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10 Dallas Cowboys Under Most Pressure This Preseason

Jonathan Bales

This preseason is the most intriguing in years for Dallas due to the abundance of position battles and uncertain roster spots.  Many players are under a lot of pressure to perform well in these exhibition games, whether it is for a starting spot or to simply make the team.  Below are my top 10.

10.  FS Alan Ball

Ball’s roster spot is obviously secure.  The same can probably be said about his starting job, although that is still somewhat debatable.  Nonetheless, Ball is under a lot of pressure to prove the Cowboys made the right decision in cutting veteran Ken Hamlin.  He must show he is physical enough to play safety and hold off the up-and-coming second-year man Michael Hamlin. I previously posted an in-depth breakdown of the Ball/Hamlin battle.

9.  LT Alex Barron

Barron probably won’t play tonight against the Raiders after injuring his ankle in the Hall of Fame game.  It is unclear when Barron hurt himself and how that affected his play, but he sure didn’t perform well.  His roster spot isn’t in jeopardy, but fans want to see enough from Barron to know the Cowboys got the best of the Barron/Carpenter trade.

8.  FB Deon Anderson

Anderson’s legal troubles have prompted some to dismiss him from their 53-man roster projections, but I’ve been saying since the end of last season that Anderson is extremely valuable to the Cowboys offense.  He’s in my latest 53-man roster projection, but his chances actually took a slight hit with the John Phillips injury.

Phillips moonlighted as a fullback, but his loss increases the probability of H-Back/TE Scott Sicko and FB/H-Back Chris Gronkowski making the team.  Both players are more versatile than Anderson, but I think the Cowboys value Anderson’s blocking ability enough to retain him.  Still, he needs to play well.

7.  TE Martellus Bennett

Bennett was in a tight battle with John Phillips for the No. 2 tight end job before Phillips was lost for the season with an ACL tear.  In my opinion, Bennett was going to lose that battle.  He is an excellent blocker( I gave him a “B+” in my 2009 Tight End Grades), but Phillips’ blocking appeared to improve enough that he may have overtaken Bennett.

Some of the pressure was lifted off of Bennett’s shoulders when Phillips went down, but there are still questions about his maturity, work ethic, and commitment to football.  He does appear to be working harder this offseason than in prior ones, but he still needs to show the coaches he can be counted on as the primary backup to Jason Witten.

6.  WR Sam Hurd

Hurd has always been a valuable special teams player in Dallas, but there are some talented wide outs behind him (Jesse Holley, Manuel Johnson, Terrell Hudgins) who may offer more potential on offense.

Further, there is no guarantee the Cowboys will keep six wide receivers.  If they only retain five, Hurd will be battling Kevin Ogletree and the three aforementioned youngsters for that final spot.

5.  NT Junior Siavii

Siavii didn’t perform terribly last season, racking up a tackle percentage that was actually over two times that of Jay Ratliff.  Siavii only racked up two pressures in 189 snaps, however, and didn’t even record a quarterback hit or sack.

The pressure on Siavii just skyrocketed with the supplemental draft selection of Josh Brent.  Brent has a tremendous motor and showed a lot of potential on Sunday night despite just arriving in Dallas.  His play-making ability appears to be greater than Siavii’s.

The Cowboys also selected DE/DT Sean Lissemore in the seventh round of the draft this year, so Siavii has a lot of competition for his roster spot.  If he doesn’t step up, he’ll lose it.

4.  LB Jason Williams

Williams said he learned more in one year from watching Brooking and James than he did in his entire college career.

Williams has so much athleticism and speed that you sometimes wonder if he relies on it too much.  In the NFL, a misstep in any direction spells disaster for any player, regardless of his speed.

Williams did okay in run support in the Cowboys’ first preseason game, but he looked lost in coverage at times.  That is a big problem since he is fighting to become the team’s nickel linebacker.

His battle with rookie Sean Lee will have to wait another week, as Lee is out for tonight’s game against Oakland.  Williams has a big-time opportunity tonight (and the rest of the preseason), and his roster spot is really on the line.  Don’t dismiss the idea of the Cowboys keeping a player like Leon Williams, who has already made some plays this preseason, ahead of Jason.

