Dallas Cowboys Roster Questions Before Preseason Week 3

Dallas Cowboys Roster

In what feels like the blink of an eye, the final week of preseason is upon us. For many players on the Dallas Cowboys, this is also the last week to carve out a spot on the final roster. By August 30th, the team will have taken on the massive task of trimming the roster down from 80 to the final 53 players. The Cowboys appear steadfast in their plans of not having the starters touch a blade of grass during the preseason, so Friday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks should feature plenty of action from the players with the highest stakes in their performance.

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The Dallas Cowboys Roster Has Many Questions Heading Into Preseason Week 3

Preseason can become boring for even the most avid fan. However, the Dallas Cowboys roster has several unanswered questions that will need to be sorted out before the regular season. Untimely injuries and unclear expectations from important rotational pieces have left much up for discussion. There are a number of players and positions to keep an eye on as the Cowboys enter their final stretch before regular season action.

Offensive Tackle

What in the world are the Cowboys going to do about their offensive tackle position? Disaster has struck, making an area of concern an official calamity after recent developments.

Over 11 seasons, left tackle Tyron Smith has remained one of the best tackles in the game when healthy. The last part is the huge caveat. Smith has not played a full season since 2015, missing at least three games every season since. Unfortunately, this season is no different as Smith went down with a terrible injury during practice on Wednesday night. If the alarms weren’t already ringing, they certainly are now.

On the right side, Terence Steele has obviously gained the coaching staff’s trust as longtime tackle La’el Collins is in Cincinnati now. Still, a lack of proven success from the 3rd year tackle combined with injuries on the left side have evaporated any security surrounding the positions.

A solid swing tackle helps to ease these worries; it’d be nice if the Cowboys had one.

Inexplicably, the front office has done nothing to address the gaping hole left when Steele moved to starter. Dallas drafted Josh Ball in the fourth round last year and added Matt Waletzko during the fifth round of this year’s draft. Perhaps the hope was that Ball would progress over the off-season and Waletzko might compete immediately. Two weeks into the preseason have the Cowboys reaping the consequences of anchoring so much to hope.

Preseason has shown that Josh Ball is not ready to step into a meaningful role yet. Ugly performances over two games have marred hopes of his progression. Adding to the uncertainties is the shoulder injury Waletzko suffered early on in camp. The hope is he will be able to play through the injury. Waletzko was seen at practice on Tuesday, but the idea of an injured rookie being the answer does not inspire confidence.

The Cowboys drafted Tyler Smith in the first round to start at left guard after playing left tackle in college. Many believe Smith’s future is still at tackle—this development may just speed the process up. Draft stock aside, Smith is still a rookie who has put in almost no work at tackle to this point.

With no obvious solutions to this serious problem with the offensive line, tackle play on Friday will be important. Realistically, fans likely need to hope for a post-cut acquisition or pray that Tyler Smith can start at left tackle.

Wide Receiver

Wide receiver is not a concern that the Dallas front office and coaching staff want to admit exists.

All off-season, they batted away concerns of depth with assurances of unproven and new talent. Much like the tackle position, the Cowboys have done very little to address these worries. Also much like the tackle position, early injuries have created major concerns about who is going to step up. Another prospect with nothing but hope attached.

Gallup won’t start the season as he continues to make his way back from an ACL injury last January. James Washington was brought on during the off-season but suffered a foot injury early in camp that will sideline him six to ten weeks. Jalen Tolbert was drafted in the third round of this year’s draft, but it is a tall task to ask any rookie receiver to come in and immediately contribute. Some sloppy play and drops during the preseason have proven this to be true for the young South Alabama product.

Names like Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, Dennis Houston, and Brandon Smith are also in the mix to be called upon and contribute during the season. Brown has the most experience entering his sixth season with the team. He now has the opportunity to build off a strong camp. Houston also shined in camp but has largely disappeared during the preseason games. Fehoko has given the team their only receiving touchdown of the preseason, and the hope is his progression continues. Smith has shown some excellent ball skills, having one of the only impressive plays of week 1 and adding some key grabs in the week two game against the Chargers.

One would be remiss not to mention KaVontae Turpin. Last year’s USFL MVP was an intriguing but largely unknown name when the Cowboys signed him in late July. The speedster has been fielding punts and kickoff returns during practice ever since. The whole world got a glimpse as to why last Saturday night.

