Dallas Cowboys: Josh Thomas

Seattle's best? Picks tell tale over Dallas

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
9:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Is it too soon or too late to remind Dallas Cowboys fans that Akwasi Owusu-Ansah was drafted 13 spots before the Seattle Seahawks chose Kam Chancellor in the fifth round of the 2010 draft?

Or is too soon or too late remind them that Josh Thomas was picked 11 spots before the Seahawks took Richard Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 draft?

Today, Chancellor and Sherman are celebrating a Super Bowl victory. Thomas at least made it to the playoffs with the Carolina Panthers as a reserve. Owusu-Ansah was on the Detroit Lions' practice squad last year. Maybe we can ask new Cowboys playcaller (and former Lions offensive coordinator) Scott Linehan how Owusu-Ansah looked.

When a team wins a Super Bowl, we all look for the differences as to why Team X played in the Super Bowl and Team Y didn’t, and we say, "Copy those guys. That’s the way to get it done."

It doesn't work that way. Well, it shouldn't work that way. A team has to have its own philosophy and make it work. Stick with it and hope it pays off. That’s what Jason Garrett has referred to as building a program. It’s maddening to hear, especially after three 8-8 seasons, but there is truth in what Garrett is saying.

The biggest difference between the Seahawks and Cowboys is the draft. Well, that and the Seattle defense. But for this post we’ll stick with the draft.

Since 2010, the Seahawks picked 12 players from the third round and later -- or who were undrafted -- who have crucial roles in the team's success. The Cowboys have DeMarco Murray, a third-rounder in 2011, and three undrafted free agents. I could have counted Dwayne Harris, but the Cowboys actually cut him and needed him to pass through waivers before putting him on the practice squad in 2011.

If the Cowboys had not traded Sean Lissemore before the 2013 season, I would have counted their seventh-round pick in 2010 on the list.

As for undrafted picks, I’ll go with Barry Church (2010), Dan Bailey (2011) and Ronald Leary (undrafted, 2012). I wasn’t ready to say that Kyle Wilber (fourth round, 2012) and/or James Hanna (sixth round, 2012) are crucial to the Cowboys’ success.

In order to win a draft, teams have to be successful in the middle rounds. The Cowboys have not been successful in the middle rounds in years. As a result, they lack depth. When they lose starters, they have to scour the street for help. When the Seahawks lose a player, they plug in a mid- to late-round pick as if nothing ever happened.

If we want to eliminate the third round, which is where Seattle drafted quarterback Russell Wilson in 2012, the Cowboys have to go back to the 2008 draft to find a real hit for the Cowboys in Rounds 4-7: cornerback Orlando Scandrick (fifth). Doug Free (2007) turned into a good fourth-round pick only after the Cowboys were forced to play him in 2009. The golden year was 2005 when the Cowboys got Marion Barber (fourth), Chris Canty (fourth) and Jeremiah Ratliff (seventh) in what was then the second day of the draft.

The Seahawks can point to guys like Sherman, Chancellor, Walter Thurmond (fourth, 2011), Byron Maxwell (sixth, 2011), Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (seventh, 2011), K.J. Wright (fourth, 2011), Robert Turbin (fourth, 2012), J.R. Sweezy (seventh, 2012), Doug Baldwin (undrafted, 2011) and Jermaine Kearse (undrafted, 2012).

They aren’t merely contributors. They are difference-makers.

If the Cowboys want to alter their "secret sauce" recipe, they can look at the Seahawks' cookbook.

For Cowboys, no more small-school DBs

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
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IRVING, Texas -- The NFL draft is not until May 8-10 and we will spend plenty of time dissecting players from here, there and everywhere in relation to the Dallas Cowboys.

While you should never speak in absolutes when it comes to the draft, here is one: The Cowboys do not need to draft a defensive back from a small school.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have drafted five defensive backs from small schools and have not seen one pan out yet.