3.  RT Robert Brewster

Coach Wade Phillips half-heartedly praised Brewster’s play in Dallas’ initial preseason game, but that may have been to boost his confidence.  I intently watched Brewster multiple times on each of his plays, and he really struggled against Cincinnati.  He displayed poor footwork, even at his more natural right tackle position.  At left tackle, he was severely over-matched.

It will be difficult for Dallas to release a second-year player with so little game film, but with roster spots basically guaranteed for Doug Free, Marc Colombo, and Alex Barron, Brewster may be in a competition with rookie Sam Young for a roster spot.  The Cowboys could potentially move Brewster to guard.

2.  CBs Jamar Wall/Cletis Gordon/Bryan McCann

I’ve detailed the fourth cornerback battle in the past.  Gordon is leading the pack right now, but the gap between the three players isn’t enormous.  With Alan Ball and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah at safety, the Cowboys have two “extra” cornerbacks at another position.  Thus, I predict only one of the three cornerbacks listed above will make the final roster.

All three players look uneasy on returns, so the winner of the battle will probably be whoever displays the best combination of coverage ability–both on defense and on special teams.

I personally like McCann to win the job, but his recent injury (along with Gordon’s) has opened the door for Wall (opened the door for Wall, get it?) to step up.  Frankly, Wall has looked awful in coverage in practices and the first game, but the Cowboys did invest a draft pick in him.

1.  K David Buehler

This shouldn’t be a surprise.  In fact, I’ve talked about the pressure on Buehler so much in the past that I’m not even going to add anything here.

If you’re curious about my thoughts on Buehler, click here.  Or here.  Or here.  Or here.

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Dallas Cowboys 2009 Defensive Player Efficiency Comparisons


Buy your Dez Bryant Cowboys jersey now. . .
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By Jonathan Bales

Last week, I published a comparison of Dallas Cowboys offensive player efficiency rankings.  This comparison listed our own grades and those of a few well-regarded football statistics companies.

The point of this was to make an attempt to “normalize” playing conditions (teammates, situations, and so on) to determine a particular player’s true value.

In that article, I wrote:

There have been some attempts to “normalize” outside factors and assign an objective value to players.  In fact, we are in the process of making such an attempt right now.  Until then, we wanted to take a look at the values of Cowboys players gathered by some other leading football statistics gurus (and compare them to our own 2009 Player Rankings).

One source of efficiency-based value rankings is Advanced NFL Stats–a site we refer you to a lot. Advanced NFL Stats implements a statistic called Expected Points Added. We’ve spoken about ‘expected points’ in the past, and ANS talks about it here.

In short, EP (expected points) is the value of a certain situation in football. EPA (expected points added) is the difference between one situation and another. If the Cowboys have a 1st and 10 at their own 30-yard line, for example, the EP of that situation is +1.0 point, i.e. on average, they can expect one point from that drive. If Miles Austin catches a pass for 50 yards, the Cowboys’ EP shoots up to +4.0 (the expected points of a 1st and 10 at the opponent’s 20-yard line). Thus, the EPA for that play is +3.0.

We are concerned with EPA/play–the amount of expected points a player adds to his team’s point total per play.

Another source for efficiency-based values is Pro Football Focus. PFF is different from ANS in that they do not necessary use the outcomes of plays to formulate rankings. Instead, they break down each play and assign values based on their interpretation of how well each player performed his job on that play. You can read more about their methodology here.

Today, I will be comparing the Cowboys defensive player values from ANS and PFF with our own.

NR=Not Rated

Observations

  • Neither ANS or PFF rated Jay Ratliff any higher than the 12th best defensive tackle in the NFL.

I was slightly down on Ratliff as well, giving him an overall grade of 87.0, but to nowhere near the degree of ANS or PFF.  A reader recently pointed out that Ratliff also played injured all season (and played too many snaps at that).  His efficiency will increase in 2010.

