Dallas Cowboys: JJ. Wilcox

Pre-camp 53-man roster projection

July, 15, 2013
7/15/13
10:30
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys will fly to California on Friday for the beginning of training camp, so here is the final offseason projection of the 53-man roster.

Without knowing the injuries that could happen, there looks to be roughly seven roster spots up for grabs.

When we get to Oxnard, Calif., Tim MacMahon will take over the projections.

PODCAST
ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss Sean Lee, Gavin Escobar, Dez Bryant and more as Cowboys training camp nears.

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Quarterbacks (2)

Tony Romo
Kyle Orton

The Cowboys have sniffed around better No. 3 quarterbacks in the offseason, which could mean they will look to keep one on the 53-man roster. It just won’t be Nick Stephens or Dalton Williams.

Running backs (4)

DeMarco Murray
Joseph Randle
Lance Dunbar
Phillip Tanner

Tanner had a good offseason and enters with the final job, but Kendial Lawrence could push him with a strong camp. The past two camps have seen undrafted runners make it, with Tanner and Dunbar as surprises. Could Lawrence be the third in a row?

Tight ends (4)

Jason Witten
James Hanna
Gavin Escobar
Dante Rosario

No change here from the projection after the minicamp, but Colin Cochart could play himself into contention.

PODCAST
Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the stress and pressure that NFL players experience heading into training camp.

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Wide receivers (5)

Dez Bryant
Miles Austin
Terrance Williams
Dwayne Harris
Cole Beasley

No change from the minicamp projection.


Offensive line (10)

Tyron Smith
Nate Livings
Travis Frederick
Mackenzy Bernadeau
Doug Free
Jermey Parnell
Phil Costa
Ronald Leary
Darrion Weems
Kevin Kowalski

After the minicamp, I dropped Kowalski from the list with hesitation. With some time to think about it, I put him back on the roster. He can play all three interior line spots.

Defensive line (9)

DeMarcus Ware
Jay Ratliff
Jason Hatcher
Anthony Spencer
Tyrone Crawford
Sean Lissemore
Kyle Wilber
Ben Bass
Nick Hayden

Nick Hayden gets the final spot for now. I wonder if the Cowboys could find a trade partner late in camp if they really like their depth.

Linebackers (6)

Bruce Carter
Sean Lee
Justin Durant
Alex Albright
DeVonte Holloman
Brandon Magee

No change from the minicamp projection, but I wonder if carrying six linebackers is smart, especially as ones as inexperienced as the backups are.

Cornerbacks (5)

Brandon Carr
Morris Claiborne
Orlando Scandrick
B.W. Webb
Sterling Moore

No change from the minicamp projection, but I think the Cowboys will be looking at that final cornerback spot in camp.

Safeties (5)

Barry Church
Will Allen
Matt Johnson
J.J. Wilcox
Danny McCray

I have McCray on the bubble because of his price tag, but he is a terrific special teamer and new coach Rich Bisaccia would want to keep a guy like that. If Jakar Hamilton shows some skills, then he could fight his way into the picture.

Specialists (3)

Dan Bailey
Chris Jones
L.P. Ladouceur

No change from the minicamp projection.

Post minicamp look at 53-man roster

June, 17, 2013
6/17/13
10:10
AM ET
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys are in the “off” part of the offseason now that the mandatory minicamp is over.

As a result, we offer up another look at the 53-man roster before the team heads to Oxnard, Calif., next month for training camp.

PODCAST
Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss this week's minicamp and Dez Bryant. Claiborne will join the show to discuss the latest Cowboys news all season.

