The phrase “we like our guys” can be a trigger for any Dallas Cowboys fan. It has been repeated ad nauseum by the front office for years now, especially when fielding concerns of depth or lack of movement in trades or free agency. The Cowboys believe strongly in developing players they have drafted and using them on the field. It’s never been a foolproof plan, but for every Chaz Green there’s a Micah Parsons.
Dallas Cowboys Final Roster Reliant on Drafted Players
As most of the Dallas Cowboys final roster is now set, the mantra holds true. Dallas likes their guys. Every draft pick over the last two seasons is currently on the roster, many in place of acquired veterans or undrafted prospects.
The #Cowboys made 20 draft picks since 2021.
All 20 made the 53-man roster on Tuesday.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) August 31, 2022
15 of the players that were cut on Tuesday have re-signed back to the practice squad. Unsurprisingly, the Cowboys have been quiet on the waiver wire and have not had much movement around players outside of their own. Tyron Smith and James Washington were both moved to injured reserve Wednesday as well. The two spots those moves opened were quickly filled by special teamers C.J. Goodwin and Jake McQuaide.
There will undoubtedly be a more moves by the Dallas Cowboys, but the final roster appears clear enough to analyze who might be taking the field come Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Quarterback (1): Dak Prescott
The Cowboys opted to waive all three quarterbacks on the roster behind Prescott. Ben DiNucci was cut earlier on, making it a choice between Will Grier and Cooper Rush. In somewhat of a surprise, both were waived and signed to the practice squad but neither to the active roster. That almost certainly will not be the case Week 1, and Rush will be the backup. There is bound to be movement around other spots in the coming days to get Rush on the roster by September 11th.
Running Back (3): Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
The list of backs ended up as many predicted it would, with Dowdle backing up the two featured runners. Some pegged Malik Davis as a possible candidate to fill the third spot or force Dallas to keep four backs. However, he was eventually waived on Tuesday and signed back to the practice squad. The team appears to be square here, as Dowdle can fill in nicely if needed and Davis looks to be true talent waiting in the wings.
Wide Receiver (7): CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Tolbert, Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, Dennis Houston, James Washington (IR)
Gallup has astoundingly passed his physical and will forego the PUP list to start the season. That’s less than 8 months removed from an ACL injury, by the way. An amazing development, but fans still shouldn’t expect to see Gallup before Week 3 or so. Washington’s move to IR means this position group is not nearly as heavy as it may appear at first glance. It’s also far from the most experienced group, which has been a point of concern all off-season. The young and unproven will certainly get their shots in meaningful moments over the season.
Turpin has already made his name known as a returner, but perhaps could also carve out a role in the offense. Turpin has the qualities to impose some pretty nightmarish matchups on defenses, and Kellen Moore could maximize that potential. Noah Brown is poised for a much bigger role this season, particularly to start out. Fehoko and Houston won the final spots from a larger pool of young, fairly unknown players fighting it out over training camp. Both have flashed this preseason, but the audition is ongoing. Washington will be back eventually, and receiver is already one of the heavier groups on the roster. Someone will likely have to make room in a few months.
Tight End (3): Dalton Schultz, Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot
This position group is a bit of a surprise being that two of the three players are rookies. Schultz is the obvious premiere player, but the cutting of Sean McKeon over Hendershot was unforeseen by many. Ferguson’s preseason performances solidified his place, but the quick ascension of the undrafted Hendershot was a pleasant surprise. McKeon is now with the practice squad, so all the tight ends will be with the team in some capacity. Still, it appears the Dallas Cowboys are sticking to the theme by going with youth and potential behind the proven Schultz on their final roster.
Offensive Line (8): Tyler Smith, Terence Steele, Zack Martin, Tyler Biadasz, Connor McGovern, Matt Waletzko, Josh Ball, Matt Farniok, Tyron Smith (IR)
As expected, Tyron Smith is headed for injured reserve. Also as expected, the freed roster spot did not go to another lineman. By all accounts, Smith will be replaced by the other Smith named Tyler. Waletzko played in the final preseason game, which is an encouraging sign going into the season. However, lack of playing time and a lingering shoulder injury keep expectations a huge question mark. Ball did not look good in the preseason but remains on the roster. Perhaps it is due to the smidge more experience.
Or maybe it’s as a placeholder until another tackle can be acquired. Reports Wednesday confirm that former All-Pro tackle Jason Peters is visiting with the Cowboys. It’s an interesting development that could change the conversation surrounding left tackle quickly if Peters is signed.
Veteran offensive tackle Jason Peters is scheduled to visit with the Cowboys, according to sources. Peters, 40, started 15 games last year with the Chicago Bears.