  • PFF rated defensive ends Igor Olshansky, Stephen Bowen, and Jason Hatcher as nearly identical.  Marcus Spears was not far behind.

This fits very well with my defensive end grades.  While I had Olshansky rated a bit higher than the others, the interchangeability of all four defensive ends allows them to stay fresh.

  • ANS was extremely down on DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, rating them as the 18th and 20th most efficient linebackers in the NFL.

There is a caveat here.  ANS ranks all linebackers together and their methodologies reward inside linebackers (who acquire more tackles) more than outside linebackers.  Nonetheless, they still had Ware and Spencer rated as just the sixth and seventh most efficient 3-4 outside linebackers, behind James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Aaron Kampman, Terrell Suggs, and Manny Lawson.  You can see my grades of Ware and Spencer here. I personally recently rated them as the first and third-best 3-4 OLBs in the NFL.

  • The opinions on Keith Brooking varied from the 11th best linebacker in the league to the 50th.

I would probably say he is somewhere in between, although his 2009 game film stood out enough to me for me to provide him a rather high 87.6 percent overall grade–the fifth highest of any Cowboys defensive player.

  • We are unanimous in noticing that Bobby Carpenter is bad.

Very, very bad.

  • Cornerbacks Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins had very comparable 2009 seasons.

ANS rated Newman slightly higher, while PFF gave Jenkins the nod.  I had Jenkins edging out Newman by a hair in my 2009 cornerback grades, due solely to his three extra interceptions.

  • By everyone’s observations, Orlando Scandrick had a down year.

He was targeted more than just about any cornerback in the NFL last season, but I am expecting a breakout year for him in 2010.  Here are nine other Cowboys players who will break out in 2010.

  • Both ANS and PFF rated safety Gerald Sensabaugh ahead of fellow starter Ken Hamlin, although neither were particularly outstanding.

I gave Hamlin the superior grade because his primary job in Dallas was generally to make sure the defense didn’t allow big plays–a job he performed quite well, even last season.  He was also an underrated tackler, missing tackles at half the rate of Sensabaugh (8.0 percent compared to 15.6 percent), despite playing a position–free safety–which is perhaps the most difficult on the field from which to secure a tackle.

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Cowboys 53-Man Roster Projection, Version 2.0: Year of the Undrafted Rookie?

The second version of our 53-man roster projections is here without too many alterations from the first attempt.  At guard, we substituted Travis Bright for the recently released Cory Procter.  We can’t say we aren’t happy to see Procter finally gone.

At cornerback, we replaced Cletis Gordon with Bryan McCann.  Coach Wade Phillips likes Gordon, but after further thought, the return skills he offers are less imperative with rookies Dez Bryant and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah on the roster.

Of course left tackle changes with the addition of former Rams tackle Alex Barron.  We expect him to take second-year man Robert Brewster’s spot.

The last change came at safety, where we replaced free agent O.J. Atogwe (still a possibility, but a slim one) with undrafted rookie Barry Church.  It may be a stretch to predict two undrafted rookies (McCann and Church) to make the squad over two drafted ones (Sean Lissemore and Jamar Wall), but we like what both undrafted players have to offer.

QB
1. Tony Romo
2. Jon Kitna
3. Stephen McGee

RB
1. Felix Jones
2. Marion Barber
3. Tashard Choice

FB
1. Deon Anderson

TE
1. Jason Witten
2. Martellus Bennett
3. John Phillips

WR
1. Miles Austin
2. Roy Williams
3. Dez Bryant
4. Patrick Crayton
5. Kevin Ogletree
6. Sam Hurd

LT
1. Doug Free
2. Alex Barron

LG
1. Kyle Kosier
2. Travis Bright

C
1. Andre Gurode

RG
1. Leonard Davis
2. Montrae Holland

RT
1. Marc Colombo
2. Sam Young

DT
1. Jay Ratliff
2. Junior Siavii

DE
1. Marcus Spears
2. Igor Olshansky
3. Stephen Bowen
4. Jason Hatcher
5. Marcus Dixon