It is too early to know what J.J. Wilcox will turn into. A third-round pick last year out of Georgia Southern, he had moments early in training camp and was given the starting job, which led to the release of veteran Will Allen. He missed three games with a knee injury and was unable to take the strong safety spot back from undrafted free agent Jeff Heath. Wilcox played safety for one year in college after playing running back. In small spaces, he made some plays. When the field was spread out, he did not.

B.W. Webb was the Cowboys’ fourth-round pick out of William & Mary. To put it kindly, he struggled. He was given more individual instruction on the field than any other defensive back in practice but he just lacked awareness as a rookie. He was benched late in the season in favor of Sterling Moore and was inactive for the final game.

Matt Johnson (2012 fourth round, Eastern Washington) suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the preseason. That came on the heels of him missing his rookie season with hamstring and back injuries. He has yet to play in a regular-season game. The Cowboys kept him on injured reserve and will give him another chance.

In 2011, the Cowboys took Josh Thomas in the fifth round out of Buffalo. He did not make the final roster. He will play this weekend for the Carolina Panthers against the San Francisco 49ers as a backup cornerback.

In 2010, the Cowboys used their fourth-round pick on Akwasi Owusu-Ansah out of Indiana (Pa.). His highlight film was terrific. He had all of the measurables, too. But the Cowboys weren’t sure he could play cornerback or safety. They moved him to wide receiver for a spell.

This isn’t to say small-school players can’t succeed. All you have to do is look at guys like Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin, but the bulk of the quality players come from the major programs.

With so many needs to fill in the draft, the Cowboys can’t really afford to gamble on another small-school product. And especially at defensive back, if history is any indicator.

Dez Bryant drops another ball in the end zone

October, 21, 2012
10/21/12
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CHARLOTTE – Dez Bryant had a legitimate complaint this time.

The cornerback really should have been flagged for pass interference committed before this critical drop. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that Bryant dropped a pass in the end zone at a critical point in the game for the second consecutive week.

“I’ve got to fight through and make that play,” said Bryant, who was held to two catches for 14 yards in the Cowboys' win over the Panthers.

Cornerback Josh Thomas, the Cowboys’ fifth-round pick last year whom Carolina claimed on waivers, got away with grabbing Bryant while the ball was in the air on a fade route in the end zone during the fourth quarter. But Bryant broke free and still got both hands on the ball, failing to hold on for what should have been a 15-yard touchdown.

Bryant made it clear – while speaking to officials in the aftermath of the play and while speaking to reporters after the game – that he felt strongly that pass interference should have been called. Nevertheless, he knows he had a chance to make a big play and let it slip away.

Bryant also dropped a two-point conversion that would have tied the score in the final minute of last week’s loss to the Ravens. He complained about pass interference on that play, but he admitted after watching the film that the coverage was clean and he simply dropped the ball.

5 Wonders: Romo-to-Bryant coming together

August, 15, 2012
8/15/12
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Onto the third edition of Five Wonders from training camp and with the first preseason game completed, there are more things to wonder about than before.

Because of the title of the post, however, we’ll stick to five.

Here we go:

** I wonder how much that pass completion to Dez Bryant is a sign of things to come. It was a back-shoulder throw from Tony Romo, something they had been working on a lot in camp with some success. It’s all about timing and reading the defender. On that play, cornerback Ron Bartell had his head turned to Romo and he and Bryant timed the pass perfectly for 24 yards. That was the best play turned in by the No. 1 offense. After the game, Romo said, “Dez is going to have a great year.” If they can have that kind of timing throughout the year, then he’s right. The back-shoulder fade is nearly impossible to defend. Bryant has the athleticism to pull it off and Romo has the accuracy.

** I wonder what effect the broken thumb suffered by rookie outside linebacker Kyle Wilber will have on the 53-man roster. He is set to miss a month because of upcoming surgery, which should knock him out of the Sept. 5 opener. Wilber was doing a nice job on special teams and showed some pass rush ability during training camp and even during the Oakland game before getting hurt. Do the Cowboys keep an extra outside linebacker, which has a trickle-down effect on other positions? DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Victor Butler, Wilber and Alex Albright were the top contenders, but undrafted rookie Adrian Hamilton played well vs. Oakland and could make the roster early in the year. Albright can play inside linebacker as well, so that could put a squeeze on somebody like Orie Lemon. And this goes with the assumption that the Cowboys will keep only two quarterbacks.

