The first practice of the 2013 training camp is still 25 days away. But, that doesn’t keep us from trying to figure out what the final roster will look like at the end of camp. The team is allowed to go to camp with 90 players on the roster but must cut down to 53 players by August 31st. Here is my first look at what I think that final 53-man roster will be. There are some surprises. But, I’ve listed who I think makes the team and who gets cut based on the players on the 90-man roster today.
QUARTERBACK (2) – Tony Romo, Kyle Orton (Cut: Nick Stephens, Dalton Williams)
No surprises here as Stephens and Williams are just spare arms for camp and not players the Cowboys are seriously grooming to take over the reins some day from Romo. That draft pick likely comes in 2013. Also, don’t be surprised after his poor showing in the OTA’s if the Cowboys make a move to replace Orton on the roster if a capable backup becomes available.
RUNNING BACK (3) – DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle, Kendial Lawrence (Cut: Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar, Lawrence Vickers)
Murray and Randle are locks even though we haven’t seen Randle play a down yet. The only question is who gets the third spot and whether or not the Cowboys keep a true fullback on the roster. I think Vickers days as a Cowboy are numbered and they keep an extra tight end instead of a fullback. The Cowboys will likely run a lot more “12 personnel” with 1 running back and 2 tight ends this year which makes Vickers’ roster spot more valuable at another position. We’ve probably gotten all we will get out of Tanner and Dunbar and although they are hometown favorites, it might be time to give Lawrence a shot. He’ll have to earn it in camp, of course, but I think he has a good chance.
RECEIVER (6) – Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Terrence Williams, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, Eric Rogers (Cut: Anthony Armstrong, Jared Green, Tim Benford, Danny Coale, Anthony Amos)
The Cowboys typically keep 6 receivers. Dez and Miles are locks of course. Williams has already shown enough potential to bump Harris down the depth chart, but Dwayne should still make the team and be in the mix – potentially on punt returns as well. Beasley offers something unique as a slot receiver so he should make the squad. The intriguing one to me that I will be watching closely is Eric Rogers. He is an undrafted free agent out of Cal Lutheran but has the similar size (6’2″) and speed (4.5 forty) to Dez Bryant. He’s a long shot coming out of a D2 school, but if he can run good routes and catch the ball consistently, he could be a nice red zone threat to pair up with Dez.
TIGHT END (4) – Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna, Dante Rosario (Cut: Colin Cochart, Andre Smith)
With no true fullback on the roster, the Cowboys have room to keep a fourth tight end as long as he can play fullback when they need one. That will be the reason they keep Rosario if they do.
CENTER (2) – Travis Frederick, Phil Costa
Drafting Frederick made either Costa or Cook expendable. I see them keeping Costa as the back up center and moving Ryan Cook to guard.
GUARD (4) – Nate Livings, Ryan Cook, Ron Leary, Kevin Kowalski (Cut: Mackenzy Bernadeau, David Arkin, Ray Dominguez)
No, that’s not a typo. After a horrible 2012 campaign (Pro Football Focus graded him as the 50th best guard in 2012, Livings was #16 by comparison), I think the Cowboys will see enough promise in another player to cut their losses with Bernadeau. It remains to be seen if that will be Costa (who can also play guard), Ryan Cook, or another player, but I’m calling it here and now – Bernadeau does not make this team in 2013 if they only keep 10 offensive lineman.
TACKLE (4) – Tyron Smith, Jermey Parnell, Doug Free, Edawn Coughman (Cut: Darrion Weems, J.B. Shugarts)
Doug Free is by no means a lock to make this team either despite the pay cut he agreed to take. If the only way to get decent play out of him is to alternate with Parnell, then the Cowboys are at a disadvantage. That extra spot on the roster could be used to fill other needs. Time for Parnell to step up and take his spot. Coughman is another interesting player – big (6’4″, 316lbs) but very athletic and moves extremely well for a guy that size. He’s capable of playing a couple different positions which will help his chances – tackle, guard, or 3rd tight end in some sets.
KICKER (1) – Dan Bailey
PUNTER (1) – Chris Jones (Cut: Spencer Benton)
LONG SNAPPER (1) – L.P. Ladouceur (Cut: Jackson Anderson)
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (6) – Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore, Ben Bass, Nick Hayden, Josh Brent (Cut: Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, Jerris Pendleton, Jerome Long)
I don’t understand why the Cowboys continue to keep a roster spot for Brent but they seem to think he is going to play again. His problems are likely not resolved by August so the team probably puts him on the non-football related injury list and keeps one additional player, but that might not be any of the names listed above. This is a position that definitely needs more depth and the Cowboys had better hope that a quality player they can afford comes on the market during or after camp as other teams make their cut downs. Even then, that player will be new to the system.
DEFENSIVE END (4) – DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Wilbur (Cut: Monte Taylor, Cameron Sheffield)
LINEBACKER (6) – Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, Alex Albright, Brandon Magee, DeVonte Holloman (Cut: Ernie Sims, Caleb McSurdy, Taylor Reed, Cameron Lawrence, Deon Lacey)
Beyond the three starters (Lee, Carter, Durant), the backup positions are up for grabs. McSurdy has been in the system but hasn’t really stood out. Despite re-signing Sims who proved to be a capable backup, the youth and potential of players like Magee and Holloman likely leave him on the outside looking in.
CORNERBACK (5) – Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick, B.W. Webb, Sterling Moore (Cut: Brandon Underwood, Devin Smith, Malik James, Xavier Brewer)
Carr and Claiborne are the starters – Scandrick is the nickel corner. But, B.W. Webb has impressed so far and is expected to push Scandrick for playing time. Moore has proven to be a capable backup but any of the names past Webb above could fill that 5th CB spot. They will need to earn it in camp.
SAFETY (4) – Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson, Danny McCray (Cut: Will Allen, Jeff Heath, Eric Frampton, Jakar Hamilton, Micah Pellerin)
The more I hear about Will Allen, the more he feels like another Brodney Pool – although he is unlikely to show up to camp and fail his conditioning test. But, I think the Cowboys will find enough younger talent at this position to make an aging veteran like Allen expendable. I’ve heard nothing but good things about J.J. Wilcox and I expect he and Church to end up the starters. Johnson and McCray will earn a roster spot on special teams.
So, there you have it. My best guess on the final 53 as it stands today. It will be very interesting to see how this camp plays out. There will unfortunately be some injuries – those are inevitable – and unexpected players who stand out while others expected to make the team disappoint. It’s all part of the intrigue that holds our interest as we wait for the regular season to start.
Hang in there fans – the home opener against the Giants is only 74 days away! Go Cowboys!