ILB
1. Bradie James
2. Keith Brooking
3. Sean Lee
4. Jason Williams

OLB
1. Demarcus Ware
2. Anthony Spencer
3. Victor Butler
4. Brandon Williams
5. Curtis Johnson

CB
1. Mike Jenkins
2. Terence Newman
3. Orlando Scandrick
4. Bryan McCann

S
1. Gerald Sensabaugh
2. Alan Ball
3. Michael Hamlin
4. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
5. Barry Church

LS
1. L.P. Ladouceur

K
1. David Buehler

P
1. Mat McBriar

KR
1. Dez Bryant
2. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
3. Kevin Ogletree

PR
1. Dez Bryant
2. Patrick Crayton
3. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah

Additions
Dez Bryant (R)
Sean Lee (R)
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (R)
Sam Young (R)
Jamar Wall (R)
Sean Lissemore (R)
Barry Church (R)
Bryan McCann (R)
Marcus Dixon (from practice squad)
Travis Bright (from practice squad)
Alex Barron

Released/Traded
Patrick Watkins
Bobby Carpenter
Pat McQuistan
Duke Preston
Steve Octavien
Stephen Hodge
Flozell Adams
Ken Hamlin
Jamar Wall (R)
Sean Lissemore (R)
Cory Procter
Cletis Gordon
Robert Brewster

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Cowboys C/G Cory Procter Released

It may come as good news to a lot of you that the Cowboys will cut center/guard Cory Procter today.  Procter had previously signed a free agent tender with Dallas, but the money was not guaranteed.

The move comes as a slight surprise, not due to Procter’s skill, but his versatility.  With the ability to play center, we thought Procter had a great shot to make the squad.  No other player on the Cowboys’ current roster has much experience at center (other than starter Andre Gurode, of course).

The ‘Boys could be in some trouble if Gurode gets injured.  As of now, the primary candidates to win the #2 center job are Montrae Holland and Travis Bright.  Holland recently signed a two-year deal with Dallas, and Bright spent last season on the practice squad.

We believe Holland’s previous struggles at center make Bright the favorite to take over backup duties behind Gurode.

It looks like the band “Free Reign” will have to find a new member.

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Patrick Crayton’s Future in Dallas

Pro Football Talk recently published an article detailing their thoughts on Patrick Crayton’s future with the Dallas Cowboys.  In their opinion, it will be very difficult for the Cowboys to either retain or trade CraytonThey believe his role–which is likely to be diminished in 2010– does not justify his $2 million salary.

Further, they believe (and we agree) that a trade is highly unlikely.  First, the Cowboys had the last two days of the draft (after they selected Dez Bryant) to possibly ship Crayton out of Dallas, meaning if a trade was coming, it probably would have happened by now.

Secondly, if $2 million is too steep of a price for the Cowboys to pay for a slot receiver, why would another team dish out the cash?  Any trade would include Crayton’s contract, and because he doesn’t figure to have an incredibly impactful role on any team, there just aren’t too many teams (perhaps none) knocking on Dallas’ door for Crayton’s services.

Despite Crayton’s contract, however, we disagree with PFT’s assessment that he has no value to the ‘Boys in 2010.  Although he obviously won’t have the same role for the Cowboys as in prior seasons (he is likely to lose punt return duties and will see less offensive snaps), he still has the ability to play well in the slot. 

Roy Williams is obviously not a slot receiver.  Dez Bryant is an option, but if he ends up overtaking Williams in the starting lineup (which will obviously happen eventually), he will be playing outside as the X or Z receiver. 

The Cowboys could also look at Kevin Ogletree, who we believe has the sort of skill set which most resembles that of the prototypical slot receiver (outside of Crayton).  Still, Ogletree is an undrafted second-year player with very limited experience.  Can he be trusted as a slot receiver just yet?  We believe Crayton’s experience in the slot is alone enough to justify his stay in Big D, as he provides a skill set which we cannot be sure would be present following his potential release.

Another thing Crayton has going for him is that he could surely play special teams.  He of course contributed on special teams as a returner previously (and he can still be a backup option as a punt returner), but we don’t see any reason why he couldn’t be placed in the lineup on kickoffs or as a gunner on punts.