** I wonder how many draft picks make the 53-man roster. Fourth-rounder Matt Johnson has yet to practice because of a hamstring injury and had one minicamp practice because he was unable to attend the offseason program due to league rules. Fifth-round pick Danny Coale has practiced for a week but did not play against Oakland. He’s done a decent job in practice but you don’t see much speed or quickness here yet. I’m sure that’s part of it. Seventh-rounder Caleb McSurdy did a nice job in the game but had been quiet in practices. Last year, two picks didn’t make the opening day 53-man roster (Josh Thomas, Shaun Chapas). In 2010, only one didn’t make it. In 2009, three didn’t make it and three more were on injured reserve. I don’t believe it’s a bad thing if draft picks don’t make the roster. Too often it seemed to be a guarantee all of the picks would make it. Garrett does not care when or where you came from but only that you can play.

** I wonder just how far Andre Holmes jumped up in the race to be the No. 3 wide receiver after catching three passes for 40 yards against the Raiders. It looked like a good performance to the naked eye, but Jerry Jones had an interesting answer when asked about Holmes’ game, saying he has to be where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be on the field. We see the end result in a completion, but the team looks more at the process. Holmes has been better in camp lately and can be quarterback friendly with his height and ability to go get the ball. Maybe Jones was just being coy when asked about Holmes, whom he anointed the guy back in February, but others in the organization have mentioned it as well.

** I wonder if Ben Bass made the practice squad with his performance against the Raiders. He was credited with five tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry. He had three sacks in two seasons on defense at Texas A&M. At 6-5, 283 pounds, he has good size for a 3-4 defensive end and does some special teams’ work. This is the true sign that “measurables” matter. Bass was hardly a contributor at A&M and was invited to the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis in part because he grew up in Plano. He impressed there. He impressed in the organized team activities and he has done a nice job in camp. He doesn’t look out of place at all. These are the perfect kinds of practice squad players where you give a guy a year to grow and hope you might have somebody to get in the rotation in a year or two.

Jason Garrett's draft pick philosophy

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
3:29
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IRVING, Texas -- Wide receiver Dwayne Harris cleared waivers and will return to the Cowboys’ practice squad. The biggest sign of his return was the fact that his locker remained intact.

With injuries along the offensive line the Cowboys decided to cut Harris, their sixth round pick in April to make room for guard Daniel Loper. The Cowboys have cut three draft picks with Harris and fullback Shaun Chapas (seventh) returning to the practice squad. Cornerback Josh Thomas was claimed by Carolina after he was released.

From 2009-11, the Cowboys have drafted 26 players and only 10 are currently on the active roster: Stephen McGee, Victor Butler, David Buehler, John Phillips, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Sean Lissemore, Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray and David Arkin.

Bruce Carter, the team’s second round pick this year, is expected to be added to the 53-man roster soon and seventh rounder Bill Nagy was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday with an ankle injury.

The Cowboys have eight undrafted free agents from 2009-11 on the 53-man roster.

“I think it’s important that you try to make the right decisions for your football team on draft day and then once draft day is over,” Garrett said. “I think one of the worst mistakes an organization can make is say, ‘We drafted these guys, we’re keeping these guys,’ so you can say publicly, ‘Look, we have eight draft picks on our team.’ I think that’s a bad decision. So we try to create competitive environment and we’ve been very happy with our draft picks so far and the role they’re going t have now and in the future.”

A possible look at Cowboys practice squad

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
5:17
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IRVING, Texas -- Perhaps eight of the Cowboys’ 26 cuts on Saturday could be back on the practice squad by 11 a.m. Sunday.

The guesses, provided they clear waivers?

QB Tom Brandstater, WR Teddy Williams, CB Josh Thomas, CB Mario Butler, FB Shaun Chapas, LB Orie Lemon, WR Manny Johnson and S Andrew Sendejo.

