Dallas Cowboys: LDamian Washington

Constructing a 53-man roster is a difficult process, piecing together 10 positions groups and matching up present needs with future production of older and younger players. This week we take a look at constructing the Cowboys’ roster.

Wide receivers

On the roster: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, Devin Street, Tim Benford, LaRon Byrd, Jamar Newsome, L'Damian Washington, Chris Boyd

Locks: Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Harris, Street

Has a shot: Benford

Need help: Byrd, Newsome, Washington, Boyd

How many fit? The Cowboys typically keep five wide receivers and that appears to be the max going into 2014 as well, but injuries in camp or an unexpected turn from a Benford, Byrd or Boyd could force them to keep six.

They know what they have in their top four receivers. Bryant is a star. Williams is only entering his second season but he showed last year he can handle the job. Beasley and Harris have roles in the slot while they can play a little bit outside if needed. Street has the lead for the fifth spot after a solid spring. The Cowboys traded up in the fifth round to get him and liked the fact that he worked in a pro-style offense at Pittsburgh. He needs to work on handling a more physical game at the NFL level but that’s something every young receiver needs.

Benford has spent the last two seasons on the practice squad, which is not always the best thing. I can’t think of a receiver who made the jump to the active roster with the Cowboys after spending that much time on the practice squad. But he had a good spring and his quickness in the slot could earn him some extra time. At the very least he can show he can play in the league with a good spring. Byrd is listed at 225 pounds, but he looks almost like an H-back. He did a nice job catching the ball in the spring and his experience in the pro game gives him an edge. Newsome was on the practice squad last year and flashed a few times this spring.

Washington’s spring was cut short because of a shoulder injury. His speed and story have a lot of people rooting for him, but Boyd might be the more accomplished receiver. He has good size and decent speed to fit what the Cowboys want in outside receivers.

Every year one of these young receivers jumps out early at camp only to be reeled in later on. Last year it was Eric Rogers. One of these guys will do the same, but don’t get too excited too fast. It will be difficult for any of them to break into the top five without an injury.

The series:

Running backs

Workload unlikely to change for Tony Romo

June, 17, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Through the organized team activities, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been kept out of competitive drills as well as some individual work as he recovers from December back surgery.

With the Cowboys' minicamp starting Tuesday, Romo will continue down the same road. Romo has said recently he expects to be 100 percent within a few weeks, but that time frame comes after the Cowboys' offseason is over.

"We'll take him day-by-day like we do with all the other guys," Garrett said last week, "but I don't see it changing dramatically."

Romo has gone through walkthrough drills with the first-team offense and thrown individual routes with wide receivers, running backs and tight ends. He has not taken a snap in 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 drills. He has also sat out of the quarterback's footwork drills as the team attempts to protect him from jarring motions as much as possible.


Are you OK with Brandon Weeden as the Cowboys' backup quarterback?


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Romo will not be the only Cowboy to likely be limited because of injury during the three-day minicamp. Wide receiver L'Damian Washington (shoulder), wide receiver Devin Street (quadriceps bruise), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring), linebacker DeVonte Holloman, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, defensive end Ben Gardner (groin), defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (illness), defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee), wide receiver Dwayne Harris (shoulder), defensive end George Selvie (shoulder), defensive end Caesar Rayford (shoulder) have been either slowed by injury during all or part of the offseason program.

Johnson took part in just one OTA before his hamstring tightened up. Because of his history (he missed his rookie season with recurring hamstring injuries) the Cowboys have wanted to protect Johnson. He missed last season because of foot surgery.

He is hoping to take part in the minicamp in some fashion.

"I've just been making sure it's good to go," Johnson said. "I think we're being over-cautious but I feel good."

Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, one of the Cowboys' five seventh-round picks, will take part in team drills for the first time since the rookie minicamp in May. League rules prevented him from showing up before June 13 because Oregon had not graduated.

L'Damian Washington continues the fight

May, 26, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- L'Damian Washington got a cruel taste of the NFL earlier this month.

Projected as a late round draft pick coming out of Missouri, Washington caught 59 passes for 692 yards with three touchdowns. NFL scouts said the biggest issues with him were his slim size and that he catches the ball with his body instead of his hands.

At his pro day, Washington ran a blazing 4.39 40-yard dash, made catches with his hands and ran good routes.

It wasn't good enough because he wasn't drafted.

“I know [the draft] weekend hurt us as a family,” Washington said. “It’s my job to kinda get that faith back on the run we suffered for so long. We thought that past weekend we could finally start off to a better life. But we had to start at zero. Being an undrafted free agent ain't easy and making the team is very slim. Right now I got to keep my head on right.”

When the draft ended, there were many offers, but the contract from the Dallas Cowboys meant more to him.

Washington felt moved to sign with the Cowboys, despite better financial offers from other teams, because his three brothers in Shreveport, La., were fans of the team.

Another factor was Derek Dooley, the Cowboys' wide receivers coach.

