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Breaking down the Cowboys' 53-man roster

8/31/2012

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.