Brandstater gets a spot with an eye toward 2012. This is likely Jon Kitna’s last year, so why not keep Brandstater around to learn the system, run some scout team with Stephen McGee and have a third guy familiar with the surroundings next year? It would not preclude the team drafting a quarterback next year.

At wide receiver and corner, you need guys who can run all day and keep guys on your 53-man roster fresh, so that’s why I’m taking two of each.

Thomas and Butler were candidates to make the final roster and you can never have enough cornerbacks, although the Cowboys tested that theory last year by keeping only three on the 53-man roster. Williams brings speed to the wide receiver spot and Johnson knows the system.

With only three inside linebackers on the 53-man roster, Lemon would provide some cover in practice. Without a fullback on the active roster, Chapas could be a call-up at any moment.

With 10 offensive linemen, I'm not sure they need a practice squad guy, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them add a player.

Vol. 4: Archer's roster projection

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
11:59
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IRVING, Texas -- The preseason is over and the Cowboys have to make 17 roster moves by Saturday to make the 53-man limit. Here’s what the final cuts– though not necessarily the final roster that faces the New York Jets on Sept. 11 - could look like:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

Tony Romo
Jon Kitna
Stephen McGee

No changes from the previous three projections. Tom Brandstater could be a practice squad guy.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Felix Jones
Tashard Choice
DeMarco Murray
Phillip Tanner

Tanner did everything he could to make the final roster, so could Choice be on the bubble? It’s difficult to think they could go with two rookies as the backups to Jones, but stranger things have happened.

FULLBACK (1)

Jason Pociask

I’m not sure Pociask won the job or if he got it because he can play tight end in a pinch, which is a bonus because of Martellus Bennett’s ankle injury. Chapas got better later and should find his way to the practice squad if Pociask is the pick. Gronkowski did a nice job on special teams in the preseason but he gets caught in a numbers’ game.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jason Witten
Martellus Bennett
John Phillips

No changes here and there is hope Bennett could be ready for the opener vs. the Jets.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

Miles Austin
Dez Bryant
Kevin Ogletree
Dwayne Harris
Jesse Holley

Holley’s special teams experience gives him the edge but he also showed he can possibly help as a receiver. Harris went quiet after a huge debut vs. Denver.

OFFENSIVE LINE (10)

Doug Free
Bill Nagy
Phil Costa
Kyle Kosier
Tyron Smith
David Arkin
Sam Young
Montrae Holland
Kevin Kowalski
TBD

Look for a waiver-wire pickup to claim that last spot. I went back and forth on Kowalski, who helped himself with his work in the final two games. With Kosier as the game-day backup at center and Nagy having taken snaps at center in camp there is more of a need at tackle to fill out the back end of this group.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

Marcus Spears
Jay Ratliff
Kenyon Coleman
Jason Hatcher
Josh Brent
Sean Lissemore

If you go on position flexibility then Lissemore wins that final spot because he can play end and nose. If you’re looking for the prototype 3-4 end to grow as the year progresses then Clifton Geathers is that guy.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (3)

Bradie James
Keith Brooking
Sean Lee

Kenwin Cummings loses out on the final spot on the roster and is hurt the most by having two kickers. You have to go light somewhere but I think I’m taking a risk at such a physical spot. With Bruce Carter expected to return after six weeks, I feel OK about this move.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (4)

DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Victor Butler
Alex Albright

The toughest call was between Albright and Cummings. Albright got the edge because of his upside even if he is practice squad eligible.

CORNERBACK (6)

Terence Newman
Mike Jenkins
Orlando Scandrick
Alan Ball
Bryan McCann
Mario Butler

Josh Thomas picked the wrong time to get a hamstring injury, which gives Butler the final cornerback spot. Thomas, if he clears waivers, would go to the practice squad. McCann looks like he’ll be the kick returner on opening day.

