The NFL preseason is only about a month away and the Dallas Cowboys will be preparing to build their 53-man roster. Rookie draft picks, undrafted rookie free agents and veterans are all vying for spots on the team.
Every year, unexpected thing hit a final roster. Whether it’s surprise cuts, or players who were perceived as camp bodies who came in and took spot from someone else.
But what about the veteran players who make the squad, only to be pushed down the depth chart?
In the animal kingdom, the lion at the head of the pack will remain supreme until a younger, stronger cub defeats him and takes his place at the top. It’s a jungle in the locker room as well.
These Dallas Cowboys veterans are all likely to make the team, but it doesn’t mean they’ll get as much playing time as they did last season. They’ll see the field, but young players are gunning for more time.
2021 was a career year for Watkins, but at the rate the defensive line is growing, he might be looking at a sharp dip in playing time. Playing time that might not have been as heavy had it not been for the injury to Neville Gallimore last preseason.
Gallimore and Osa Odighizuwa are the Cowboys most talented pair of DTs and likely to see the bulk of the snaps inside. Even the emergence of Chauncey Golston as a versatile defensive lineman, especially in run defense.
The addition and progression of Dallas’ younger tackles doesn’t mean they’ll outright let Watkins go, but it’s a numbers game that’s others’ favor.
The Dan Quinn connection is main reason Fowler is on the team today. They only paired together for one season in 2020 with Fowler registering three sacks and 23 QB pressures (third highest of his career).
Can he be a reclamation project like Jayron Kearse? Or a role player with highs and lows like Keanu Neal?
With DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong filled as the starters, Fowler will be looking at a rotational role. It might be pushed down even further with the use of Micah Parsons on the edge, plus the promising talent of second-round pick Sam Williams.
The number of edge rushers the Dallas Cowboys keep will really tell how much Fowler’s used. At the moment, he might be the fourth or fifth option.
There’s no guarantee Brown even makes the roster. Behind CeeDee Lamb it’s a group of unknowns.
Michael Gallup, who’s recovering from a torn ACL, rookie third-round pick Jalen Tolbert, and free agent addition James Washington are the only other receivers who’ll make the team. Does this make Brown the fifth option?
With younger, cheaper, more skilled WRs like Brandon Smith, Simi Fehoko or TJ Vasher all getting plenty of opportunities to shine, one has to wonder how long special teams can be the reason Brown sticks around.
Speaking of Brown, Anthony is coming off a career year for himself. Sitting opposite All-Pro Trevon Diggs, gave him opportunities to play the pass, creating three interceptions and 17 pass breakups.
The same goes for Lewis who’s shown to be a reliable slot corner, capable of creating plays in blitz, or in coverage.
For one or both of them, this could be their last season. Brown is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, and Lewis saves the team $5 million in cap space in that time.
The Cowboys added two corners last year in Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright. With Joseph displaying excellent coverage skills in minimal playing time, even with his legal issues. Including rookie draft pick DaRon Bland, who’s for his ball skills and position flexibility.
We’re likely to see more of the Cowboys younger corners this upcoming season. It’s doubtful Lewis or Brown lose their starting spots right away, but they might see less and less time as the season goes along.
As it stands, Vander Esch is the team’s starting WILL linebacker. This might be temporary however, as his career since his rookie season has been inconsistent, with the Cowboys made it a point by declining his fifth-year option. Whether it’s due to injury or playing ability, Vander Esch was brought back simply on a stop-gap/prove-it type season.
Jabril Cox coming out of LSU was already a faster, better coverage player who was bound for extended playing time before his season-ending injury. The release of Jaylon Smith and liability of Neal made keeping Vander Esch on the field a need.
Throw in Kearse playing a modified LB/safety role means the position alongside Parsons and Cox is likely to make Vander Esch expendable.
While still on the roster, the Cowboys are preparing for his eventual departer. With Parsons and Kearse returning, Cox to get a bigger role, and the extra additions to the LB room; Damone Clark, Devin Harper, Markquese Bell, Aaron Hansford and Storey Jackson. There might be no player on the Cowboys roster the front office is loading up to replace more than Vander Esch.
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