2014 Dallas Cowboys Announce Cuts Down to 53 Man Roster.

Today the Cowboys reached the mandatory 53 man roster.

The cuts:
WR Desmon Briscoe (Kansas)

G Uche Nwaneri (Purdue)

RB D.J. Adams (Portland State)
T Josh Aladenoye (Illinois State)
DE Kenneth Boatright (Southern Illinois)
DT Dartwan Bush (Texas Tech)
WR LaRon Byrd (Miami)
G Stephen Goodin (Nebraska-Kearney)
CB Terrance Mitchell (Oregon)
WR Jamar Newsome (Central Florida)
C Ronald Patrick (South Carolina)
DE Caesar Rayford (Washington)
LB Dontavis Sapp (Tennessee)
LB Keith Smith (San Jose State)
S Ryan Smith (Auburn)
LB Will Smith (Texas Tech)
RB Phillip Tanner (Middle Tennessee)
TE Asa Watson (North Carolina State)
RB Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech) 

Waived/Injured:
LB Orie Lemon (Oklahoma State)
DT Zack Minter (Montana State)

Reserve/Suspended
S Jakar Hamilton (South Carolina State)
CB Orlando Scandrick (Boise State)

Surprise cuts?
CB Terrance Mitchell- Rookie showed some promise but struggled recently in games.
LB Will Smith-Drafted in the 7th round but an injury slowed down his progress.
RB Ryan Williams- Good preseason performance but just not a spot for him I guess.

KEPT on Roster

Dallas elected to go with three QBs on the roster which means undrafted rookie QB Dustin Vaughan is on the roster.

This year Dallas kept a fullback Tyler Clutts

Undrafted rookie CB Tyler Patmon who played well in the Dolphins game, made the final roster.  

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These 4 Cowboys Helped Themselves the Most in Last Preseason Game

In the Dallas Cowboys final preseason game which didn’t offer much for fans to feel good about, I do think these four Cowboys helped their chances to make the team. An otherwise meaningless game for most but perhaps not for these guys.

1. DE Kenneth Boatright: Prior to this last preseason game, I really thought Dartwan Bush had out played Boatright in preseason. But Boatright brought his “A” game last night in recording the only sack for the team and four tackles. Defensive end is a position where Dallas needs bodies for the first game with Spencer and Lawrence still not available so he may have taken advantage of the opportunity. I think Boatright may have done enough in this game to just make the final roster.

Dontavis Sapp,

Dontavis Sapp,

2. LB Dontavis Sapp: In a earlier blog HERE I mentioned Sapp as an undrafted rookie who was getting noticed during OTAs. For most of the preseason he has been relatively quiet but he made the most of his opportunity last night by leading the defense in tackles with five.

Will that performance be enough to get him a spot on the roster or is it a case of too little too late? Looking at the numbers at LB, I doubt Sapp will make the 53 man roster but I do think he established himself as a good candidate to develop on the practice squad.

In this game Sapp actually out played the Cowboys 7th round pick LB Will Smith but I think they will elect to keep Smith on the roster and undrafted Sapp is probably looking at practice squad. That’s just the way that usually goes.

3. WR LaRon Byrd: Byrd has been in a battle with Jamar Newsome to try to make the roster and before this game I felt Newsome had a slight edge. But round 4 goes to Byrd as he had 4 catches for 56 yards in this game. Now the question is can Dallas keep 6 WRs on the roster?

In this game, Byrd even out played their 5th round pick WR Devon Street. They like what they see in Street as far as potential goes, so I’m not sure if Dallas can make the numbers work to keep Byrd. However I do think Byrd has earned a spot on a NFL roster some where if not in Dallas.

4. DT Ken Bishop: Bishop was a 7th round pick for Dallas in the 2014 draft and with his four solo tackles and two assist last night, I believe he has secured a spot on the roster. Bishop Played at Northern Illinois and I think in preseason he had to show that he could adjust to playing at the next level. He has shown consistent improvement each week and I look for him to be part of their defensive line rotation.

2014 NFL TEAM POWER RANKINGS: WEEK 1

NFLTeams

WEEK 2 RANKINGS
A power ranking of all 32 NFL teams prior to week one play.

The Twist: Each week my top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. I reflect the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs each week.

Each week, I have one NFC team and one AFC team in the top two to reflect who may end up in the super bowl.

Last year 7 teams I had ranked in the top 12 for week one, made the playoffs at the end of the season. In 2012, 8 out of 12 teams made the playoffs that were ranked in my initial top 12.

Stock Rising: Teams that I think will improve significantly over last year.
Ravens– After winning the super bowl in 2012, the Ravens took a giant step back last season. They missed Anquan Boldin at wide receiver but I think Steve Smith is going to help this team. I look for them to get back into the playoffs.
Jaguars– Henne can bring stability to the QB position and Bortles is a very good prospect for the future. This team has a long way to go but I look for them to take some steps in 2014.
Falcons– It’s not that I think the Falcons are super bowl ready now or anything but I look for them to be much more competitive than last season. I think drafting a tackle Jake Matthews in the first round will pay off.
Texans– The saying is, “no where to go but up”. With Clowney added to Watts on the defense, the Texans will be a tough team to score on. If they can get decent QB play, the Texans may climb out of the ditch they found themselves in last year.