SAFETY (4)

Abram Elam
Gerald Sensabaugh
Barry Church
Danny McCray

Church is more ready to play every down on defense than McCray, who is the better special teamer. Last year’s fourth round pick, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah comes up short in his bid to make the club.

SPECIALISTS (4)

Mat McBriar
Shayne Graham
David Buehler
L.P. Ladouceur

Graham was helped the most by not kicking Thursday. Dave Rayner missed two kicks in his audition. Buehler missed one. How could the organization have confidence going into the Jets’ game? Buehler at least can handle kickoffs. Keeping two kickers did not seem like an option, especially with kickoffs coming from the 35, but if Buehler can produce touchbacks at a high clip then offenses will have to go 80 yards for a touchdown.

Practice: Jon Kitna out; Dave Rayner in

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
9:51
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IRVING -- Tuesday's practice had one addition, getting veteran kicker Dave Rayner, who is wearing the same jersey number as kicker Kai Forbath, who is out with a quad injury.

However, backup quarterback Jon Kitna missed Tuesday's session with an unknown ailment. Kitna had missed a few practices recently with a sore back.

Also out of practice: Miles Austin (hamstring), Josh Thomas (hamstring), Terence Newman (groin), Bradie James (ankle), Orie Lemon (hamstring), Kyle Kosier (back), Phil Costa (knee), Martellus Bennett (ankle), Marcus Spears (groin) and Bruce Carter (knee).

Scout's Eye: Vikings-Cowboys review

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
8:04
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Jason Garrett and the staff have had a plan in place on how they were going to get this team ready for the upcoming NFL season.

Scout's Eye
Garrett didn’t have an idea of the number of plays that his players were to get but he had a plan to how long he wanted them to play. Garrett took his offensive starters into the third period against the Vikings last Saturday night and with more success in this game than in the previous games against the Broncos and Chargers.

In the practices on Thursday, you could see how he and the staff did more game planning for the Vikings, which led to some better results.

Offensively it was an even bigger test for this rebuilt offensive line because since-released starting center Andre Gurode was held out of the game not for business reasons. That meant that free agent rookie Kevin Kowalski started at center for Phil Costa, who suffered a knee injury in practice last week.

Kowalski did not play with the first team like he was overwhelmed or tentative in the position. In fact, the communication between Kowalski and right guard Kyle Kosier was outstanding.

Unlike most teams, where the center is responsible for the calls along the offensive line, the Cowboys do it differently in that Kosier will relay the calls and adjustments down the line to the other linemen. Kowalski was in step with Kosier and what needed to be done in the running game as well as the protections.

Kowalski worked last week at guard against the Chargers, but center appears to be his best position. Kowalski is not the strongest or the most powerful of blockers, but he plays on his feet. He can tie defenders up and keep position on them while he is on the move.
Kowalski will most likely be in line to play the entire game at center against the Dolphins this Thursday night, giving him a chance to claim a roster spot.

Staying along the offensive line, there was one other player that I wanted to mention for outstanding play: left tackle Doug Free. One of the most difficult jobs in the NFL is when you have to deal with the opponent’s best player and usually this is the rusher at right defensive end. For the Vikings, Jared Allen is that guy.

Allen has been one of the league’s most outstanding sack specialists for the last five years. He is a relentless rusher that is especially tough at the Metrodome. Free didn’t give Allen a sniff this game. Free was able to mirror Allen’s every move. It didn’t matter, outside speed rush or dip shoulder and inside rip, Free was more than up to the task.

In the running game, Free was able to attack Allen’s outside shoulder, reach him and pin him to the inside, allowing the ball to get to the edge. One of the main reasons that the Cowboys backs have had success running the football is the work of Free. Last season, he quietly went about his job and so far this preseason he is playing like a guy that is working to that next level.

Defensively for the Cowboys, there still are questions about how this team will get a pass rush when not blitzing and what needs to be done to make more plays against the run.

All along I have believed that the scheme would be better, but when you play this two-gap scheme, you play with your hands and leverage then you get rid of blockers. The Cowboys have struggled the most in that last area -- getting rid of blockers. Wade Phillips used a one-gap scheme where you just attacked the gap and went up the field.

