Projected Dallas Cowboys Final 53-Man Roster, Training Camp Edition
Over the next month-and-a-half, the Dallas Cowboys will trim their roster down from 87 players to 53. Over 30 players will be shown the door between now and the end of preseason play.
Dallas will continue its transition from Rob Ryan's 3-4 to new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 4-3. During the exhibition games, head coach Jason Garrett will need to get used to having Bill Callahan call the offensive plays.
There is a degree of change in the air over in Oxnard, Calif., and the Cowboys are hoping that change breaks their recent streak of missing the playoffs. Here is a look at what the final 53-man roster will look like when the regular season rolls around.
(2): Tony Romo, Kyle Orton
Analysis: The Cowboys will bring some young arms like Nick Stephens to camp, but they will likely only keep the veteran quarterbacks in the end. Tony Romo just signed his monster contract this offseason, and Kyle Orton will enter his second year as Romo's backup.
Dallas is looking to implement more two-tight end formations and remembers how decimated by injury the defense was last year. There is little reason to carry an extra quarterback when that roster spot could help the team with depth at other positions.
(4): DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Kendial Lawrence
Analysis: Joseph Randle was clearly drafted this year in order to provide a stable backup to starter DeMarco Murray. This was a smart move by Dallas considering Murray's two straight seasons with injuries.
Lance Dunbar and Kendial Lawrence will round out the depth chart at this position. With fullback Lawrence Vickers gone, Dallas has room for one more running back on the roster.
Lawrence is an undrafted free agent, but he's a talented back out of Missouri. He ran for over 1,000 yards his senior year and ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at his pro day. Meanwhile, Dunbar will return will return for another year after he finishes up what has been an impressive offseason, per Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com.
(4): Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna, Dante Rosario
Analysis: The Cowboys really want to mix in more two-tight end formations into the offense this year. That's the reason they drafted Gavin Escobar and signed Dante Rosario this offseason.
Hanna will be in his sophomore season this year. Rosario will serve in blocking roles and as a makeshift fullback perhaps. The Cowboys cut Lawrence Vickers, who was the team's only true fullback. Rosario will get his roster spot based on his blocking ability and the fact Dallas is really hoping to make these "12 formations" work.
(5): Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Terrance Williams, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley
Analysis: Dallas drafted Terrance Williams this year, and the team saw production from Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley last season.
Danny Coale and Anthony Armstrong will each make a case for Beasley's spot, but both have had their issues. Coale was plagued by injuries last year, while Armstrong has yet to build upon his rookie season from a few years ago.
Beasley brings the young potential, while Harris has value in both the return and passing game.
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(4): Tyron Smith, Doug Free, Darrion Weems, Jermey Parnell
Analysis: Tyron Smith is the obvious starter at one tackle position. He's the team's best offensive lineman. Jermey Parnell could give Doug Free a run for the other open starting job, but he will likely have to settle for being a backup.
Darrion Weems bounced between several teams last year and was cut by all of them. He'll make the final roster, but only because the Cowboys have so few options for depth at tackle.
Interior Offensive Line
(6): Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Travis Frederick, Phil Costa, Ryan Cook, Ronald Leary
Analysis: Travis Frederick and Phil Costa are the obvious starter and backup at center. Ryan Cook has the versatility that head coach Jason Garrett loves. He'll be a backup at guard and a No. 3 center.
Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau are the projected starters at offensive guard, but Ronald Leary could give them something to worry about. He isn't a proven player on the NFL level just yet, but Livings and Bernadeau were mediocre at best last year. Keep an eye on Leary during training camp.
(5): Jay Ratliff, Sean Lissemore, Jason Hatcher, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass
Analysis: Jay Ratliff had an injury-riddled 2012 season, but Lissemore and Hatcher did their best impressions of the four-time Pro Bowler. Both players proved they can handle the role of being a backup. With the move to the 4-3 defense, though, Hatcher has a fine opportunity to start alongside Ratliff. Expect him to earn that starting job in training camp.
Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass will be added depth at defensive tackle. Crawford will continue to be a young player the Cowboys hope to groom into a starter in the coming years.
Bass had a good start to the offseason in minicamp, per Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, and will look to continue that trend of production heading into next season.
(4): DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Kyle Wilber, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun
Analysis: DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will move from linebacker to defensive end for the first time since college. Both will likely have a fine transition, with 2012 draft pick Kyle Wilber serving as a backup. Wilber will get a chance to learn from two of the best defensive players on the team and has a secure spot on the roster.
Ikponmwosa Igbinosun will earn the final backup spot at defensive end. He has an impressive 6'2", 288-pound frame that will impress the Dallas coaching staff.
(6): Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, Ernie Sims, DeVonte Holloman, Alex Albright
Analysis: Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are both returning following season-ending injuries in 2012. They are clearly the two starters at middle and weak-side linebacker, respectively.
Ernie Sims will make the roster as well. He was awarded a new contract after filling in for injured starters like Carter and Lee in 2012. He'll likely be the first line of defense if any starter were to go down again this year.
2012 sixth-round pick DeVonte Holloman and Alex Albright should round out the remaining linebacker positions on the depth chart. Albright is a talent the Cowboys have been coaching up since 2011, and he will get a chance to continue to grow with the team in 2013 as a backup.
(5): Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, B.W. Webb, Sterling Moore
Analysis: There are really no surprises here on the cornerback side of the roster. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr will be the two starters, with Scandrick likely taking the No. 3 job. B.W. Webb will spend his rookie season as the No. 4 corner and could see playing time in the return game. Sterling Moore will be the insurance policy.
(5): Will Allen, Barry Church, Matt Johnson, Danny McCray, J.J. Wilcox
Analysis: As far as the depth chart is concerned, the two starting safety positions are up for grabs. The players who will be fighting for those positions are pretty set, however.
Barry Church was awarded a new contract last year, and Will Allen is the veteran of the group after coming over from Pittsburgh. The two have the best chance to grab the two starting positions.
Meanwhile, Matt Johnson will try to rebound from a 2012 riddled with injuries, and Danny McCray will hope to continue to contribute on special teams. J.J. Wilcox could challenge for a starter job, but the rookie is more likely to be the primary backup for either Church or Allen.
(3): Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
Analysis: The Cowboys have no reason to change any of the special teams personnel from last year. Punter Chris Jones will be back at full health for the 2013 season. Dan Bailey has proven worthy of holding down the kicking duties, and L.P. Ladouceur has been the team's longsnapper for some time.