Which players on the bubble make the cut?
Written by: Greg Lehr
Another training camp and preseason have come and gone, as rookies and veterans alike have done all they can over the past several weeks to prove they are worth a valuable spot on the team's final 53-man roster. Every team in the league has a few position groups that will be tough to narrow down when rosters are officially trimmed from 90 players down to just 53 by 4 pm ET on Saturday. For the Cowboys specifically, Rod Marinelli has some hard decisions to make on the deepest and most talented defensive line he's had in Dallas. Other position battles of note include wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, and safety. Here’s who could be on the Dallas Cowboys roster as we head into week one of the NFL season.
Cooper Rush and Mike White were expected to compete for the backup job throughout camp and the preseason, but once the exhibitions began, it didn’t take long for Rush to separate himself. His ability to move the offense with tempo and throw the ball downfield were the most significant differentiators here compared to White.
Amid the Zeke holdout, Tony Pollard has probably been the most-watched player day-in and day-out, and he surely has not disappointed. Pollard has worked exclusively with the first-team offense, churning out an impressive 5.6 YPC, better than any other back throughout the preseason in his short workload. Morris’ familiarity within the scheme gives him the upper hand over Jackson, Weber, and Chunn for the third running back role. The coaches know they can trust Morris to complement Pollard to start the season should Elliott miss games.
*Noah Brown - PUP
Nobody helped themselves more this preseason than Devin Smith, who really turned in on in the last three weeks in both practice and games. He has been in a tight race with Cedrick Wilson all along. Both Smith and Wilson offer special teams flexibility and have shown up consistently. With Noah Brown not yet fully healthy, both have a chance to make the squad to at least start the season, assuming Dallas is comfortable keeping six receivers.
After the Rico Gathers experiment ended at the start of camp, this position group was pretty set in stone. Jarwin and Shultz are nursing injuries, but optimistic that they will be ready to go against the Giants in week one.
The pectoral injury to McGovern, who reportedly experienced a bit of a setback in his slow return to the field, has helped Su’a-Filo likely secure a spot as a reserve guard. He’s on the list for now until we learn more details on a potential timeline, but he could be a candidate for IR. As for the tackle position, Dallas will be closely watching the market in the event another player they like gets cut elsewhere. Fleming is serviceable, but the health of Smith the last couple years is slightly concerning, and probably worth bringing in another player who can fill the swing tackle position should Fleming need to fill in at any point.
Robert Quinn (suspended)
Randy Gregory (suspended)
As previously stated, Rod Marinelli has some really difficult decisions to make in the defensive line room. The added suspension of Robert Quinn opens the door to Joe Jackson, who just edges out fellow-rookie edge rusher Jalen Jelks. Hyder, Charlton, and Armstrong have each had their share of moments that have solidified their spots.
Leighton Vander Esch
Luke Gifford - IR eligible to return
There’s never been a question who the top three linebackers are in this group, but Joe Thomas is not as far behind them as you may think. Thomas has excellent versatility and athleticism, allowing him to back up any of the linebacker positions if necessary. Phillips, a rookie from Oklahoma St, has made his mark in his opportunities. Don’t be surprised if he beats out Chris Covington for the final slot in this group. Lastly, it will be interesting to see what they do with Luke Gifford, who made a very positive impression before suffering an unfortunate injury in the first preseason game in San Francisco. Does Dallas value his potential enough to put him on IR until he can return healthy halfway through the season?
It remains to be seen if the Cowboys would want to keep six corners, with the last couple spots coming down to Olumba and Goodwin. Olumba snagged a pick-six in the final preseason game against Tampa Bay, while Goodwin offers solid special teams capabilities. Although Byron Jones has returned to practice, is he truly healthy enough to be active next week? That may be a deciding factor if they want to keep five or six corners, but I think Olumba has the edge here if they only keep five. These are the types of dilemmas teams struggle with when it comes to players such as Olumba and Goodwin. They may simply choose to keep both if they don't see them clearing waivers to bring back on their practice squad.
Three picks in four preseason games for Donovan Wilson, not bad for a guy known more for his ability to play in the box and deliver big hits. He looks comfortable and confident on the back end of the defense and shouldn’t have anything to worry about in terms of making this team. For the last spot, the coaches like guys like Thompson. He’s younger but still a veteran with some experience and good football IQ. George Iloka and Kavon Frazier could be the odd guys out.
Brett Maher (K)
Chris Jones (P)
LP Ladouceur (LS)