Although he has asked for a clarification of his role in Dallas, Crayton says he will attend all mandatory team activities.  That fact may not be the reason the Cowboys keep him, but it certainly won’t hurt.  Crayton has shown and continues to show a loyalty to the Cowboys that the coaches (and fans) certainly respect.

Ultimately, we disagree with PFT’s idea that Crayton will not be on the Cowboys this season.  We placed him on our 53-man roster projection for a reason–he still has value to the team.  His $2 million salary is high for a receiver without a big-time offensive role, but not so much so that he is incapable of being retained.

Expect the Cowboys to be unable to find a trade partner for Crayton, but for the veteran to remain in Dallas this season.  He isn’t a dominant, game-breaking sort of player, but the reliability he brings to Tony Romo and the offense is certainly of value to Dallas.

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Cowboys Poll: Wide Receivers

In our 53-man roster projection, we predicted the Cowboys will retain six wide receivers: Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Dez Bryant, Patrick Crayton, Kevin Ogletree, and Sam Hurd.  Crayton are Hurd, of course, could get dealt or released prior to the start of the 2010 season.

Of those two scenarios (traded or cut), we see the latter as more probable, considering the Cowboys did not receive a suitable offer for either player in this year’s draft.  With Bryant being selected in the first round, Dallas had two days to find a trade partner for Crayton or Hurd and were either unable to do so or unwilling to pull the trigger.

Keeping six wide receivers is obviously a luxury, so the fates of Crayton and Hurd could be directly linked to the pre-season success of kicker David Buehler.  If Buehler wins all kicking duties, the Cowboys may be more apt to retain an “extra” wide receiver.

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Comparing 53-Man Roster Projections: Is Romo on the Bubble?

We sincerely hope you immediately realized that title was a joke.  If you are one of the coo coo fans who thinks Tony Romo needs to go, then you probably don’t have the requisite background to appreciate a debate concerning rookie free agent Scott Sicko’s chance of making the 53-man roster.

Alrighty. . . now that we have effectively alienated half of our fan base (hey, it’s what we do), we wanted to point you in the direction of Dallas Morning News’ reporter Todd Archer’s 53-man roster projection.  As you may recall, we predicted the final roster cuts about a week ago.  Archer envisions the Cowboys taking quite a different approach.

First for the similarities:

  • Quarterback, running back, and the specialty positions are all fairly easy to predict (although K David Buehler may eventually have company), and are thus identical between us.
  • Archer joins us as one of the few to believe six wide receivers (Austin, Williams, Bryant, Crayton, Ogletree, and Hurd) will all make the final roster.

Surprisingly, the similarities stop there.  Here is what we have different:

  • Archer envisions FB Deon Anderson being released and the Cowboys not even bothering to keep a fullback.  He believes undrafted rookie TE Scott Sicko will be the main beneficiary of that move.

We disagree with this prediction because the fullback position is actually quite vital to the Cowboys’ offense.  Don’t forget that, according to a study we published just after the 2009 season concluded, Anderson was far superior in run blocking than TE John Phillips (to the tune of nearly two yards-per-carry more with Anderson in the game despite a 3:1 run-to-pass ratio during those plays).  The difference in the efficiency of the passing game with each player in the lineup was negligible.  See the chart to the left for more details.

  • Archer, like us, is projecting the Cowboys to retain nine offensive linemen.  We actually only have one player different on the entire line:  he has last year’s practice squad guard Travis Bright substituted for Cory Procter.

We actually believe Bright is a superior player and even had him in our initial roster projection, but we all know the coaching staff values Procter’s versatility to play both center and guard.  For this reason, we see the band “Free Reign” sticking together for another season.

  • We have one extra defensive lineman (Marcus Dixon) making the cut.

We both agree on rookie seventh-rounder Sean Lissemore having a difficult time making the squad (although we are rooting for him).  The issue is that the Cowboys may not have a true backup nose tackle behind Ratliff if Junior Siavii is let go.  If Lissemore can prove he is up for the task of playing inside, he could take Siavii’s spot.

