Breaking down the Cowboys' 53-man roster

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
7:18
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A look at the first -- not final, because the bottom will be churned -- edition of the 2012 Cowboys’ 53-man roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Tony Romo
Kyle Orton
Stephen McGee
Why is McGee still here? Jason Garrett must have a soft spot for third-string quarterbacks who are smart guys with good character. After all, Garrett lasted a long time in the league as a guy like that. Of course, McGee might not last the weekend, depending on what happens with waiver claims.

RUNNING BACKS (3)
DeMarco Murray
Felix Jones
Phillip Tanner
Lance Dunbar made the decision to cut him difficult, dashing through the Dolphins’ defense for 105 yards and a TD on 15 carries in the preseason finale. The Cowboys hope they can sneak North Texas’ all-time leading rusher through waivers to the practice squad.

FULLBACKS (1)
Lawrence Vickers
Vickers better be ready Wednesday night. If Jason Witten is out, the Cowboys are likely to use a fullback against the Giants a lot more than they normally do.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
Jason Witten
John Phillips
James Hanna
No need for a veteran such as former Redskin Chris Cooley. He couldn’t learn the offense in time to help against the Giants, and Witten won’t miss more than one game because of his lacerated spleen.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Miles Austin
Dez Bryant
Kevin Ogletree
Dwayne Harris
Cole Beasley
Andre Holmes
The release of Danny Coale marks the second straight season the Cowboys cut a fifth-round rookie draft pick. Cornerback Josh Thomas didn’t clear waivers last season, getting claimed by the Panthers. The Cowboys like their depth here, but Ogletree (25 catches, 294 yards, no touchdowns) is the only reserve receiver who has ever caught a pass in the NFL.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
Tyron Smith
Doug Free
Nate Livings
Mackenzy Bernadeau
Phil Costa
Ryan Cook
Jermey Parnell
Derrick Dockery
David Arkin
The trade for Cook addressed the glaring lack of depth at center. The Cowboys apparently still have hope that Arkin can develop, but the 2011 fourth-round pick is far from being ready to play during the regular season.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
Jay Ratliff
Jason Hatcher
Kenyon Coleman
Sean Lissemore
Marcus Spears
Tyrone Crawford
Josh Brent
Coleman and Spears both survived, which seemed like a long shot during training camp. Clifton Geathers didn’t do enough to push either of the $2 million veterans off the roster.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
Sean Lee
Bruce Carter
Dan Connor
Alex Albright
Albright broke into the league as an outside linebacker, but his ability to play inside helped burst Orie Lemon’s bubble. Carter, a much better athlete than Connor, won the starting job opposite Sean Lee.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Victor Butler
Kyle Wilber
Folks are fired up about the release of promising pass rusher Adrian Hamilton, but the Cowboys put great emphasis on their reserve linebackers’ ability to help on special teams. That cost Hamilton, as well as Lemon.

CORNERBACKS (5)
Brandon Carr
Morris Claiborne
Orlando Scandrick
Mike Jenkins
Mario Butler
The biggest question mark here: What role will Jenkins play? The starting jobs were filled this offseason. Jenkins has never played in the slot, and he won’t practice for the first time this summer until Saturday.

SAFETIES (5)
Gerald Sensabaugh
Barry Church
Danny McCray
Matt Johnson
Mana Silva
It will be hard for Johnson to help this season after missing so much time due to Eastern Washington’s class schedule and his hamstring problems. However, the Cowboys didn’t want to risk losing their fourth-round pick to a waivers claim.

SPECIALISTS (3)
Dan Bailey
Chris Jones
L.P. Ladouceur
If Jones struggles, there will be plenty of punters available. At the moment, that list includes ex-Cowboy Mat McBriar.

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