1. Cornerback B.W. Webb– Let’s face it Webb, who was drafted last season, struggled in the secondary often displaying the “deer in the headlights” look. And never really found a place to contribute on special teams either. He finished the season with 13 tackles in 15 games.
Dallas drafted CB Terrance Mitchell in the 7th round this year and in the preseason OTAs, he looked pretty impressive. Definitely didn’t show any signs of being intimidated by playing on the NFL level.
An undrafted CB, Tyler Potman out of Oklahoma St. was also solid and not in awe of things in the OTAs.
Last season veteran CB Sterling Moore was a final day roster cut and at the time, I thought it was a mistake to let him go. With injuries at the position later, they brought Moore back to help so I have a feeling they will be slow to cut him this time.
2014 ROSTER: It’s not clear if Dallas will keep 5 or 6 corners in 2014 but we know they will keep Scandrick, Claiborne, and Carr. And I think they keep Moore this time too. After those four, it will be a battle for those last couple spots between Webb, Potman, and Mitchell. If Dallas only keeps five, Webb could be cut. Clearly he needs to have a very good preseason. Webb is in for a battle.
2. Safety Jeff Heath– Last season the undrafted rookie made the roster by showing an ability to take the ball away from opponents. During the season, he had mixed reviews. Impressing at times and depressing at times too. His lack of experience leaves his role on the team in question. Heath has been a solid contributor on special teams. He finished the season with 60 tackles and one interception.
In 2014, Dallas drafted Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon in the 7th and also brought in undrafted Auburn safety Ryan Smith. Dixon has been nursing an injury but Smith impressed at OTAs and doesn’t look like an undrafted safety. Smith played on a big stage at Auburn and seems NFL ready. Jakar Hamilton was an undrafted safety in 2013 who has gotten noticed during OTAs and will compete for a roster spot.
2014 ROSTER: Most likely Dallas will keep 4 safeties on the roster based on the past. The Cowboys are favoring JJ Wilcox as a starter and we know Barry Church is a given. After those two, Hamilton, Smith, Dixon, and Heath, are all four fighting for two or possibly three roster spots. I like Heath’s chances to make the roster but he is in for a battle and he needs to show improvement in preseason.
3. LB Justin Durant: The Cowboys signed the veteran LB last year from the Lions and with several injuries to their LBs, Durant saw action. In 10 games Durant had 24 tackles and a forced fumble. While he is dependable against the run, his pass cover skills are less than Dallas would like at the position.
With a season ending knee injury to MLB Sean Lee during OTAs, I thought it would increase Durant’s chances of making the roster however Dallas recently signed experienced LB Rolando McClain from the Raiders. McClain is an intriguing player who was drafted in the first round in 2010 but didn’t play at all last season. He has underachieved in his NFL career so far and had some off field issues too, but he appears athletic enough to be a good option in pass coverage. He is expected to compete for a spot at MLB.
In the 2014 draft Dallas drafted two LBs Will Smith and Anthony Hitchens. I like their chances to make the roster.
2014 ROSTER: I look for Dallas to keep 6 LBs on the roster again this season and I expect them to keep DeVonte Holloman, Bruce Carter, and Kyle Wilber. If they also keep both drafted rookies (Smith and Hitchens), it will leave Durant in a battle with several LBs including McClain, for that final 6th spot on the roster. With the signing of McClain, I think Durant is in a real battle to make the roster in 2014. He needs to perform well in preseason.
4. RB Joseph Randle– Last season the rookie did a decent job filling in for Murray at times. He finished the season with 164 yards and 2 TDs. However his yards per carry were only 3 yards and questions remain if Randle is the answer behind Murray.
In the off season, Dallas signed RB Ryan Williams from the Cardinals. He has only been healthy enough to play in 5 games and his stats almost mirror Randle with 164 yards and a 2.8 average.
2014 ROSTER: Dallas typically keeps three RBs and sometimes four. It could depend on if they keep a fullback this year which is under consideration. Demarco Murray and Lance Dunbar will be on the roster so it leaves Randle in a battle with Williams for what may be the final 3rd spot. I like Randle’s chances to make the roster but he will need to show improvement in preseason to hold off Williams.
Four guys to keep an eye on preseason to see if they will return to the Dallas roster.