Marcus Spears, the Cowboys’ best run defender, did not suit up for the game, but Jason Hatcher did after missing the Chargers game with a toe problem. Hatcher by far was the most active defensive end -- as he was in the Denver game -- taking on blockers and working his way to the ball. Hatcher showed a good swim move and hand use.

The defensive end that struggled the most was Kenyon Coleman. There were some snaps where Coleman was upright and tall when he came off the ball, allowing blockers to get to his body, then getting turned allowing the ball to get by him. Coleman cannot allow this to happen to him because Rob Ryan is counting on him to be that stout point-of-attack player.

In the secondary, safety Abram Elam looked the worst that he has all camp. Elam was one of those players that during practice always seemed to be in the right place and was the same way even in the Denver and San Diego games. Not against the Vikings.

It’s easy to see the misplayed ball that went for a touchdown to Bernard Berrian, but something else that bothered me was when the defense was struggling to slow down the Vikings rushing attack and Ryan brought Elam down in the box as the extra man, blitzed him and he was unable to make the tackle for a loss.

This defense cannot afford to miss tackles, especially when Ryan puts them in position to make plays.

On the good side, cornerback Mario Butler has outplayed Josh Thomas and has a good shot at making the 53. At one time, I thought that Bryan McCann was in this battle too, but I believe that he has made the 53 with his work this summer.

Butler is an interesting player in that he is such a smooth moving athlete that knows how to carry his man down the field. Vikings tried to run a double move on him and he didn’t bite at all. Have rarely seen him out of position, where Thomas has struggled more.

Thomas has struggled more this preseason finding the football, not only in the games but practice as well. Thomas is a physical player and has nice upper body strength but really needs more technique work.

If he makes the roster, it’s to protect a draft pick. Butler has outplayed him.

Josh Thomas hopes to play vs. Miami

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
2:16
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IRVING, Texas -- As of today rookie cornerback Josh Thomas will not play in Thursday’s preseason finale at Miami.

Thomas strained his hamstring covering a kick in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win at Minnesota. He did not practice Monday and said he would spend extra time getting treatment.

He faces a difficult balance of trying to clinch a roster spot in the finale or risk getting hurt more if he does play.

“As far as pushing it and putting myself in a position to where it really tears, I can’t risk that,” Thomas said. “I’m just going to play it by ear and see what happens, but I’m still working at getting ready for Thursday.”

Thomas, a fifth-round pick, is battling with Bryan McCann and Mario Butler for the No. 5 cornerback spot.
IRVING -- Monday was a medical day for the Cowboys as several players returned to the practice fields and others joined the list of the injured.

Punter Mat McBriar missed the Monday morning session at Valley Ranch with a sore groin, inside linebacker Bradie James and guard Kyle Kosier also were out with undisclosed injuries.

However, the return of kickers David Buehler, Kai Forbath, Montrae Holland and Teddy Williams was good news for the team.

Center Andre Gurode was a no-show at practice as he talks to team officials about his status with the team.

Miles Austin (hamstring) and Bruce Carter (knee), cornerbacks Terence Newman (groin) and Josh Thomas (hamstring), linebacker Orie Lemon (hamstring), tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle), center Phil Costa (knee) and defensive end Marcus Spears (groin) were also not practicing.

Vol. 3: Archer's 53-man roster projection

August, 28, 2011
8/28/11
11:45
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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:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

Tony Romo
Jon Kitna
Stephen McGee

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)

Felix Jones
Tashard Choice
DeMarco Murray
Phillip Tanner

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.

FULLBACK (1)

Shaun Chapas

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)

Jason Witten
Martellus Bennett
John Phillips

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)

Miles Austin
Dez Bryant
Kevin Ogletree
Dwayne Harris
Jesse Holley

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)

Doug Free
Bill Nagy
Phil Costa
Kyle Kosier
Tyron Smith
David Arkin
Sam Young
Montrae Holland
TBD

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)

Marcus Spears
Jay Ratliff
Kenyon Coleman
Jason Hatcher
Josh Brent
Sean Lissemore

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)

Bradie James
Keith Brooking
Sean Lee
Kenwin Cummings

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)

DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Victor Butler
Alex Albright

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.

