DALLAS — Team owner Jerry Jones poured his heart out in the team’s introductory press conference on Wednesday as an annual dawning of a new football year. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys had their first day of practice at training camp on Thursday which serves to bring optimism to fans that a fresh season is indeed arriving soon.
With the theatrics out of the way, it’s time for the team to get to work in earnest.
Each year is its own journey, so no one can predict what’s going to happen by Week 18. However, here’s an educated guess as to who makes the initial 53-man roster for the Cowboys as the pads start popping at Oxnard:
QB (3): Dak Prescott, Garrett Gilbert, Ben DiNucci
The Cowboys seem to be tempting fate by not having a veteran backup, but until the team adds a stronger option behind Prescott, they’ll likely keep three quarterbacks. Hopefully the Cowboys don’t need to call on anyone besides Prescott.
RB (3): Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
Elliott and Pollard are one of the best duos in the league, so there isn’t much room for playing time behind them. Dowdle stays, for now, and Dallas goes light at the position to save roster spots for depth in other places.
WR (5): Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Simi Fehoko
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better trio of receivers than the one the Cowboys employ in Cooper, Lamb and Gallup. Wilson flashed last year and Fehoko faces an uphill battle for snaps, but the hope is that he’ll flash some of his big play potential as well.
Noah Brown is the wild card if the team keeps six, but he doesn’t make the early roster projection.
TE (3): Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Jeremy Sprinkle
The Cowboys usually go heavy at TE, but with Schultz’s dual-purpose nature at the position, they only keep three tight ends this year. Jarwin and Schultz are a solid one-two punch and Sprinkle adds blocking and special teams ability.
OL (10): Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, Connor McGovern, Terence Steele, Ty Nsekhe, Josh Ball, Brandon Knight
Dallas will go long on the offensive line, especially after an injury-riddled 2020 had them on their heels.
The unit has versatile pieces, which is helpful, but are still missing a legitimate backup center. Don’t be surprised if the team adds a center at some point this summer, which would knock Knight off the roster.
DL (10): DeMarcus Lawrence, Brent Urban, Neville Gallimore, Randy Gregory, Trysten Hill, Bradlee Anae, Osa Odighizuwa, Chauncey Golston, Quinton Bohanna, Carlos Watkins
This will be one of the most highly competitive places to watch in camp. The top seven or eight spots are pretty set in stone, but the last few are up for grabs. The team must hope that Anae makes a bigger impression on the new defensive coaching staff and that Watkins takes the last spot as a free agent signing.
Watch out for Ron’Dell Carter or Azur Kamara to make a run at Watkins’ spot.
LB (6): Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Micah Parsons, Jabril Cox, Keanu Neal, Tarell Basham
Dallas has remade the LB position this offseason and has more depth than they’ve had in years. Basham plays more like an edge rusher, so he might make the case to be the tenth defensive linemen, or an additional LB, saving the team a roster spot. If Basham is used upfront, pencil in Francis Bernard as the last linebacker.
CB (6): Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, C.J. Goodwin
This is going to be one of the positions to pay attention to in camp, where the competition will be stiff. Goodwin makes it as a special teams maven, who is one of the best the Cowboys have. Reggie Robinson doesn’t make this initial roster projection, but the Cowboys will try to keep him around on the practice squad.
S (4): Donovan Wilson, Damontae Kazee, Israel Mukuamu, Tyler Coyle
Safety looks like a place where the Cowboys still need help. They have two legitimate players, but the rest leaves much to be desired. Mukuamu switches positions to safety as a rookie sixth-round draft pick and undrafted rookie free agent Coyle might be one of the surprises in camp. It feels like the Cowboys need to find another safety.
Special Teams (3): Greg Zuerlein, Bryan Anger, Jake McQuaide
It’s odd to not include long-time long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, but the team brought in McQuaide to take over that role. Anger beats out Niswander in the punting competition, and Zuerlein remains as the incumbent placekicker.
Would you be happy to see this projected roster on the field in Week 1 for the Dallas Cowboys? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.