DALLAS — Training camp arrives this week for the Dallas Cowboys. All the memories of a disappointing finish to a good 2021 season should now be in the rearview mirror with eyes going forward towards a new season. Each year is different, and the Cowboys have been the poster boys for not building on successful seasons; the team has not had back-to-back playoff years since 2006-07.
The Cowboys want to end that streak, as well as the streak for no NFC East team repeating as champions for almost 20 years. The work is about to begin to see if the organization made the right moves with their questionable offseason decisions.
It’s going to be a wild ride for the Cowboys in 2022, it always is. Before it all begins, let’s take our best shot at predicting the 53-man roster that will start the season:
QB (2): Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
There isn’t much debate about this, the Cowboys have a clear starter and top 10 QB in Prescott. Rush proved that he was a capable backup with last season’s road win in which he threw for 325 yards and two scores.
There isn’t another quarterback on the roster worthy of a roster spot right now, but the team will surely keep a third pass thrower on the practice squad.
RB (3): Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
The Cowboys are in great hands at running back, rostering one of the best tandems in the game with Elliott and Pollard. Dowdle missed last season with a hip injury, but the team was high on him after his rookie season.
Mike McCarthy is usually keen on keeping a fullback, but with lineman Connor McGovern handling some of that job, and the team likely going deep at TE, only three make the cut.
WR (6): CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Tolbert, James Washington, Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, T.J. Vasher.
This is assuming that WR Michael Gallup will start the year on PUP or IR, which opens a receiver spot. Brown, Fehoko and Vasher will have some time to prove who stays and who goes when Gallup returns.
Don’t rule out a veteran WR being brought in at some point during camp, either.
TE (4): Dalton Schultz, Sean McKeon, Jake Ferguson, Jeremy Sprinkle
The Cowboys usually go tight end heavy and that will happen again. Unless something unexpected happens, these four seem like a safe bet to make the roster. McKeon was a star at camp last season and Ferguson might be the future at the position after being selected in the fourth round in April.
OL (9): Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, Terence Steele, Matt Farniok, Josh Ball, Matt Waletzko, Connor McGovern
Offensive line is a place where the Cowboys have gone deep in recent years, but they might not have enough quality to go any deeper than nine. The starters are essentially firmly entrenched in their positions, save for center, but unless someone surprises this summer, these nine look like they’ll make the roster.
DL (10): DeMarcus Lawrence, Neville Gallimore, Osa Odighizuwa, Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams, Chauncey Golston, Dante Fowler, Carlos Watkins, Tarell Basham, John Ridgeway
This might be the toughest place to make cuts for the Cowboys. The defensive line is deep on youth and solid role players, but short on stars. Trysten Hill and Quinton Bohanna are the notable names missing but can make their case for sticking around with a good camp.
If you’re looking for the best position group battle, the defensive line might be the place to watch.
LB (5): Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, Jabril Cox, Luke Gifford, Malik Jefferson
This is a shallow group, but the Cowboys will get creative at linebacker again this season. The hope among Cowboys followers is that the team can add a solid veteran LB to improve the talent/depth of the unit.
CB (6): Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, C.J. Goodwin
There likely aren’t going to be any surprises at cornerback. The top four are set in stone. Meanwhile, Wright gets to prove that the Cowboys made a smart selection with him last year and Goodwin is the special teams maven. Ignore any 53-man prediction that doesn’t have Goodwin, the best special teams player on the Cowboys, on the roster.
Safety (5): Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson, Markquese Bell, Israel Mukuamu
Dallas’ defense has three solid safety options, and they’ll all see significant playing time with how Dan Quinn utilizes his scheme. After the big three, the Cowboys will be searching for another safety or two to earn their way. Bell, a coveted undrafted free agent, has some buzz to him, and Mukuamu makes it for a second year in a row.
Special Teams (3): Jonathan Garibay, Bryan Anger, Jake McQuaide
There’s really not much intrigue here, although rookie kicker Garibay will have some competition from Lirim Hajrullahu to win the job.
Which players do you think will surprise and make the Cowboys’ 53-man roster? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.