Archer is projecting just six defensive linemen to make the final roster.  However, Coach Phillips loves to rotate defensive linemen, so we believe there could easily be a seventh defensive line spot available.  We see it going to Marcus Dixon, a player is improving vastly from year to year.  We really don’t think there is any way the Cowboys will be able to keep him off of the roster this season.  For more on Dixon, check out our interview with the up-and-coming defensive end.

  • We believe the Cowboys will keep a fifth outside linebacker (Curtis Johnson).

The Cowboys are in the business of retaining the best football players possible.  Johnson is a highly underrated pass-rusher who could act as a security blanket for the Cowboys.  Without him, the team would be relying on inexperienced second-year players Victor Butler and Brandon Williams to be the primary backups to Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.  We wrote about this scenario in a recent Mailbag.

  • Archer believes the Cowboys will keep the standard five cornerbacks, while we believe it could be just four.

    The versatility of AOA could allow the Cowboys to keep just four true CBs.

Only four cornerbacks in this day and age?  The reason behind our prediction is that the Cowboys will have two safeties on the roster (Alan Ball and rookie Akwasi Owusu-Ansah) who will be able to play cornerback.  In a way, the team will really have six cornerbacks on the roster even if they only list four at the position.

Archer also believes the Cowboys will keep two rookies: Jamar Wall and undrafted free agent Bryan McCann.  McCann is actually a player we predicted the Cowboys might select late in the draft.

We believe the versatility of the Cowboys’ safeties means both players could have trouble making the squad.  Wall struggled badly in mini-camp and McCann will have an uphill battle as an undrafted player and with Wall already ahead of him.

The reason we have neither Wall nor McCann making the final roster is due to a player many Cowboys fans probably don’t even know (but one the coaches love)–Cletis Gordon.  Now, Gordon’s opportunity to make the final cut may have shrunk once the Cowboys upgraded the return spots with Dez Bryant and AOA (Gordon was–and still is–a sleeper to return kickoffs), but we think the coaches will ultimately deem Gordon as the fourth-best cornerback on the roster.

  • Archer, like us, is projecting five safeties to make the roster.  He believes the fifth guy will be undrafted free agent Barry Church, however, while we see the Cowboys signing soon-to-be unrestricted free agent O.J. Atogwe.

We are going out on a limb to project a player on another team who is not even currently an unrestricted free agent (he becomes one on June 1) to come to Dallas, but we don’t see how the Cowboys can be comfortable with either Alan Ball or Michael Hamlin starting at free safety.

Ball played adequately last season (we gave him a ‘C+’ overall grade), but the ‘Boys don’t need just ‘adequate’ play from their free safety anymore.  Ken Hamlin was released because he lacked the ability to make big plays.  Atogwe is a ball-hawk (15 interceptions in the last three seasons for a St. Louis defense that was attacked on the ground more than through the air) who would provide the Cowboys with what they currently lack in the back of the secondary.

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Predicting Dallas’ 2010 Depth Chart/53-Man Roster

Below is our projected Cowboys’ opening day 53-man roster and depth chart.  It is also the one we think will be the team’s greatest ticket to success.  We have listed a few of the intriguing aspects of our projections at the bottom of the post.

**UPDATE:  The Cowboys just signed guard Montrae Holland to a two-year contract.  We had originally had him being released and have since changed our projected roster, removing Travis Bright.

QB
1. Tony Romo
2. Jon Kitna
3. Stephen McGee

RB
1. Felix Jones
2. Marion Barber
3. Tashard Choice

FB
1. Deon Anderson

TE
1. Jason Witten
2. Martellus Bennett
3. John Phillips

WR
1. Miles Austin
2. Roy Williams
3. Dez Bryant
4. Patrick Crayton
5. Kevin Ogletree
6. Sam Hurd

