The Dallas Cowboys have completed their first two games of the 2013 preseason. Although everyone wants to fast-forward to September and the regular season, the summer provides plenty of insight for the upcoming year.
At this point in the schedule, winning games is just about the least important thing. The preseason is about avoiding major injuries and evaluating talent.
Expectations are always high in Dallas and with a stacked roster, nothing has changed. The Cowboys have pressure to win now and finally they have a team that’s capable.
With that being said, here’s the Cowboys’ offensive breakdown by position.
All statistics via Pro Football Reference unless indicated otherwise.
Orton is a great backup to have.
Start: Tony Romo
This is still a no-brainer. Tony Romo is the best quarterback on the team and Dallas’ only chance at reaching the Super Bowl.
The first-team offense didn’t look great against Oakland, but it was the first time most of them participated in a game this year.
Romo understands his responsibility and the pressure he’s under. If he plays to his full potential, the possibilities for the Cowboys are endless.
Keep: Kyle Orton
Kyle Orton is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL. The veteran is very smart and can still play at a high level.
In the team’s second preseason game, Orton was a perfect 6-for-6 with a touchdown. If Romo happened to go down for a few weeks, the offense wouldn’t miss a beat.
Cut: Nick Stephens, Alex Tanney
Both young quarterbacks have shown they have some skill but not enough to make this team. Dallas will be grooming a young guy one of these years but not quite yet. The best-case scenario for either would be the practice squad.
Dunbar has been explosive this preseason.
Start: DeMarco Murray
DeMarco Murray is extremely important to Dallas’ success. He will be leaned on throughout the year to give the offense the balance it was missing in 2012.
Murray absolutely has the talent to be a top-tier back in the league; he simply needs to stay healthy.
Keep: Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner, Joseph Randle
It’s unclear how the coaching staff will utilize all three of these players, but it does seem each will make the final roster. All of them have looked good for the most part and will probably only continue to do so since they’re so young.
Dunbar could end up being the change-of-pace back with Tanner or Randle available if something were to happen to Murray. Combined, this unit is solid.
Cut: Kendial Lawrence
Unfortunately there just isn’t room on the roster for Dallas to keep the explosive rookie. With the emphasis on tight ends, roster spots are hard to come by.
The Cowboys would love to keep him on their practice team for the future, but he may get scooped up just like Jamize Olawale last year.
Dallas has big expectations for Hanna.
Start: Jason Witten
Although Dallas will be running multiple tight end sets, I’ll only put Witten as the official starter. He’s the class of the team and one of the most consistent blockers and receivers in the league during his career.
Keep: James Hanna, Gavin Escobar, Dante Rosario, Andre Smith
With the release of the team’s only fullback, Lawrence Vickers, I can see four other tight ends joining Witten. Hanna and Escobar will be the receiving threats with Rosario and Smith doing more of the blocking.
Together, they’re very well rounded and will cause plenty of mismatches on the field.
Cut: Colin Cochart
Cochart is the only tight end I see Dallas cutting. It’s not necessarily a knock on him, but there’s no way the Cowboys will1 keep six players at the position.
Cochart still has time to beat out Smith, however, he’ll need to prove himself in camp. He cannot continue to drop passes or get pushed around at practice.
Beasley has been sharp so far.
Start: Dez Bryant, Miles Austin
Dez Bryant is one of the best receivers in the league and this summer he’s showing it. He’s come to camp with a purpose in mind and is executing on the field every day.
Miles Austin is one of the best second options anywhere when healthy. The two are a deadly combination for defenses to contain.
Keep: Dwayne Harris, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Anthony Armstrong
The remainder of the receiving corps is just as exciting. Harris and Williams are locks to make the roster; we just don’t know exactly how they’ll be utilized.
Beasley has looked impressive thus far this summer, too. Against Oakland, he had three receptions for 49 yards and a score.
Anthony Armstrong has also made a few nice catches. The veteran still has plenty of speed and would be a good option to add quality depth.
Cut: Tim Benford, Eric Rodgers, Danny Coale, Jared Green, Anthony Amos
These five players have a lot of skill to be on the cut list. However, there is just no room for most of them to make this team.
The Cowboys’ wide receivers are some of the best in all of football and that goes for the depth from top to bottom. The good news for this crew is that they are all practice team eligible so they could be fighting for more than the 53-man roster.
Leary might earn himself a starting position.
Start: Tyron Smith (LT), Ronald Leary (LG), Travis Frederick (C), Mackenzy Bernadeau (RG), Doug Free (RT)
The most noteworthy player in my starting offensive line is Ronald Leary. The guard has been outstanding this preseason and is a standout at camp on a daily basis. Even owner Jerry Jones has been impressed.
The rest of the line is pretty set, with a few possible moves occurring in the interior.
Keep: Nate Livings, David Arkin, Phil Costa, Jermey Parnell, Kevin Kowalski
The remaining linemen aren’t too impressive but have created good competition. The injury to Livings has opened the door for Leary in which he has thrived.
Arkin still has the potential to grab a starting spot while Kowalski and Costa are battling to make the team. Dallas might keep all of these guys since depth is a serious issue.
Parnell is the only true backup tackle and will be safe barring injury.
Cut: Darrion Weems, Demetress Bell, Ryan Cook, Ray Dominguez, Edawn Coughman
Like so many others on the cut lists, there simply isn’t space on the roster for these players. If there were no limit on roster size, the Cowboys would probably keep all of the linemen because of their importance and the team’s lack of depth at the position.
Out of this list, I’d say Cook and Weems have the best chances. Cook could play center if need be and Weems would add more security to the slim pickings at tackle.
An injury to one of the starters is the only way I see someone moving up.