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QUARTERBACKS (2)

Tony Romo
Kyle Orton

There’s no change here, but I can see the Cowboys adding a quarterback for training camp with a better resume than Nick Stephens and Dalton Williams.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

DeMarco Murray
Joseph Randle
Lance Dunbar
Phillip Tanner

[+] EnlargeJoseph Randle
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsRookie Joseph Randle could serve as a true backup to DeMarco Murray with Lance Dunbar as the third-down back.
No change here either. I will be interested to see how Randle works into the mix. If the Cowboys go with a true third-down back, then I think Dunbar gets that role and Randle will work mostly as Murray’s true backup.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Jason Witten
James Hanna
Gavin Escobar
Dante Rosario

No change here either, although Colin Cochart bears some watching in the battle with Rosario. He did some good things in the offseason and can play some special teams, too. I reiterate my point on the need for a more blocking-oriented tight end behind Witten.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

Dez Bryant
Miles Austin
Terrance Williams
Dwayne Harris
Cole Beasley

I debated going with a sixth wide receiver again, but I just don’t see the need with how I expect the offense to be structured this year. That’s not good news for Anthony Armstrong, Danny Coale and whoever else gets in the mix here.

[+] EnlargeKevin Kowalski
AP Photo/Brandon WadeKevin Kowalski could be the odd man out on the offensive line.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

Tyron Smith
Nate Livings
Travis Frederick
Mackenzy Bernadeau
Doug Free
Jermey Parnell
Phil Costa
Ronald Leary
Darrion Weems

Finally a change on offense. I knocked Kevin Kowalski from the list and did so with hesitation, but he brings a lot of duplication with Costa. And Bernadeau can play center in a pinch. The Cowboys usually go heavy on the offensive line, so I would expect this to go back to 10 during training camp. You’ll see later as to why I dropped down to nine guys.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

DeMarcus Ware
Jay Ratliff
Jason Hatcher
Anthony Spencer
Tyrone Crawford
Sean Lissemore
Kyle Wilber
Ben Bass
Nick Hayden

I took Anthony Hargrove off the list and added Ben Bass, who had an excellent minicamp, and Hayden, who has done a nice job on the interior. It’s a little heavy, but Rod Marinelli will have a lot of say on the roster. Bass has the ability to be that “quick-twitch” guy on the interior, but I still think he will have to fight for a job. Hayden’s experience helps him.

[+] EnlargeErnie Sims
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys called on Ernie Sims after losing Sean Lee last season, but his spot is up in the air this year.
LINEBACKERS (6)

Bruce Carter
Sean Lee
Justin Durant
Alex Albright
DeVonte Holloman
Brandon Magee

Ernie Sims loses the final spot here, but carrying six linebackers isn’t the smartest of moves. Think of it this way: With the way teams use their nickel defense, the Cowboys will have three linebackers on the field for 45 percent of the snaps, so do they need to have a seventh linebacker who will likely be inactive on game day? I think they can cover themselves from injury by carrying two or three linebackers on the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (5)

Brandon Carr
Morris Claiborne
Orlando Scandrick
B.W. Webb
Sterling Moore

No change here and if there aren’t any surprise additions, I don’t think this will change during camp, although Brandon Underwood made some plays the final couple of days of minicamp.

SAFETIES (6)

Barry Church
Will Allen
Matt Johnson
J.J. Wilcox
Danny McCray
Jakar Hamilton

McCray is on the bubble for me only because of his price tag. Could they go with four safeties? Seems risky. By going light at linebacker, they’ll need some special teams’ bodies. Hamilton’s chances weren’t helped by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of the OTAs and minicamp, but he got the benefit of the doubt.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Dan Bailey
Chris Jones
L.P. Ladouceur

No change here.

Another early look at the Cowboys' roster

June, 10, 2013
6/10/13
11:45
AM ET
IRVING, Texas – With one rookie minicamp down, 10 organize team activity practices over and the mandatory minicamp starting Tuesday, what better time is there to take an early look at the Cowboys’ 53-man roster?

PODCAST
ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys and Tony Romo missing OTAs.

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Tim MacMahon put together his first projection on May 1, so we bring you the second round here:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Tony Romo
Kyle Orton

The Cowboys would like to keep a third quarterback, but there isn't one on the current roster worth keeping. They could look for a younger arm to keep after cuts with Orton’s cap number moving to $4.37 million next year.

