Cowboys 53-man roster projection 2.0: Bring on the receivers

By David Helman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer

FRISCO, Texas – After a game like that, some things are bound to change. 

The Cowboys saw some heroics in their 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday, and this second attempt at the 53-man Dallas roster will reflect that. 

For instance, KaVontae Turpin is owed an apology. Last week, I thought the Cowboys might be able to cut him and bring him back to their roster later. After two return touchdowns in the same game, I recognize the mistake. My bad, KaVontae. 

That’s not the only change. The back end of the offensive line depth chart is a struggle, and I find myself wondering how battles at running back and tight end will play out. The defensive side of the ball isn’t lacking for talent, but that begs the question of how the coaching staff will trim to meet the roster limit. 

There’s no time to waste. The third and final preseason game is already just three days away, and final cuts come in exactly one week. So let’s get into it. 

Quarterbacks: 3

Dak Prescott 
Cooper Rush 
Will Grier 

I really hate spending an extra roster spot here, but it doesn’t feel like I have a choice. One of the benefits of having a franchise quarterback is that you shouldn’t need a ton of depth behind him. But the fact is that the Cowboys are lacking experience behind Dak Prescott. 

We also haven’t seen enough from Grier to know if he’s worth elevating into the backup job. Maybe he changes that with another good week, but for now we roll with three. 

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Running backs: 3

Ezekiel Elliott 
Tony Pollard 
Malik Davis 

I’m not fully convinced it’s going to play out this way, because Rico Dowdle is plenty talented in his own right and also has ability as a kick returner. But after another solid showing against the Chargers, Davis deserves a shout-out. He has had one of the most consistent camps of anyone on the roster and has more than proven he’s worth a look on the 53. He’ll easily make the practice squad if he doesn’t make the final roster — and that’s assuming someone else doesn’t scoop him up. 

Wide receivers: 8

CeeDee Lamb 
Jalen Tolbert 
Noah Brown 
KaVontae Turpin 
Simi Fehoko 
Michael Gallup 
James Washington 
Dennis Houston 

Yep, you read that right. I’ve got the Cowboys going mega-heavy at receiver, because this position is such a mess. Technically it’s seven, because James Washington will go to injured reserve 24 hours after he makes the team. That’s still a lot, as this is a group that just hasn’t proven a lot behind CeeDee Lamb. 

Brown has experience, Tolbert is the Day 2 draft pick, Fehoko has had a strong camp, and Turpin played his way onto the roster against the Chargers. My guess is the front office is going to keep Gallup off the PUP list in the hopes that he can return from his torn ACL sooner than Week 5. 

Rounding it out is Houston, an undrafted rookie. The Cowboys might try to cut him and sneak him through waivers, but I’m not sure that’s a worthwhile risk considering this unit’s lack of depth. 

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Tight ends: 3

Dalton Schultz 
Jake Ferguson 
Sean McKeon 

Three weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what Ferguson was going to contribute as a rookie. Today, I feel so good about what he has done in the preseason that I think the Cowboys can afford to go light at the position. Schultz is the obvious centerpiece, and McKeon is useful as a blocker and a special teamer. Finding a promising talent in Ferguson lessens the need for extra bodies. 

Offensive line: 8

Tyron Smith 
Tyler Smith 
Tyler Biadasz 
Zack Martin 
Terence Steele 
Matt Waletzko 
Connor McGovern 
Matt Farniok 

What on Earth is the Cowboys’ plan for tackle depth? Waletzko is likely heading to injured reserve once he makes the initial roster, as he’s still dealing with a shoulder issue. I also don’t currently have Josh Ball, a fourth-round pick last year, making the squad, because we just haven’t seen a ton of proof that he’s capable of being this team’s swing tackle. 

The starting five is solid, and the duo of McGovern and Farniok provides some great depth on the interior. The lack of tackle depth is terrifying, and I find myself wondering if the front office is planning a trade, a waiver claim or a veteran signing to fix that.  

Defensive line: 10

DeMarcus Lawrence 
Dorance Armstrong 
Dante Fowler Jr
Sam Williams 
Chauncey Golston 
Osa Odighizuwa 
Neville Gallimore 
Quinton Bohanna 
John Ridgeway 
Trysten Hill 

The defensive end plan is simple enough, especially when you remember that both Micah Parsons and Anthony Barr will spend time rushing the passer this season. Defensive tackle is a different beast, though. There are about four guys fighting for the final spot on that depth chart, and they’re all playing well. Ultimately, I opted for Hill off the strength of a solid camp and an even better showing against the Chargers. 

Linebackers: 5

Micah Parsons 
Leighton Vander Esch 
Anthony Barr 
Jabril Cox 
Devin Harper 

Simple and to the point. The first four are obvious and can be written in Sharpie. For the last spot, I opted for the rookie draft pick in Harper over veteran Luke Gifford. But it’s important to note that Gifford is vested, so he can be cut without needing to clear waivers. He could easily wind up on the roster, even if he is released. It’s also a good bet the coaches will select two or three linebackers for the practice squad. 

Micah Parsons was one of the NFL’s best defensive players as a rookie.

Defensive backs: 11

Trevon Diggs 
Anthony Brown 
Jourdan Lewis 
Kelvin Joseph 
Nahshon Wright 
DaRon Bland 
Jayron Kearse 
Malik Hooker 
Donovan Wilson 
Israel Mukuamu 
Markquese Bell 

If there was any doubt about Mukuamu or Bell, I think they silenced it last weekend with fantastic games against the Chargers. If we’re being honest with ourselves, it doesn’t seem like Joseph or Wright have played well enough to be roster locks. But they were both top-100 picks just a year ago, so I think the Cowboys will be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. 

C.J. Goodwin doesn’t make the initial list, but I assume the coaches will bring him back after they’ve opened up spots by moving players like Washington and Waletzko to injured reserve. 

Special teams: 2

Brett Maher 
Bryan Anger 

I’ve got Maher winning the kicking competition mainly because of the strength of his leg. Also, as I said last week, Jake McQuaide is the perfect candidate for a player who can be cut on Tuesday and brought back by Wednesday. The Cowboys might release their long snapper, but he’ll be back as soon as a couple of roster spots open up. 

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports, providing insight and analysis on the NFL’s most visible franchise. Prior to joining FOX, David spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website, In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State.

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