When Washington was a high school senior, Dooley, then the head coach at Louisiana Tech got a verbal commitment from him. Washington’s brothers felt it was best to play at a bigger school, so he backed out of the commitment and went to Missouri.

Washington’s story, however, stuck with Dooley and many others.

His father was killed when he was 5, his mother died as a result of a blood clot when he was 15. His brothers decided to remain together and financial hardships struck the family. The brothers moved from apartment to apartment. Washington said there were days when he would come home from college and stayed in a hotel because there wasn’t enough room for him at home. Sometimes the lights would go off from lack of payment.

Washington kept his dream alive of getting drafted by a NFL team as a motivation.

Most, if not all, prospective college players have that dream. That somebody cares about them enough to make a phone call to New York and announce their name at Radio City Music Hall.

Nobody felt that way about Washington.

He thought the pro day would help him.

“If I perform well at pro day, it’s a new life,” Washington said in a 10-minute documentary on Grantland.com.

His life remained the same. Hard.

Dooley remembered the 6-4, 188-pound wide receiver and encouraged the Cowboys to sign him. Dooley told the team about Washington's talent level on the field and the home visit during that senior year in high school. Dooley said the home visit lasted eight hours, the longest home visit he ever had.

“It was emotional and I walked out of there saying how could I complain about anything again?” Dooley said.

Now Washington is with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent trying to make the team. He’s behind Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Dwayne Harris, LaRon Byrd and Devin Street.

The Cowboys have other receivers on Washington’s level that he needs to beat out. Maybe he makes the roster as a special teams guy, despite, a slender frame that doesn’t seem suited to make tackles while running down the field.

Maybe he makes another team or the Cowboys bring him back to the practice squad so he can earn just under $100,000.

“I feel blessed and cursed to be honest with you,” he said. “I feel blessed ‘cause I’m in this position and I feel cursed because I have to take the hard road every time. I’m up for it, I’m good for it. I don’t think it can be done any other way.”

“He’s given me a lot more than I’ve given him,” Dooley said.

Washington isn’t just playing for himself. He’s playing for three brothers looking for hope in a desperate financial situation. During rookie minicamp, Washington said he wasn’t sure if the lights were on again.

“My mother instilled at me in a young age what it meant to be a man, just to be a stand up guy,” he said. “I don’t look at my story as a curse or anything. I know what’s at stake here. My three brothers are waiting on me to bring the meal.”

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

May, 24, 2014
Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys’ Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:

Away we go:


Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

May, 23, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • When Dez Bryant might sign an extension.
  • Lance Dunbar’s roster spot with the addition of Ryan Williams.
  • The team’s best free-agent pickup
  • The state of the defensive line.
  • The best of the undrafted receivers.

Look for Part 2 of the mailbag on Saturday.

Away we go:

Dallas Cowboys like size in receivers

May, 20, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Size matters, at least for the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers.

While there will be roles for Cole Beasley (5-foot-8, 180 pounds) and Dwayne Harris (5-10, 207 pounds), the Cowboys’ actions have made it clear that the need for size to play wide receiver is important, especially given the physical play they see from cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage.

Dez Bryant is 6-2, 220 pounds. Terrance Williams, who fills in for Miles Austin, is 6-2, 200 pounds. The Cowboys drafted 6-3, 190-pound Devin Street. The two undrafted free agents they added -- L'Damian Washington and Chris Boyd -- are both 6-4.

“What we want to bring in here are the best players,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We evaluate them as players first, but having said that, you want guys with the right measurable. That’s size. That’s length. That’s speed. We think it’s important to bring guys in here who as you try to develop them can turn into something you want. There’s a lot of smaller receivers in the league who are really good. There are smaller receivers on our team who are really good. It’s not only big guys who can be successful at that position. [But] it’s a competitive league, a physical league. There are big cornerbacks in the league.”

Beasley and Harris play important roles. Their stature is mitigated some by playing the slot where corners have a hard time getting their hands on them. Beasley’s quickness and Harris’ strength give the Cowboys options.

But to play on the outside you need all of the tools. The Cowboys were looking for outside receivers in the draft who could move inside if needed; not inside receivers who could play outside.

New passing game coordinator Scott Linehan appears to like bigger receivers. Of the six receivers on the Detroit Lions' roster at the end of last season, only one was shorter than 6-feet. He also had the best receiver in the league in Calvin Johnson (6-5, 236 pounds).

CB gets Cowboys' top undrafted bonus

May, 15, 2014
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have not been shy in giving larger than normal signing bonuses or guaranteed money to undrafted free agents, but their 24 signings totaled $66,500 and no guaranteed money in base salaries.

Tarleton State cornerback Dashaun Phillips, a Duncanville, Texas, native, received the largest signing bonus at $7,500. Missouri wide receiver L’Damian Washington received $7,000 to sign. Running back Glasco Martin did not receive a signing bonus.

In 2012, the Cowboys guaranteed guard Ronald Leary $214,000. Last year, the Cowboys guaranteed linebacker Brandon Magee $70,000 and paid out a $10,000 signing bonus to Jakar Hamilton.

