The Cowboys have completed their OTAs and minicamp practices. The offseason is history. Training camp in Oxnard is up next in late July.
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 2016 season.
Today, our staff continues the series by predicting the 53rd player to make the 53-man roster coming out of preseason.
19)Who will be the 53rd player on the 53-man roster after preseason?
Rob Phillips: The Cowboys gave Andy Jones the largest signing bonus ($15,000) of any rookie free agent they signed this year. Ultimately that has no bearing on whether he makes the team. But the Cowboys like his ability, for sure. Jones got a few first-team reps in multi-receiver sets during OTAs and minicamp with Dez Bryant continuing to work his way back from offseason surgery. He's a physical receiver who can get open and finish plays. If the Cowboys choose to go heavy at receiver, Jones has a chance with a strong preseason. It's a big jump in competition coming from a small school (Jacksonville), but Lucky Whitehead also made the roster last year as an undrafted wideout out of Florida Atlantic.
Nick Eatman: There are lots of ways to go here and my first instinct was one of those veteran backs, because I don't think the Cowboys will part ways with either McFadden or Morris. But truthfully, it has to be a defensive end. The Cowboys have two guys at this position starting the season on suspension. So that means a couple of defensive ends will be on the roster early on with the chance to prove themselves. My answer to this question is Ryan Russell. I think the Cowboys will give him every chance to make the team considering his draft status last year. Who knows, maybe he's ready for a blowout season and will make the team regardless. But from what I see he still has a lot of room for improvement. A wildcard here could be Rico Gathers, who is still at tight end but don't rule out a possible position switch for him to play defensive end if he struggles to adjust to offense.[embeddedad0]
Bryan Broaddus:I love these types of questions. Looking at the roster for the final cut down it would be easy to say that maybe they carry an extra running back, tight end or defensive lineman. In years past they've carried extra defensive backs but I don't believe that will be the case this time around. I am thinking that if Dunbar goes on PUP and they don't carry a fullback - then Darius Jackson has a good shot to make the team because he will get the most opportunity to shine. I don't think that Rico Gathers will show enough to keep learning curve wise to keep. So keep an eye on defensive end Michael McAdoo. He showed enough during the OTAs and minicamps to have a shot to stick for that final spot.
David Helman: In the wake of the Rolando McClain news, I have to assume that Mark Nzeocha and Deon King are excited right now – both young linebackers all of a sudden have a much better shot at making this roster. However, I'm going to stick with my usual offseason favorite in running back Darius Jackson. The offensive backfield is awfully crowded, but I am intrigued by Jackson's blend of size and speed. He's going to get a lot of opportunities during the preseason, given the injury to Darren McFadden – not to mention the fact that the coaches won't want to overwork Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris. If he makes the most of those opportunities, and if he proves he can be valuable on special teams, I don't think the coaching staff will want to risk losing him to another team. I think he makes it as the fourth running back.