CORNERBACK (6)

Terence Newman
Mike Jenkins
Orlando Scandrick
Josh Thomas
Alan Ball
Bryan McCann

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.

SAFETY (5)

Abram Elam
Gerald Sensabaugh
Barry Church
Danny McCray
Andrew Sendejo

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?


SPECIALISTS (3)

Mat McBriar
Shayne Graham
L.P. Ladouceur

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.

Mario Butler picked right time to get hot

August, 23, 2011
8/23/11
6:18
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As the Cowboys begin to pare down the practice reps for the younger players, rookie cornerback Mario Butler picked a good day to shine.

Butler had three pass breakups and blanketed wide receiver Kevin Ogletree on a deep ball from Jon Kitna to force an incompletion. Butler used his height (6-foot-1) to break up a fade pass in the end zone to Raymond Radway (6-foot-3); he deflected a pass on a crossing route to Radway and poked the ball away from Manny Johnson at the goal line.

“I know every day I’m trying showing up on film and I think I’ve been doing that, but today I showed up a little bit more,” Butler said. “I put it in my mind today that I just have to step up my level of competition. I know the final cuts are coming soon, so I’ve just got to show my value to the team.”

Butler is in a fight for the No. 5 cornerback spot with Bryan McCann and Josh Thomas.

Vol. 2: Archer's roster projection

August, 22, 2011
8/22/11
11:00
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- With two preseason games down and two to go, here is the second look at how the Cowboys' 53-man roster could look for the Sept. 11 season opener at the New York Jets:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Tony Romo
Jon Kitna
Stephen McGee

No surprises here, but it was a little curious that Kitna saw only one drive of work vs. the Chargers. Maybe he will play more vs. Minnesota on Saturday.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Felix Jones
Tashard Choice
DeMarco Murray
Lonyae Miller

I’m sticking with Miller because of his work on special teams, although Phillip Tanner has helped himself a lot with his work in practice and the games. He also was in on a special teams tackle. If he can show the coaches he can be a factor as a cover guy, then he could bump Miller. Until he does it, I’m sticking with Miller.

FULLBACK (1)
Shaun Chapas

Last week it was Chris Gronkowski. I thought Chapas was better vs. the Chargers but I think there is a high possibility the Cowboys will go with four tight ends on the 53-man roster and hope to get Chapas on the practice squad.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
Jason Witten
Martellus Bennett
John Phillips

Bennett led the Cowboys with three catches for 33 yards, but he had a big drop of what would have been a touchdown grab. Phillips is a mainstay here because he can play fullback. If they keep a fourth tight end, I don’t think that player is in the building yet.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
Miles Austin
Dez Bryant
Kevin Ogletree
Dwayne Harris
Raymond Radway

Ogletree handled himself fine in the start because of Austin’s absence with a mild hamstring strain. He is a smooth player but needs to find some consistency. After a big night vs. Denver, Harris did not have a catch and didn’t play much. Manny Johnson made two catches and is not out of the mix for the last spot either. In reading between the lines on comments made by Jason Garrett, I don’t think it looks good for Jesse Holley.

OFFENSIVE LINE (10)
Doug Free
David Arkin
Andre Gurode
Kyle Kosier
Tyron Smith
Phil Costa
Sam Young
Montrae Holland
Bill Nagy
Jermey Parnell

No changes in this group, but at first glance offensive line/running game coordinator Hudson Houck liked Nagy’s work with the first team at left guard. I think this could be the week Phil Costa gets some guard work or Andre Gurode slides over. I think the Cowboys still could look for more veteran interior help once cuts start coming down.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
Marcus Spears
Jay Ratliff
Kenyon Coleman
Jason Hatcher
Josh Brent
Sean Lissemore

