, Ball, and McKeon on IR.

It’s been evident that Mike McCarthy wants to keep a fullback throughout training camp. Initially, Sewo Olonilua looked to be the guy, but he will miss the season with a neck injury, opening the door for Ralston. He’s a more traditional lead blocker and a physical presence on special teams.

Considering he’d have to clear waivers, I thought Ralston would be a safe choice, considering that most teams don’t employ a fullback anymore. However, he could make the initial roster.

Dallas may still have four players who are exempt from taking up a roster spot because they are on the COVID list. That may be a convenient way to get those three to IR without having to risk losing someone like Ralston on waivers.

WR:

Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Malik Turner

I went heavy with six because both Brown and Turner can help on special teams, and this has clearly been the top six players at the position throughout camp. Yes, guys like Simi Fehoko, Brandon Smith, and Aaron Parker have all had encouraging moments, but I’m not sure any showed the kind of consistency that these six did to make this decision difficult.

Perhaps, Dallas will choose to go heavy elsewhere. However, I doubt Turner clears waivers with his skill set, making it a stretch to think he could get to the practice squad or even be one of the add-ons after the IR moves.

With these six, this is the Cowboys’ strongest offensive unit heading into the season, and this passing offense should return to their early 2020 form.

TE:

Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Sean McKeon, Jeremy Sprinkle

If McKeon were healthy, this group would stand at just three. However, with him headed to IR, and both Jarwin and Schultz’s recent injury histories, Sprinkle (or Nick Eubanks) should be one of those who slide in after the IR moves.

It wouldn’t shock me if Dallas chose to go with just two until McKeon returns. Having Ralston gives them an extra blocker, and a guy like Eubanks could easily slip through to the practice squad where the Cowboys could dress him in one of the two additional spots.

Still, the fact that Sprinkle didn’t play in the final preseason game is a bit telling that he’s going to make the team.

OL:

Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, Ty Nsekhe, Connor McGovern, Terence Steele, Brandon Knight, Josh Ball

If Dallas isn’t planning to use the additional cap space they gained by restructuring Elliott’s deal on a quarterback, they need to turn their attention to a swing tackle. Nsekhe hasn’t looked great in training camp, and while Steele has shown improvement, this final preseason game shows that he’s still got room to develop further.

I went heavy with Brandon Knight simply because this offensive line is coming off an injury-plagued 2020 campaign. Ball will obviously be moved to IR after a day on the roster, but he must get the designation to return so that he can participate in practices once he’s healthy.

dallas cowboys roster defensive line demarcus lawrence
Credit: Shane Roper/USA TODAY Sports

Predicting the 53-Man Dallas Cowboys Roster | Defense

DL:

DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Brent Urban, Tarell Basham, Dorance Armstrong, Neville Gallimore, Carlos Watkins, Osa Odighizuwa, Quinton Bohanna, Justin Hamilton

There were a lot of options to be the guy to replace Gallimore once he’s moved to IR. Anae has proven to be worthy of a spot, while Ron’Dell Carter has the versatility to rush from the edge and inside.

The latter of which is where Gallimore will be missed the most. Still, Hamilton has had a terrific camp, and it’s difficult not to bring him on knowing how bad this run defense was a year ago.

The Cowboys would be in even more of a predicament had Chauncey Golston and Trysten Hill been healthy, but they will start the season on the PUP list. I mentioned Dallas could choose to go with two tight ends until McKeon is back while dressing someone like Eubanks from the practice squad.

If that happens, adding one more player here makes the most sense, and it would probably be Carter. Still, Dallas will have to expose several talented players to waivers, and I’m not sure they get someone like Carter, Anae, or even Hamilton back in that scenario.

LB:

Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, Keanu Neal, Jaylon Smith, Jabril Cox, Luke Gifford

The receivers are the strongest unit on the offense, and the linebackers hold that title on the defense. I thought Dallas could go light with five at the position because of how versatile this group is, but Gifford has been too good to cut.

Had Francis Bernard been healthy, he likely would have had a say in that sixth spot, but a hamstring injury early in camp doomed his chances. There has been plenty of chatter about Smith possibly being on the move.

Still, at this point, I don’t see that being the case considering his salary is locked in, and his trade value is minimal. However, keeping a veteran leader as a versatile backup isn’t the worst thing in the world.

CB:

Trevon Diggs, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, Kelvin Joseph, Nashon Wright, Maurice Canady

At some point, you have to wonder if keeping both Lewis and Canady is more of a luxury than a necessity. Still, with Joseph having suffered a groin injury in the final preseason game, it’s tough to imagine not keeping an extra player with experience.

Ideally, Dallas would be patient with Joseph and Wright, while the other four took the lion’s share of the snaps early on. Still, that puts the Cowboys in a tough position to do that without Canady, which is why I kept him.

He’s had a great camp and also has a history of contributing on special teams. If Joseph’s situation dictates a move to IR, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Dallas make another addition at the position.

S:

Damontae Kazee, Donovan Wilson, Jayron Kearse, Israel Mukuamu, Malik Hooker

The Cowboys don’t seem overly concerned with Wilson’s injury status, but there was no way I was going with four, considering all the other injury concerns in this group. Hooker is the extra man that could step up in case of an injury or eventually push his way into playing time.

However, if he is the fifth guy in Dallas’ eyes, don’t be shocked if he requests his release to look for a home with more playing time available. He’s proven he’s healthy enough to return to the field, and a healthy year as a starter could net him a big payday.

That won’t happen if Kazee and Wilson remain healthy and are the primary starters for the Cowboys. As I said, Hooker could force his way into the lineup with his play, but the preseason was the best chance to do that, and he got a late start.

Mukuamu’s play this preseason has secured him a job, and Kearse appears to be a valuable free-agency addition as well. There is a lot of potential in this group, and Dallas fans are thirsting for someone to be a legitimate playmaker on the back end.

Predicting the 53-Man Dallas Cowboys Roster | Special Teams

Greg Zuerlein, Bryan Anger, Jake McQuaide, C.J. Goodwin

It was nice to see Zuerlein get back in time to get some live kicks in the final game. Despite missing a 56-yard field goal that was just a hair outside the post, he had more than enough leg to have nailed that kick from well beyond 60 yards.

That’s good enough to ease my concerns about his health. Anger was booming punts in the final game, and the Cowboys certainly gave him plenty of chances. McQuaide has stepped in seamlessly for L.P. Ladouceur and even has some feistiness to his game in coverage.

Also, after not including Goodwin in my post-Oxnard roster prediction, it looks like the Cowboys’ special teams ace, will be back to his usual role in 2021.


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