The offseason practices are in the rearview mirror as the Cowboys are heading towards training camp, which begins on July 24 in Oxnard, Calif.
That's usually the place where many of the questions regarding this team start to get answered.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – are attempting to answer 20 pressing questions as the team gets ready for camp and the 2017 season.
Today, we continue the series discussing which veterans could be pushed in training camp for a roster spot.
14) Which Veteran Player Enters Camp on the Roster Bubble?
Helman:I've got my eye on Robert Blanton, the veteran safety the front office signed back in the spring. I don't necessarily want to bet against him, because he's experienced. He's also great on special teams – and we know how highly that's valued by this coaching staff. But if you look at the numbers, it starts to get interesting. You're probably not going to keep more than nine or maybe 10 defensive backs on a 53-man roster. Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Nolan Carroll, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Byron Jones and Jeff Heath are all virtually locks to earn roster spots. That means that there's two or maybe three roster spots up for grabs between the likes of Blanton, Kavon Frazier, Xavier Woods and Marquez White. Of the four guys I mentioned, three of them are youngsters playing on four-year deals. Blanton is a veteran playing on a one-year deal. If he's going to make the team, he's going to need to be excellent to beat out the youth movement.
Phillips:Last week I wrote that running back Jahad Thomas very well could be the undrafted rookie with the best chance to make the team. If indeed Thomas makes a push for the change-of-pace role vacated by free agent departure Lance Dunbar, that means Alfred Morris could be in a battle for a backup spot depending on the numbers. Remember, Darren McFadden was the one who took over primary backup duties behind Ezekiel Elliott late last season after returning from the Non-Football Injury list. Morris is an accomplished and reliable runner, no doubt, but his lack of special teams experience might be a factor when determining the 53-man roster, particularly if the Cowboys decide to go heavy at another spot -- maybe to keep an extra tight end such as Rico Gathers.
Broaddus:Probably not the flashiest of answers, but has to be someone on this offensive line. I have several guys in mind that if they don't play well in these five preseason games could be shown the door. Emmett Cleary was a stop-gap player last season. They've tried him at tackle and guard with mixed results. Byron Bell is trying to lose weight and get in better shape. Chaz Green struggles with his health. No one has really talked about Joe Looney or Jonathan Cooper. Looney can play center/guard so that's valuable. We know Cooper can play guard but has also tried his hand at center. I am curious if both will make the 53-man roster. Just looking at the numbers, there could be a veteran released from the names I mentioned.
Eatman: I think it's a given to look at the running backs and see McFadden and Morris and know one of them probably won't make it. Morris might have a hard time making this roster but there isn't a ton of young guys behind him to push. My answer comes from the receiver position. I think you have to look at Brice Butler as a guy on the bubble. They drafted two receivers and re-signed Terrance Williams. While a lot of people might see Noah Brown as the main competition for Butler, I think it's Andy Jones, who is coming off a season on the practice squad and seems poised to make the leap to the roster. Butler did respond nicely with a very good offseason but he'll have to keep it up when training camp starts as well.