When I have too much time on my hands here at Valley Ranch, I pull out my two deep depth chart (working on a personnel board for office) and start looking at potential ways this roster can be shaped into 53 players. I am terrible with numbers when it comes to everyday life but you let me play with them when it comes to building a team, I am in heaven.
I am going to try and give you some positions to think about that are not starters at certain positions but who might be players 47 to 53 on this roster.
Let's start at safety. Brodney Pool was brought in to potentially be the starter opposite of Gerald Sensabaugh. For the Cowboys it was a chance to add a player that Rob Ryan and Jerome Henderson had a history with. The move doesn't put a strain on the salary cap but it is a roster spot for a player that has his limitations. Pool didn't play his best last season with the Jets in coverage or as a tackler. I have heard whispers around the league of shoulder problems which might have led to the poor tackling. The question I have, is if Pool is beaten out by Barry Church or Matt Johnson, and you are only going to keep four, do you keep him over Danny McCray? I don't because I know that Pool will give me nothing on special teams. A name to watch in all this is Mana Silva from Hawaii. Could he do more than McCray in the preseason with defensive snaps and on special teams to take a spot? He has some supporters. Right now my numbers say they keep four safeties, which means a battle for that last spot.
I have the Cowboys carrying six cornerbacks. We all know Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins are four so who is five and six? I wrote about undrafted free agents Isaac Madison and Lionel Smith before rookie minicamp and they are still my favorites for the job. There might some concern with Madison's height but you cannot deny his ability to play with quickness and stay in coverage. Smith's quickness and speed are legit plus like Madison, he does a nice job playing routes. The other guys in the mix will be Mario Butler and C.J. Wilson but in my view, both struggle with catch up speed. Butler does have the experience and Wilson the size. There were too many days where you did see the separation with Wilson in routes that ended up in big plays. Again, I have the club carrying six of these corners but maybe they go with five and five safeties but I thought they would only do that if they had a safety that could play both positions and with this current group they don't.
At outside linebacker right now I see Ware, Butler, Spencer and Wilber as the four but does the front office carry a fifth and sixth player or do they just carry four? If they carry a fifth and sixth, Adrian Hamilton and Alex Albright would be the guys. If they just carry one extra, here is your battle for that spot. Albright is a solid, dependable, core special teams player that might have a nice future at strong outside linebacker. Hamilton is a slippery player that has a feel for how to rush the passer and get to the ball. I have been impressed with his ability to play on two feet in these camps. To take Albright out of the mix, he is going to have to play his rear off on special teams because I do believe he could give you some position flexibility playing both sides. What you have to remember is numbers can be affected here because of players playing on one-year contracts, Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler. This could be a position that the front office might go a little long at.
On the offensive line, I think that Kevin Kowalski will beat Bill Nagy out for that swing center/guard spot. I believe there is a real chance that the front office decides to go with nine offensive linemen instead of the usual 10. I like what I have seen from Ronald Leary and if he can mentally handle everything they are throwing at him, he has a real shot to help. The question for that last spot is how far has David Arkin come in a year? Arkin has had his moments where he has been good but he has also had his moments of struggles. Even if Arkin does struggle in camp, there still is a possibility that the front office keeps him around because if you look at the history of this team, there have been offensive linemen that have been released after one or two seasons, landed on another team and played well. Those types of thoughts are always in the back of your mind when dealing with this position.
I play with this roster every day and will continue to do so up until camp then while in Oxnard where hopefully it will become much clearer. It's a never ending process but one I enjoy.