Defense (26 spots remaining)
Defensive Line (10)
The thing that stands out the most is Taco missing the cut. Taco is a bust until proven otherwise and the Dallas Cowboys are under no obligation to hand him something he doesn’t earn. Rehabbing from offseason surgery is going to put the former first rounder behind from the start and nothing we’ve seen from him indicate he has the drive to overcome.
If he shows up to camp with a competitive spirit an renewed attitude, I’ll change my prediction, but until I see it, he’s missing the cut.
With Randy Gregory likely to start the season on the commissioner’s suspended list, it opens the door for a young project player like 3-tech, Daniel Wise. Many had a fourth round grade on the undrafted free agent rookie, and I’m picking him to surprise a lot of people in training camp.
The D-line is arguably the Dallas Cowboys’ deepest unit on the team and good players are sure to get cut. It’s going to be tough for Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks to win a spot unless Dallas decides one of them is a more helpful piece than DT/DE Kerry Hyder.
Jelks may be a defensive end but he has been discussed as a possible special teams weapon and SAM by multiple outlets, so it’s possible he secures a spot as the last linebacker, ousting the favorite, Justin March-Lillard. So even though I have yet to see him play in this role, I’m going go ahead and call him Kyle Wilber 2.0 and make him a player to watch in mini-camps
The top three are locks to make this team. Both Jones and Brown played well last season and are in contract years this season. They should be extra motivated to perform well this season. I’ve been critical of Chido all offseason and while I haven’t budged, I consider his starting spot safe heading into 2019.
Jourdan Lewis is an important part of this secondary as well, even if he’s stuck at CB4. He has arguably the best natural ball skills on the team and is ready to go at a moment’s notice. I’ll be discussing him more in coming weeks but don’t go trading Lewis away quite yet.
Donovan Olumba, 6’2” 205lbs, has been the Dallas Cowboys top developmental project this past year and looks to make the jump to the active roster this year. He’s big and long and perfect for Kris Richard’s system as an outside corner.
there’s a reason Iloka has drawn very little interest the last two times he hit the open market.
Finally, Mike Jackson makes the team as a developmental prospect. He has the kind of size/speed/agility to be a prototypical Kris Richard-type CB and will get a year of seasoning before competing for a starting role in 2020.
Not only do I not believe George Iloka will outperform Heath and earn the starting strong safety spot, but I think he may not make the team at all. John Owning at DMN news likes him, and I respect Ownings work quite a bit, but I think he may be selling optimism and there’s a reason Iloka has drawn very little interest the last two times he hit the open market.
Every season the Cowboys sign cost effective free agents in the offseason just to cover themselves. And every season we see those guys get cut before the regular season begins. DL Kerry Hyder could be that guy, sure, but my money’s on Iloka.
This isn’t even to say Heath will do well. I think Heath will keep doing what he’s doing and win the spot by default. I also believe Dallas loves Frazier’s special teams play and loves Wilson’s potential to be a future starter.
Much like choosing Noah Brown, a WR, to take a roster spot that would otherwise go to the TE4, I chose to give Olumba, a CB, a spot over Iloka, a safety. Part of it is the position flex amongst the DBs and part of it is my own dislike for Iloka, but I think we’re going to see some surprises in the secondary.
Now, all of this projection is based on previous play, and not current levels of play. That’s because nothing worthwhile can be observed in minicamps and other pre-camp practices. Every year the WR cuts surprise us. A defensive linemen we barely discussed shocks us to claim a roster spot. A nobody beats out a somebody. The only constant is that this is a fluid situation and while 45 spots may be locks, the remaining eight are highly competitive and ever changing.
So who’s your pet cat? Is he making the team and why? Who’s your surprise cuts? It happens every year, we can’t pretend all the top ranked players today will be the top ranked players tomorrow.