Sunday, August 28, 2011
Vol. 3: Archer's 53-man roster projection
By Todd Archer
IRVING, Texas -- Three preseason games are in the books so here is the third look at what the Cowboys’ 53-man roster could look like after the final cuts:
Once again, no surprises here. Tom Brandstater will probably start the preseason finale against Miami if the Cowboys follow the same pattern as the recent past. He could be a practice squad candidate if he performs well.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Tanner gets the call this week over Lonyae Miller because he’s done a better job running the football, but can he cover punts and kicks if needed? Choice and Murray did a nice job in their first games of the preseason. Jerry Jones said during the broadcast Choice remains on the bubble, so don’t rule out Miller.
Chapas, Chris Gronkowski and Jason Pociask got turns at fullback against Minnesota with the regulars. Chapas was part of this 53-man roster last week and seemed to do a decent job against the Vikings. The high-ankle injury suffered by Martellus Bennett helps this position because I believe they were leaning toward keeping four tight ends.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Bennett’s injury throws some questions into the fullback and tight end spots. Depending on the severity maybe the Cowboys go with a fourth tight end for the early part of the season. Phillips will be Witten’s backup now, but I’m not sure Martin Rucker sticks as the No. 3 guy if Bennett is out. I wouldn’t rule out Pociask either.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
Holley helped himself with his play against the Vikings but this is more of a special teams’ pick. The gamble is trying to get undrafted rookie wide receiver Raymond Radway on the practice squad. Harris gets the edge over Radway because of his return ability but I wouldn’t consider Harris a lock.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
The biggest departure is Andre Gurode. The Cowboys will meet with the five-time Pro Bowler today and if there is no agreement on a lowered salary then he will be let go. It’s something of a stunner because of Costa’s knee injury and inexperience that will be on the line. I listed eight plus an undetermined spot, but I can see Kevin Kowalski on the final roster or the team adding a player after the final cuts.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
No change here from the first two weeks, but could the Cowboys go with only five defensive linemen? It’s a gamble but I wouldn’t rule it out as the Cowboys look more at the 46-man game-day roster than just the 53.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
The final spot here comes down to Cummings over Orie Lemon, who did not play vs. Minnesota because of a hamstring injury. Cummings played despite a thumb procedure in the middle of the week. Rookie Bruce Carter will start the year on PUP, so he does not count against the 53-man roster.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (4)
No changes here as well. Albright gets the nod over Brandon Williams. After a little bit of a lull, Butler was much more active against the Vikings.
Injuries to Ball (elbow) and Thomas (hamstring) create some worry with the cornerbacks, especially with Newman (groin) and Jenkins (stinger) not yet 100 percent. Undrafted rookie Mario Butler is still in the mix, especially if Thomas is unable to recover in time to play vs. Miami on Thursday.
With nine offensive linemen I added Sendejo to the mix only because of special teams. That would be 11 defensive backs on the final roster but all of them be active on gameday?
Shayne Graham gets the call over Dan Bailey. David Buehler has to come back from the hip strain this week or he has no chance. Bailey made two kicks against Minnesota, including an under-pressure 40 yarder in the fourth quarter. But Graham’s resume gives him the nod. I just don’t believe they can go with an unproven kicker.