Turpin housed two returns last Saturday, solidifying his roster spot. As a receiver, however, the jury is still out on the contribution fans can look forward to. His slight frame (5’9’’, 153 lbs) is rare in the NFL and makes him impossibly quick on the field. Never lacking in confidence, Turpin is ready to contribute in all phases of the game. However, time will tell how much the coaching staff is willing to put a player out there that can make such a difference in special teams.

The Cowboys, by their own admission, will be calling on many of the receivers that play during Friday night’s game. While reactions to this idea range from uncomfortable to outright terrified, everyone rooting for the Cowboys’ success will be hoping for something from this group that elicits any kind of positive feeling going into Week 1 of the regular season.

Cornerback

The cornerback situation in Dallas has taken an interesting turn in recent weeks. The Cowboys double dipped on corner in last year’s draft, taking Kentucky product Kelvin Joseph in the second round and surprising many by taking Nahshon Wright out of Oregon State in the third. The idea coming into camp was that these two would be settling into either future roles as starters opposite Trevon Diggs or rotational contributors at the least. However, mixed showings in camp have translated to mixed results in the preseason.

Week 1 against the Denver Broncos saw poor performances from both. Wright allowed multiple big completions and gave up an important touchdown in the second quarter. Joseph was also flimsy in coverage, allowing a touchdown of his own. Perhaps the most egregious mistake was a false start penalty from Joseph on a would-be missed field goal. The ensuing kick put the Broncos up 17-0 going into the half. Week two saw some improvements from both, though it was nothing spectacular.

While this development can be seen as disappointing, the quick ascension of fifth-round rookie DaRon Bland undoubtedly quells some of the worry. It has been impossible not to notice Bland during practices making quality plays, which has also translated into the preseason. Quality showings in both games have escalated the conversation from if Bland makes the roster as a rookie, to if he’s the third-to-fourth best cornerback on the team. It also makes Joseph and Wright’s spots on the team less secure.

Both players have top-100 draft stock, which does matter regardless of how much of a meritocracy the roster-building process may claim to be. There is also the possibility that Dallas decides to keep over six cornerbacks. Fans will want to watch the cornerback play on Friday, as there may be some surprise cuts incoming.

Quarterback

As of now, Cooper Rush appears to be the favorite to remain Dak Prescott’s backup going into the season. While the delegation of reps during training camp led many to believe there was a genuine battle for the spot happening between Rush and fourth-year quarterback Will Grier, a groin injury sidelined the latter for the first preseason game. Rush did not inspire much confidence during that game, going 12-20 for 84 yards, no points, and an interception. Grier performed admirably during the Week 2 game, making several quality throws. Nevertheless, it did not appear to move the needle much in the depth chart positioning.

With Prescott in a sideline cap the entire preseason, Grier can still make the backup quarterback spot an interesting discussion. The Dallas Cowboys need as many roster spots as they can manage this season. As such, it seems unlikely the team will keep three quarterbacks. Friday’s game against the Seahawks may be Grier’s last chance to prove he deserves the job. With Cooper Rush having both years of experience with the team and a regular season win under his belt, it appears the job is his by default—unless the week three game forces the coaching staff to reconsider.

Safety

For the first time in a long time, the Cowboys have a plethora of quality safeties on the roster. The top of the depth chart is solid with Malik Hooker, Jayron Kearse, and Donovan Wilson all set to return. Behind them, second-year safety Israel Mukuamu has been lighting it up in practices and preseason games. His play in both run defense and coverage during last Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers only added to the noise the second-year safety has been making. That’s not it, though—UDFA acquisitions Markquese Bell and Juanyeh Thomas are highly touted by the coaching staff, and Tyler Coyle has been making his presence known as well.

It is probably safe to bet on the Dallas Cowboys having four to five safeties on the final roster. With only one or two spots as a possibility, the safety play against the Seahawks will be something to watch.

August 30th means tough cuts and lingering concerns as the Dallas Cowboys finalize their roster. Defensive tackle also has a plethora of quality players, and not all will be on the team in September. Are the Cowboys really going to stick with Brett Maher as their kicker? Should Rico Dowdle or Malik Davis be the team’s third running back? As the coaching staff and front office attempt to squeeze the last bit of hope from the tube before the season begins, Week 3’s game against the Seahawks will not be lacking in stakes or implications for the upcoming season.