The 2020 NFL season nears a milestone as training camps are set to get underway in the coming days. For the Dallas Cowboys, training camp means a chance to get their first look at a team that is hoping to get back into the playoffs with a new coach. The Cowboys appear to have the talent to be one of the better teams in the league and camp is the first step to cultivating the roster.
With depth at many positions, there will be difficult decisions to make when final cuts come around. With that in mind, here’s a pre-training camp look at what the 53-man roster could ultimately look like in September.
Quarterback (3): Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci (R)
There is no question that Prescott and Dalton make up one of the better quarterback rooms in the league. There also seems to be a good overall feeling about 2020 seventh-round pick DiNucci, who will make it difficult to try and pass through waivers if Dallas doesn’t find a spot for him.
Former coach Jason Garrett was fine with having two QBs and a practice squad player ready if needed, but the thought here is that new head man Mike McCarthy wants his developmental QB on the roster.
Running Back (4): Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Jamize Olawale, Rico Dowdle (R)
Again, the top spots appear a safe bet. Elliott and Pollard make for an exciting backfield that is one of the top groups in the NFL. Olawale remains at FB and is important as a special teams player.
The wild card is who will earn the fourth RB spot on the roster and the rookie Dowdle has a chance to prove he belongs. The undrafted free agent has the skills and size to be successful, he just needs to avoid the injury bug that bit him in college at South Carolina. Dowdle will have to beat out the likes of Darius Anderson and Jordan Chunn.
Wide Receiver (5): Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb (R), Cedric Wilson, Devin Smith
The Cowboys possess perhaps the top trio of WRs in the game with Cooper, Gallup and the rookie first-round pick Lamb. However, after that group of standouts, there isn’t an established receiver on the team.
Wilson has flashed some potential, so he’ll get another look, and Smith had a stellar preseason and early portion of 2019 before fading away. Smith and Noah Brown – who missed all of last season, but is still only years old – will fight for the last WR spot.
Tight End (3): Blake Jarwin, Blake Bell, Sean McKeon
Here’s a position that could see some shakeup. Jarwin is cemented as the top TE on the roster with future Hall of Famer Jason Witten joining the Las Vegas Raiders. Expect Bell to outperform Dalton Schultz for the blocking TE spot. McKeon could surprise people as a combo blocker/receiver that the position is missing and his rise would make Schultz expendable.
Offensive Line (9): Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Joe Looney, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, Connor McGovern, Tyler Biadasz (R), Cameron Erving, Brandon Knight
This is as talented and versatile a unit as you will find in the league. It’s also a group that will have fierce competition for the starting left guard and center positions in camp. Whoever doesn’t win the jobs will make for valuable depth pieces. Expect to see everyone get at least some playing time throughout the season.
Defensive Line (10): DeMarcus Lawrence, Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Tyrone Crawford, Aldon Smith, Trysten Hill, Antwaun Woods, Bradlee Anae (R), Neville Gallimore (R), Ron’Dell Carter (R)
The defensive line will go heavy and there will be some tough cuts to make. The top seven or eight in the rotation seem set, but those last few spots will make for great battles in training camp. Last year’s top drafted rookie Hill gets a fresh slate and hopes to make an impression on the new staff, while undrafted rookie Carter unseats Joe Jackson, Dorance Armstrong and Jalen Jelks.
Without knowing what’s going on with Randy Gregory and his reinstatement, he is left off for now. If anything develops this summer, he might find his way onto the roster.
Linebacker (6): Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Joe Thomas, Luke Gifford, Francis Bernard (R)
Vander Esch, Smith, Lee and Thomas appear to be fixtures, but Gifford’s preseason and 2019 work suggest he’s in the lead for a roster spot again this year. Undrafted rookie Bernard has a real chance to earn a roster spot.
Cornerback (7): Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, Daryl Worley, Trevon Diggs, Reggie Robinson, C.J. Goodwin
After losing Byron Jones, the defense restocked by adding Worley, re-signing Brown and drafting Diggs and Robinson. It’s a better group than most think, though one of these corners could be moving to safety. Goodwin is a special teams ace who sticks for his prowess there.
Safety (3): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Xavier Woods, Donovan Wilson
Right now the group looks light, but a move from one of the CBs will give the team four safeties, we’re just not sure who that will be just yet. Clinton-Dix and Woods are the current starters, with the impressive Wilson, who opened eyes in the preseason last year, remaining as a key backup and special teams performer.
Specialists (3): Greg Zuerlein, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
Ladouceur remains one of the best long snappers in the business and you can expect Zuerlein to win the placekicker job over Kai Forbath. Jones is the incumbent at punter, but he was bad in 2019, so don’t be surprised if the team looks for a replacement before the season.
Which player on the roster bubble do you think will make the final list when the NFL season begins? Share your pick with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.