[+] EnlargePhillip Tanner
AP Photo/James D SmithPhillip Tanner could still be the odd man out, but he's had a strong offseason.
RUNNING BACKS (4)

DeMarco Murray
Joseph Randle
Lance Dunbar
Phillip Tanner

I thought Tanner would be the odd man out, but he has had a strong offseason. The job is not a lock. I believe Kendial Lawrence could give him a run for his money in camp and in the preseason games. The Cowboys really like Dunbar as a third-down back and he could be a pleasant surprise after showing well last year as an undrafted free agent. Lawrence Vickers has to get healthy after back surgery, but the writing appears to be on the wall because of the next position you’ll read about.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Jason Witten
James Hanna
Gavin Escobar
Dante Rosario

The need for more of a blocking tight end remains, but with the heavy two-tight end sets that are expected, the Cowboys have to go with four tight ends. Rosario has experience and can play some special teams. Hanna has had a good offseason and will be part of packages during the year, even with Escobar being picked in the second round.

[+] EnlargeCole Beasley
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellCole Beasley can be effective in the slot, but the Cowboys could add another receiver.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

Dez Bryant
Miles Austin
Terrance Williams
Dwayne Harris
Cole Beasley

Really thought about going with a sixth receiver, which would be Anthony Armstrong right now. Injuries over the summer could impact the position too. Beasley had a really good week last week but he has limitations. He can be effective in the slot, which is why he is ahead of Armstrong and Jared Green. A guy to keep an eye on is Eric Rogers. He’s caught everything but just doesn’t have great speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (10)

Tyron Smith
Nate Livings
Travis Frederick
Mackenzy Bernadeau
Doug Free
Jermey Parnell
Phil Costa
Ronald Leary
Kevin Kowalski
Darrion Weems

The first eight picks are pretty easy. The last two are a little more difficult. Kowalski got the edge over Ryan Cook only because of money. Kowalski is set to make $555,000; Cook $1.1 million. Both guys can play center and guard. Weems got the final spot for now, but I think the Cowboys will be scouting hard for players over the summer. They took Weems late last year as a project and he can still play his way into contention.

PODCAST
ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss another busy week for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch.

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DEFENSIVE LINE (8)

DeMarcus Ware
Jay Ratliff
Jason Hatcher
Anthony Spencer
Tyrone Crawford
Sean Lissemore
Anthony Hargrove
Kyle Wilber

I wondered whether I should go with nine linemen here, but kept it at eight. Hargrove is the most intriguing addition. He is believed to be a favorite of Rod Marinelli, so that will help his cause provided he can knock off the rust and get into better shape. Crawford and Wilber have had some good moments in the offseason.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Bruce Carter
Sean Lee
Justin Durant
Alex Albright
DeVonte Holloman
Brandon Magee
Ernie Sims

Sims gets a spot because of his experience and versatility. He can play weakside or middle linebacker. Albright can play strongside and middle and maybe some defensive line if necessary. Holloman and Magee have to be major special teamers. I also considered Tank Reed for one of the final spots, as well as Caleb McSurdy, who could be a short-yardage fullback as well.

[+] EnlargeB.W. Webb
Rick Yeatts/Getty ImagesB.W. Webb isn't quite ready yet to push Orlando Scandrick.
CORNERBACKS (5)

Brandon Carr
Morris Claiborne
Orlando Scandrick
B.W. Webb
Sterling Moore

Moore gets the nod for the final cornerback spot, but it’s hardly a lock. Moore is helped that he can play some safety in a pinch. Brandon Underwood, Devon Smith and Xavier Brewer will be in the mix when things start to get real when the pads come on. The top four corners are set, and don’t expect Webb to push Scandrick out just yet.

SAFETIES (5)

Barry Church
Will Allen
Matt Johnson
J.J. Wilcox
Danny McCray

McCray has been the team’s best special teamer, but at $1.3 million that could be a little pricey in the Cowboys' eyes. Allen is guaranteed $620,000 this year, so he sticks but will have to hold off Johnson for a starting spot. With Allen nursing a hamstring strain, Johnson has worked with the first team and done a decent job. Wilcox has shown he will be around the ball but there is a lot for him to learn.

SPECIALISTS(3)

Dan Bailey
Chris Jones
L.P. Ladouceur

No surprises here. The best thing the Cowboys can do in camp is keep them fresh.

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