Here is the remaining breakdown of signing bonuses:

QB Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M
DT Chris Whaley, Texas
OL Jarrod Pughsley, Akron
OL Josh Aladenoye, Illinois State

WR Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt

OL Andre Cureton, Cincinnati

TE Evan Wilson, Illinois

FB J.C. Copeland, LSU
RB Ben Malena, Texas A&M
S Marvin Robinson, Ferris State
P Cody Mandell, Alabama
LB Keith Smith, San Jose State

S Ryan Smith, Auburn
OG Ronald Patrick, South Carolina
OG Brian Clarke, Bloomsburg
TE Jordan Najvar, Baylor
LS Casey Kreiter, Iowa
CB Jocquel Skinner, Bethel
DE Joe Windsor, Northern Illinois
DT Davin Coleman, Arizona State

LB Dontavis Sapp, Tennessee

Five Wonders: Cowboys moves that weren't

May, 13, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- There are lots of things to wonder about after the NFL draft, but we're just wondering about five things right now.

It's always a good time for Five Wonders.

Away we go:

    Which 7th-round pick has the best chance to make an impact for the Cowboys this season?


    Discuss (Total votes: 7,574)

  • I wonder how active the Cowboys could have been in making trades during the draft. Stephen Jones referenced a potential move back into the third round that would have cost the Cowboys a 2015 pick (probably their second rounder). The target was LSU guard Trai Turner. I wonder if the Cowboys almost moved back into the first round, which could have been why Jones abruptly left the press conference. Once the Seattle Seahawks saw the New England Patriots draft Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley in the first round, the Seahawks called everybody about a trade, including the Cowboys. The Seahawks eventually swung a deal with the Minnesota Vikings, who took Teddy Bridgewater. If the Cowboys were willing to part with their second- and third-round picks to move to No. 34 with the Washington Redskins, you don't think they contemplated taking Demarcus Lawrence at No. 32?
  • I wonder what direction the Cowboys would have gone had they not traded up to take Demarcus Lawrence with the 34th pick in the draft. The easy thing to do is look at the players the Washington Redskins took at picks Nos. 47 and 78 (Trent Murphy, Spencer Long) and grade the Cowboys that way. The need for a right defensive end was too great and Lawrence would have gone quickly in the second round. But would a combination of Scott Crichton and Josh Huff been better? Would a combination of Cody Latimer and Will Sutton have been better? Would they have taken a safety in the third round? Giving up two players for one is always risky (see Morris Claiborne) but it can also work out (see Tyron Smith). The Cowboys passed on a chance to trade down from the No. 9 pick with Jacksonville in 2011 but stood firm and took Smith, who the look of a dominant left tackle for years to come. The Cowboys used a similar strategy in the fifth round to take wide receiver Devin Street. They viewed Street as the last receiver ready to make an impact in 2014, so they gave up their fifth- and seventh-rounders to get him.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys start to look for another tight end. They didn't draft one and added two in college free agency in Baylor's Jordan Najvar and Illinois' Evan Wilson. They liked Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz, just not at the top of the third round where the Houston Texans grabbed him. The Cowboys need more of a blocking tight end to a degree with Gavin Escobar and James Hanna backing up Jason Witten. Escobar's role figures to increase greatly in 2014 but they need to use him at what he does best, which is working the seams and being a mismatch outside. Hanna was OK as a blocker but he is better in space too. Of course, this could all mean the Cowboys will be a fullback team again. They liked what Tyler Clutts brought to the running game after joining the team late last season, and they signed LSU's J.C. Copeland as a college free agent.
  • Is it too early to wonder about the 2015 draft? I wonder if the Cowboys look for Tony Romo's successor in 2015. The way Jason Garrett explained it, the Cowboys will not be in the business of developing a mid- to late-round quarterback to be the starter in the future. If the offensive line plays out the way the Cowboys hope, they won't need to look for early help there. The defensive line could be the top option again with Anthony Spencer, Henry Melton, George Selvie and Nick Hayden playing on one year deals. The Cowboys hold an option on Melton for three years, but won't exercise it if he is not close to Pro Bowl form. So for all of the defensive line work this offseason, they could be back in the mix to upgrade in 2015. Cornerback could also be a position of need if Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne do not bounce back.
  • I wonder how many of the undrafted rookie free agents can make the 53-man roster. There will be some, which happens every year. On the spots in which the Cowboys are thin, Missouri wide receiver L'Damian Washington offers size and speed. He caught 50 passes for 893 yards and 10 passes last season. His story is uplifting, too. Click this Grantland video to see. Najvar has a chance at the moment. Punter Cody Mandell could push Chris Jones and has already hit the digital board at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys have kept four tailbacks in the past, so Glasco Martin and Ben Malena have opportunities. Defensive tackle Davon Coleman faces an uphill climb, but he was among the Cowboys' national visitors, so that gives him a leg up. It will be nice to get a look at these guys at the rookie mini-camp.