The Dallas Cowboys made a few roster moves on Tuesday. Releasing kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, linebacker Christian Sam (waived/injured), tight end Jeremy Sprinkle (injured), wide receiver Jaquarii Roberson, and cornerback Quandre Mosley.
With these players gone, it brings the Cowboys roster down to 80. They have one preseason game left against the Seattle Seahawks to now figure out the back end of the roster.
While some players have separated themselves and locked up a roster spot, there are still questions that need answering and competitions at key positions. With one week left before final cuts, here is a projected 53-man roster for the Dallas Cowboys offense.
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Quarterbacks – Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier
Right off the bat, this might surprise some fans. However, Cooper Rush and Will Grier have shown enough in camp to stay on the roster. They also have not separated themselves to the point that one should win the job over the other.
Rush struggled in the preseason game against the Denver Broncos, but Rush winning his only start last season against the Minnesota Vikings still carries weight for the front office. If Dak Prescott ever went down with an injury, they want someone who can run the offense, and Rush has shown up when it counts.
Grier had flashes of a dynamic passer against the Los Angeles Chargers but was far from perfect. By all reports, he has been the better player in training camp, but missing the game against the Broncos set him back in the competition.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy is willing to develop quarterbacks behind the starter, so Grier will continue doing that. My confidence in Prescott making the roster equals my confidence in Ben DiNucci being released and making it back on the practice squad.
Running Backs – Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Malik Davis
Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are both locks to make the roster despite offseason rumors the Cowboys will move on from Elliott. That may happen this season, but McCarthy’s commitment to Elliott is well documented in this training camp. The biggest surprise is how Rico Dowdle and Malik Davis have run in these preseason games. Both rushers have been explosive and have run with aggression.
This is Dowdle’s third season in Dallas after making the 53 in 2020 as an undrafted free agent. After a hip injury ended his season early last year, he has come back and shown he could be relied on if Elliott or Pollard went down with injuries, which both dealt with in 2021.
Before training camp, Dallas will bring in extra backs to take the bulk of the carries in the preseason, but Davis is an exception to the usual. He is a player the staff brought in as a 30 visit before the NFL draft. The former Florida Gator got limited action in college but showed enough for the front office to take a chance on him. Since joining the team, Davis has shown speed and strength as a rusher.
This is probably the most challenging decision on the roster because both backs have been outstanding. Either one that does not make it will be a priority for the practice squad if another team does not pick them up. The final spot goes to Davis because of how committed the scouts and Will McClay were to get him in the building. They would have a heart attack knowing he’s doing well on another roster in the future.
Fullbacks – None
The Cowboys released both fullbacks they had on the roster this offseason. Nick Ralston was with the team last season, getting limited action at fullback, and was mostly playing on special teams. Ryan Nall was signed after free agency to a one-year deal but was released in the first round of roster cuts last week after getting injured.
With no true fullback on the roster, the spot goes to Malik Davis, which was touched on above. Dallas could sign a true fullback once the season starts or bring back one of the guys they had on the practice squad. For the time being, they will use offensive guard Connor McGovern in the same role they did last season with some success.
Tight Ends – Dalton Schultz, Jake Ferguson, Sean McKeon
After releasing Jeremy Sprinkle, only one other tight end is on the border for making the roster. The sure locks are Dalton Schultz and fourth-round draft pick Jake Ferguson. There was uncertainty about how quickly Ferguson would acclimate to the NFL, but he has shown enough in the preseason to get meaningful snaps as a blocker and pass catcher in the regular season. He will also be a core special teams player like he showed against the Chargers.
The final spot seems up for grabs. The nod goes to third-year player Sean McKeon, but undrafted free agent Peyton Hendershot is not far behind. McKeon and Hendershot have complementary traits. McKeon is a better blocker but not as crisp as a route runner as Hendershot. Regardless of who wins the job, both players will get a lot of snaps on special teams.
McKeon has been on the roster for three seasons, so his familiarity with the offense wins him the job. However, Hendershot will be a priority to be brought back to the practice squad and could be called up quickly if the coaches aren’t happy with McKeon.
Wide Receivers – CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Noah Brown, Jalen Tolbert, etc.
CeeDee Lamb, Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, and Jalen Tolbert were the only pure locks to make the team heading into the Chargers game. After what KaVontae Turpin showed as a returner running back a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns, he cemented himself a spot on the final roster.
Simi Fehoko has taken an enormous step forward in his second season and has played well in practice this off-season. He should see more snaps with the first team, depending on what they do with these following players.
James Washington has to spend one day on the final roster before being moved to the injured reserve and designated to the return list. He won’t return until late October, depending on how well his rehab is going on his injured foot. His spot could be up for grabs after the final moves are made.
As far as Michael Gallup is concerned, he is the biggest enigma. In the second round of cuts, Dallas decided not to put him on the Reserve/PUP list to start the season. If placed on that list, he could not return until after Week 4 this season. Does this mean he’s further along in rehab and might come back in Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals? It could be. The front office might also wait one more week to see how his rehab progresses to get a clear timeline. Gallup’s spot will be a wait-and-see until next Tuesday, but fans should be happy he’s still on the active roster as of now.
Dennis Houston has developed a connection with Dak Prescott in practice and would be in a similar position where Fehoko was last season. Be inactive every week, keep practicing, and be ready if you’re called upon for depth.
There are eight names on here right now but do not be surprised if one or two of them will change because of free agent signings or a trade.
Offensive Line – Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, Terence Steele, etc.
The starting offensive line is set. Both Tylers, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Terence Steele, will be your starting five against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 11th. Behind them is where it gets interesting. While Tyler Biadasz is the incumbent at center, Matt Farniok played great in the second preseason game and has developed to be stronger in his second season. Biadasz struggled at times last season, so keep an eye out for a switch midseason if struggles continue.
Connor McGovern can play both guard spots and has a role in the Cowboy’s jumbo package as a fullback substitute, so he’s set. Matt Waletzko is not listed because I think he will end up requiring surgery on his injured shoulder and be red-shirted his first season.
That leaves Josh Ball as their only swing tackle. His spot can be taken by an offensive tackle the team signs from another team’s final roster cuts or acquired via trade. Ball has not looked like he can be counted on if Tyron or Steele miss time this season. I believe the swing tackle will either be Tyler Smith or is currently not on this roster.
Isaac Alarcon has spent his whole Cowboys career on the practice squad as a part of the NFL’s international player program. His roster spot will come down to how he performs against the Seahawks, but I think he has improved his game dramatically since last season. I think he’s the 54th guy on the roster and could make it if any player goes to IR earlier than expected.