Dallas Cowboys: These final roster decisions loom

Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys are only a week away from having to make final cuts and start full preparations for the first week of the regular season. Most of the starters are pretty well locked in at this point (with a few exceptions) but there is still some depth situations they will work out over the next week – especially with the final preseason game in which nearly all of the players will be just backups and depth players fighting for a roster spot.

On offense, we know how most of the starters will shake out: The offensive line is pretty well set, the starting three wide receivers are known, the top two running backs are locked in, the two top tight ends are far and away assured, and of course, we all know who the starting quarterback is. On defense, most of the starters and big minute contributors are settled. The biggest questions are still at cornerback opposite of Trevon Diggs and who will win the slot position.

The Dallas Cowboys will have some hard decisions to make over the next week.

Before we get into the decisions themselves, all teams, not just the Dallas Cowboys, will have to consider whether they feel they can sneak certain players through to the practice squad. Every year we see teams poach players before they have a chance to clear waivers and land on their original team’s practice squad. While this doesn’t always mean a player will be kept, it is something to consider when figuring out the famous “roster projections”.

One of the biggest questions for the Cowboys on offense will be whether they carry a fullback on the roster. Should they decide to carry one even though Nick Ralston is the only healthy fullback currently on the roster? His ability to play special teams certainly helps his case, and with other questions at tight end depth, they could keep him to play a traditional H-back position instead of a forcing on a third tight end.

Should they move in this direction, that leaves the potential of another running back on the roster. Both Rico Dowdle and JaQuan Hardy have performed well this preseason and one could find themselves on the main roster and the other on the practice squad. Depending on who the Cowboys feel they can and can not sneak through waivers may decide how this ends up.

While we all know the top three wide receivers like the back of our hands, the depth is still a little bit of an unknown. For now, it looks like Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown are most likely going to be on the roster, but the next in line is certainly up in the air. Simi Fehoko was a draft pick that could keep him around, but they have used Johnny Dixon quite a bit this preseason, this could be another case of who can make it through and who can not.

The offensive line is pretty well locked in with most of the depth answered, however, tackle depth is still a bit of a question. Ty Nsekhe, Brandon Knight, and Terrance Steele have all had some issues this preseason and we still don’t know what Josh Ball has to offer. Most likely two of the previous three will be the backups unless a waiver wire player is acquired.

The backup quarterback position has become a bigger fight than it appeared at the start of training camp. What looked like Garrett Gilbert and then letting Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci fight it out for third, has turned to a two-person race between Rush and Gilbert for the backup spot. The final game will be their final statements to make their case.

The defense has more questions when it comes to the positioning of players. We know most of the defensive line and linebackers, we just do not know the exact rotation of the players and who is the “starters” at certain positions. However, we know most of the players will get quality minutes. Defensive end depth is a small question as is who will fill in for Neville Gallimore until he returns.

Safety seems to still be a bit of an unknown with Malik Hooker only playing one preseason game, but he looked solid and they are currently also trying to get him some snaps as a box safety which could help if he can play both positions. Israel Mukuamu will be the one to watch for sticking around, as they may not be able to sneak him through waivers.

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Corner is perhaps the biggest unknown on defense heading into the final week. We all know Trevon Diggs is one starting outside corner, but the rest seems to be a bit of speculation. The feeling is Anthony Brown could start the season opposite Diggs with Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright getting snaps as reserves until Joseph (most likely) takes over as the full-time starter.

All three will probably make the final roster. Slot corner is a bit of a mystery with both Jourdan Lewis and Maurice Canady making a case for the position. Based on the preseason, Canady might have the edge, based on money, Lewis may have the edge. Both could be kept if the Cowboys go long at corner, which is likely due to a lack of experience at the position.

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The final preseason game will help provide clarity as the Cowboys make final roster decisions. There will probably be some roster churning based on other teams’ cuts. Not all the questions have been answered, but we have a much better picture.