Brent was shaky vs. San Diego, but I don’t think it jeopardizes his spot. Spears’ groin strain and Hatcher’s toe injury are not considered serious, so I don’t think it changes Igor Olshansky’s future. Coleman is now working with the first team and Olshansky’s $3.3 million salary puts him on the bubble.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
Bradie James
Keith Brooking
Sean Lee
Kenwin Cummings

I’m tempted to add Orie Lemon to this mix but I don’t know what other spot to cut from. Maybe offensive line? I still believe Bruce Carter will be a physically-unable-to-perform guy and miss the first six weeks.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (4)
DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Victor Butler
Alex Albright

Same group as last week. Albright was on the first-team kick coverage, which tells you the coaches want to see how he can perform there. He was extremely active and made three tackles at outside linebacker. Brandon Williams was better in practice late last week but needs to turn it on.

CORNERBACK (6)
Terence Newman
Mike Jenkins
Orlando Scandrick
Josh Thomas
Alan Ball
Bryan McCann

I’ve added McCann to the mix over undrafted rookie Mario Butler. McCann is working the first team nickel with injuries to Newman and Jenkins. He has better speed than Butler but by no means is the rookie out of the battle.

SAFETY (4)
Abram Elam
Gerald Sensabaugh
Barry Church
Danny McCray

Andrew Sendejo is the only change. It’s down to a sixth corner vs. a fifth safety, and I went with the corner because of the injuries to Newman and Jenkins. Church has cemented his spot.

SPECIALISTS (3)
Mat McBriar
Dan Bailey
L.P. Ladouceur

Same as last week in part because David Buehler has a hip strain and did not play vs. San Diego. He’s hoping to be back to practice this week. Bailey did not get a field goal attempt but seemed to overcome a poor start to practice last week with good work vs. the Chargers.

Todd Archer's practice observations

August, 15, 2011
8/15/11
6:29
PM ET

** With Jon Kitna resting because of a back strain, Stephen McGee took the reps with the No. 2 offense and Tom Brandstater was able to get more work than he has received since joining the team. In on-air drills, McGee missed back-to-back throws down the field to Jesse Holley and Raymond Radway.

** WR Kevin Ogletree and CB Josh Thomas got into a little scuffle during the “blue” practice that features the younger players. There have not been many fights among players in camp.

** The situation of the day was fourth-and-short with the offense attempting to draw the defense offside. It worked for the first-team offense when Tony Romo was able to get NT Jay Ratliff to bite. The defense held strong on its next two tries, and if it hadn’t then the coaches might have been apoplectic.

** DE Kenyon Coleman blew up the first run of team period by pushing rookie RT Tyron Smith into the path of RB Felix Jones. Later, Coleman put rookie G David Arikin on his back, leading to a Chris Randle interception of McGee. This was Coleman’s first day working with the No. 1 defense.

** For the second time in camp, WR Dez Bryant was unable to pull off a double reverse to WR Miles Austin. Bryant’s flip was too fast to handle and led to a fumble. It might be time to switch the roles of Austin and Bryant on that play.

** Romo completed 10-of-20 passes during team drills. His best throw came on a deep out to Bryant, who made an incredible grab over Orlando Scandrick near the sideline. It even had S Gerald Sensabaugh praising Bryant.

** On the next play, Scandrick made a perfect read of a throw to Ogletree, who turned into a defensive back on the play and broke up the sure pick. Scandrick thought he was held.

** Romo was short on throws just over defenders shoulders to Jones and Austin. Jones would have run away from the linebacker with the middle of the field open and Austin would have had a touchdown.

** Dan Bailey has missed four of his last five kicks. He closed the two-minute drive led by the first-team offense by pushing a 45-yarder wide to the right. The second-team offense worked on closing out a game with runs, highlighted by three carries apiece by Lonyae Miller and Phillip Tanner before Mat McBriar had to punt.

** S Barry Church had another productive day. He hung on Jason Witten’s hip to force an incompletion, blew up a bubble screen to WR Lyle Leong and would have had a big hit on TE Martin Rucker.

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