LT
1. Doug Free
2. Robert Brewster

LG
1. Kyle Kosier
2. Cory Procter

C
1. Andre Gurode

RG
1. Leonard Davis
2. Montrae Holland

RT
1. Marc Colombo
2. Sam Young

DT
1. Jay Ratliff
2. Junior Siavii

DE

1. Marcus Spears
2. Igor Olshansky
3. Stephen Bowen
4. Jason Hatcher
5. Marcus Dixon

ILB
1. Bradie James
2. Keith Brooking
3. Sean Lee
4. Jason Williams

OLB
1. Demarcus Ware
2. Anthony Spencer
3. Victor Butler
4. Brandon Williams
5. Curtis Johnson

CB
1. Mike Jenkins
2. Terence Newman
3. Orlando Scandrick
4. Cletis Gordon

S
1. OJ Atogwe
2. Gerald Sensabaugh
3. Alan Ball
4. Michael Hamlin
5. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah

LS
1. L.P. Ladouceur

K
1. David Buehler

P
1. Mat McBriar

KR
1. Dez Bryant
2. Cletis Gordon
3. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
3. Kevin Ogletree

PR
1. Dez Bryant
2. Patrick Crayton
3. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah

Additions
Dez Bryant (R)
Sean Lee (R)
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (R)
Sam Young (R)
Jamar Wall (R)
Sean Lissemore (R)
OJ Atogwe (from Rams)
Marcus Dixon (from practice squad)

Released
Patrick Watkins
Bobby Carpenter
Pat McQuistan
Duke Preston
Steve Octavien
Stephen Hodge
Flozell Adams
Ken Hamlin
Jamar Wall (R)
Sean Lissemore (R)

Some points of interest

  • We expect FB Deon Anderson to make the squad despite his current legal situation.  If Anderson is suspended for a long period of time, however, expect undrafted rookie Chris Gronkowski to be the guy.
  • We expect Dez Bryant to begin the season as the #3 wide receiver.  As of now, we actually believe there is a solid chance the Cowboys keep six wide receivers.
  • We don’t expect Dallas to address the offensive line in free agency.
  • If the Cowboys cannot trade Marcus Spears for a reasonable price, expect him to be on the team and for the Cowboys to carry five defensive ends to make room for the up-and-coming Marcus Dixon.
  • Expect rookie Sean Lee to immediately compete with Jason Williams for the nickel LB job.  That leaves one Bobby Carpenter out of the mix.
  • The Cowboys seem to really like the versatility and athleticism of seventh-rounder Sean Lissemore, but we think he will have a tough time making the squad.  His best bets would be for a current defensive end to get traded or to beat out Marcus Dixon for the final roster spot.  We don’t see the latter scenario happening, and Lissemore probably cannot be counted on to immediately be an effective backup to Jay Ratliff inside.  Thus, Junior Siavii will probably make the team and Lissemore will have his work cut out for him.  He could also benefit from the Cowboys keeping just five wide receivers.
  • Curtis Johnson has so much promise as a pass-rushing OLB that we don’t think the Cowboys will let him go.  Putting him on the practice squad would likely result in another team signing him.
  • Unfortunately, we think Texas Tech rookie cornerback Jamar Wall is going to have a tough time making the team.  Due to the versatility of both Alan Ball and rookie Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Dallas may just keep four true cornerbacks on the roster.  If so, Wall will compete with Cletis Gordon for the last spot.  The coaching staff loves Gordon and he is a darkhorse candidate to return kickoffs this season.  This is a toss-up, but we believe Gordon has the slight advantage as of now.
  • Fans will be happy to know that we do envision the team signing one free agent–Rams FS OJ Atogwe.  We think the presence of veteran free agents such as Atogwe and Darren Sharper allowed Dallas to truly focus on selecting the best player available in the draft.  Atogwe’s addition wouldn’t preclude the Cowboys from keeping five safeties (again, AOA and Ball can be considered hybrid players), but it would likely mean Patrick Watkins would be released.
  • David Buehler will be given every opportunity to win all kicking duties.  If he struggles, the team will obviously have to sign another guy.  The most likely roster casualty?  Probably Curtis Johnson.
  • Dez Bryant will probably begin the season as the primary punt and kickoff returner.  This will likely be just for 2010, as his emergence at receiver would pave the way for AOA to take over return duties.