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) August 31, 2022
While definitely something to keep an eye on, it isn’t a reality (yet). As it stands today, the Week 1 lineup would be (left to right): Tyler Smith, McGovern, Biadasz, Martin, and Steele.
Take that as you will.
Defensive End (6): DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler, Jr., Sam Williams, Tarell Basham, Chauncey Golston
Parsons will continue sliding into this rotation as he did last season on his way to Defensive Rookie of the Year. Also, Golston has been seen playing more of a hybrid DT/DE role within Dan Quinn’s scheme. The whole defensive line could be a true strong point for Dallas. A mix of draft pedigree, proven and young talent, and steady role players round out the ends of the line.
Defensive Tackle (5): Osa Odighizuwa, Quinton Bohanna, Neville Gallimore, Trysten Hill, John Ridgeway
There was a worry that Dallas may have to cut a defensive lineman they really liked, and they still may. However, it appears that the Cowboys have been able to keep everyone they want and need for now. Ridgeway being kept over veteran Carlos Watkins may have come as a bit of surprise to some, but that recurring theme of young players with draft stock over veterans looks to maintain in this instance as well.
Watkins made his way back to the practice squad, though, and may make it back to the active roster over the season. It’s also possible Ridgeway becomes a roster casualty for the last few spots needed, which may be something to watch over the next few days.
Linebacker (6): Micah Parsons, Anthony Barr, Leighton Vander Esch, Jabril Cox, Luke Gifford, Devin Harper
The linebacker unit has been a roller coaster ride in Dallas for several seasons. From an apparent strength going into 2019, to an area of major concern by 2020, it’s now a possible powerhouse this season. Smart drafting and keen maneuvers have helped turn this corner so quickly.
Micah Parsons has emerged as a true superstar the likes of which no one could have foreseen. The off-season acquisition of Barr could also have huge implications—especially if Vander Esch continues his push getting back to previous pro bowl form. Jabril Cox was an exciting prospect when the Cowboys drafted him in 2021 and remains so as he returns from the ACL injury suffered in his rookie year. Devin Harper was drafted in the sixth round this year and was kept over veterans like Malik Jefferson. Hence, the theme of Dallas favoring their own can be found here as well. If all goes well, this unit could serve as a shining example as to why.
Cornerback (6): Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, DaRon Bland
Through all the off-season questions, this group ended up being one of the most straightforward. Every cornerback that was expected to make the team at the start of camp is still here, with Bland’s preseason breakout expanding it to six. When doing projections, many questioned if Joseph or Wright might end up cut to make room for others, but that did not happen. Lewis is currently nursing a hamstring injury, so Joseph may quickly get a chance to erase any memories of a spotty preseason. If Bland continues his impressive play, he could also see meaningful playing time early on.
Safety (5): Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson, Israel Mukuamu, Markquese Bell
Mukuamu and Bell add to an already talented group in the returning starters. Mukuamu was undeniable in the preseason, making several interceptions and highlight plays. The coaching staff has been excited about Bell since acquiring him as an undrafted free agent. His spot on the roster over other quality players like Juanyeh Thomas and Tyler Coyle (both signed to the practice squad) is proof of their continued excitement.
This position group is loaded, which is almost unheard of in Dallas over the last decade plus. With Kearse often sliding into a nickel/dime linebacker role, the young talent should have plenty of opportunities to show their skills this season.
Specialists (3): Bryan Anger (P), Jake McQuaide (LS), C.J. Goodwin
If something looks wrong here, it’s not a mistake. There’s no kicker on the roster. Brett Maher is currently signed to the Dallas practice squad thanks to the more lenient COVID rules that are still in place. The Cowboys will have a kicker by Week 1 and it almost certainly will be Maher, like it or not. The interesting part is figuring out how Dallas fits him and the backup quarterback on the roster.
As Dallas is already running heavy on defense with 28 players, it would make sense to look to that side of the ball for any further cuts or moves to make room down the line. Fortunately, the Cowboys appear to have the pieces in place where nothing drastic has to be done while they evaluate players further over practice this week.
Like all teams, the Dallas Cowboys roster will remain fluid over the course of the season, making the term “final roster” a bit of a misnomer. With COVID expansions still in effect, it’s been even more the case over the past few years. 53-man rosters are essentially 55 now, although the ability to move a player up and down is capped at three. Seasoned veterans can now be signed to practice squads, which can be a strategy seen by the likes of Maher, Rush, and Watkins.
This won’t be the exact team taking the field on Week 1. Still, the trend is clear with all but seven roster spots being filled by players who started their careers with the team. The Dallas Cowboys are sticking to their own—they like their guys. For better or worse.