DALLAS — Training camp and the preseason are officially over, and regular-season work can now begin for the Dallas Cowboys. Cutdown day is never easy, but the Cowboys had a few tricks up their sleeves on their way to their initial 53-man roster.
Things will change quickly, of course, especially in the next few days as players get taken off the COVID list, others are moved to and from the IR, and guys from outside the organization are added to help bolster the team. There’s still a ways to go to get to the Week 1 roster as we near the regular season, and the team could make ample changes before then.
For now, here’s a look at what the Cowboys roster looks like after trimming the group to 53 players and some observations as to how the team was constructed in its first iteration:
To no one’s surprise, the Cowboys only kept two quarterbacks. If you’ve followed the backup QB saga this summer, it was the only conclusion. While the backup to starter Dak Prescott was in question, there was little doubt Dallas would only keep two from their training camp group before looking around for help elsewhere. Cooper Rush won the job, but his hold on it is suspect.
On Wednesday morning, the Cowboys had already brought in another option for the backup QB gig by claiming Will Grier off waivers.
The Cowboys also made the decision to carry just two running backs, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. It’s a great one-two punch, but the team will surely be looking to add a third RB before too long.
The team cannot survive the season with only two rushers and if no one is added before the first week of the season, Pollard should be taken off kickoff return at the risk of leaving starter Elliott as the only back should a special teams injury befall his backup. This is a position that bears watching as well.
Another story from cutdown day is how the Cowboys handled their injuries. Despite TE Sean McKeon, OT Josh Ball and DT Neville Gallimore being a few weeks away from returning, they were included on the roster. As was CB Kelvin Joseph, who is expected to miss time. Rookie DE Chauncey Golston was added to the roster and he hasn’t practiced since July following a hamstring injury.
Though it isn’t clear which of these players will remain on the roster, some of the walking wounded will be put on IR or the PUP list to make way for healthier options.
CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown were excluded from the initial roster due to being in COVID-19 protocol, but they are expected to come off sometime before the season begins.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys decided to go deep in the trenches by keeping 10 offensive and 11 defensive linemen.
With a lack of skill among the depth on the offensive line, the strength might come in numbers. On the defensive side, Dallas remade the line and decided to keep a healthy number to find the best fit when the regular season arrives. There are some injuries on both lines that could slightly decrease the numbers kept, but for now the team is going deep with the big bodies.
Another interesting tidbit from the initial roster is all 11 rookies from the draft class were kept. It’s rare that an entire draft class winds up sticking, but it’s even rarer for the group to have 11 players in it and to have them all make the team.
Coming into training camp, it didn’t feel like the Cowboys would have room for all 11, but they earned their place on the squad. It’s an indictment on the state of the roster prior, but it is also a testament to the job the scouts and player personnel department did in selecting the draft class.
Lastly, the Cowboys failed to keep a long snapper, opting to release Jake McQuaide. The move is purely procedural to keep another player the team did not want to risk waiving. The veteran long snapper – who was handpicked by special teams coordinator John Fassel – will be back on the roster in the next few days.
There weren’t too many surprises on the initial 53-man roster for Dallas. There will need to be some shuffling at the bottom of the roster, and the team will need to work its way through the injury list, but version 1 of the 2021 Dallas Cowboys has been set. Edits are coming, however.
Are you happy with how the first edition of the 53-man roster looks for the Cowboys? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.