Stock Dropping: Teams that I’m expecting to drop from last season.
Steelers-Blount and Bell pulling a “Cheech and Chong” before a game is a sign that coach Tomlin is losing this team quickly. I look for the Steelers to struggle in 2014.
Cowboys– Their defense is trying to find healthy people even before the season starts. Depth is weak and Romo’s health questionable. Not to mention a brutal December schedule with 3 out of 4 on the road. I usually predict a 8-8 finish for Dallas but finally the streak is broken. I look for a 6-10 finish in 2014 and that may be on the optimistic side.
Chiefs– They were the surprise team last season but I just don’t think they have everything in place to do it again. Still a decent team but taking a step back from last season. That melt down performance in the playoffs haunts them.
Bills– Not that the Bills were great last season but I can’t find a lot to be positive about with this team. Their QB play leaves a lot to be desired and will waste a great wide receiver in Sammy Watkins.

Week 1
1. Seahawks
2. Broncos
3. Saints
4. Patriots
5. Ravens
6. 49ers
7. Packers
8. Bengals
9. Colts
10. Chargers
11. Eagles
12. Panthers
13. Cardinals
14. Chiefs
15. Bears
16. Lions
17. Giants
18. Jets
19. Redskins
20. Falcons
21. Cowboys
22. Rams
23. Jaguars
24. Steelers
25. Vikings
26. Texans
27. Dolphins
28. Bucs
29. Browns
30. Titans
31. Bills
32. Raiders

These 6 “On The Bubble” Cowboys Need to Play Well in Final Preseason Game

Ryan Smith, Auburn

Ryan Smith, Auburn

Today the Dallas Cowboys made mandatory cuts to get their roster to 75. After their final preseason game Thursday with Denver, they will be required to reduce the roster again to the final 53 man number.

I’ve identified six players with a legitimate chance to make the final roster but will need good games Thursday. These guys have gotten noticed in preseason but just haven’t closed the deal yet. Can they have the kind of performances that help them avoid final cuts next weekend?

1. CB Tyler Patmon:
Last week against the Dolphins Patmon, the undrafted rookie, had an outstanding game with a forced fumble and two interceptions including a pick 6. However it is the only preseason game that he has played any significant amount. Was that one performance enough to make the roster? I think it likely was but he is in a battle with B.W. Webb for a spot, the way I see it, and a good performance Thursday could give him the edge over Webb for sure.

2. DT Zach Minter:
After becoming a Cowboy for only 5 days, Minter played late in the Ravens game and played quite well pressuring the QB. He forced a fumble and got a sack. Doubters wanted to see him play against the starters which he did in the Dolphins game. And to be honest, Minter kind of disappeared last week so doubts remain. It’s not clear if Dallas will get Josh Brent back or not but with that possible, Minter needs to have another strong game. I don’t think he has clinched a spot yet.

3. Safety Ryan Smith:
Smith got noticed early in OTAs as playing with a confidence not always displayed by undrafted rookies. But in preseason games he hasn’t come up with a big play yet. In the final preseason game, I think he needs to have an interception and perhaps a couple passes defended to make the coaches consider keeping him on the roster. I think they like Smith but in my view, he has not made this roster yet.

4. RB Ryan Williams:
Williams has made the most of his opportunities to run the ball in preseason games. He has 112 yards in preseason play and scored a TD in the Ravens game. It’s not clear how many running backs Dallas will keep but it appears Williams is in a close battle with Randle who I think holds a slight lead because of special teams play. With another strong running performance, Williams can make it very difficult for Dallas to cut him. And if he can make a big play on special teams Thursday, he has a good shot of making the roster.

5.WR Jamar Newsome and 6.WR LaRon Byrd:
Newsome and Byrd have had very strong performances in preseason games but unfortunately for them, Dallas is deep at the wide receiver position. Byrd made a nice diving catch for a score in the Dolphins game as he returned to “the U” where he played in college. Newsome had 2 catches for 29 yards and a TD in the Ravens game. Overall I would say Newsome has been slightly more productive than Byrd through three games.

I can’t see how Dallas is able to keep both of these talented receivers and they may not even be able to keep either one but with a strong performance Thursday, one of them could possibly make the roster. If placed on the Practice Squad, I think both are likely to get picked up by other NFL teams.

Dallas Cowboys Third Preseason Game: The Good and The Ugly

It’s known as the “dress rehearsal” game for NFL teams where they go with their starters for a half to see just how ready they are for the season which begins soon. For the Cowboys, there were some things that looked good but there were some parts of this dress rehearsal that were just flat out ugly too.

First a look at the positives and then the areas that will need work.

POSITIVES:

Defense Created Turnovers:

Jason finds a defensive play maker in Patmon

Jason finds a defensive play maker in Patmon

This is not the “Dooms Day” defense and everyone seems aware of that except for the owner Jerry Jones perhaps. It is a defense that is not going to go out and shut down offenses by forcing a lot of three and outs. Not happening. Their only chance to help Dallas win is by creating turnovers and in the Dolphins game, they managed to come up with a few. They will need plenty more of this type of play when the season begins.

Last week in a blog, I pointed to undrafted CB Tyler Patmon as one to watch in this game and he stepped up in a big way as he was involved in every turnover of the game.
1. Patmon forced a fumble on a tackle and Barry Church recovered it.
2. Patmon had an interception when the Dolphins were driving close to the endzone. Really did a nice job of keeping his eyes on the QB and staying in front of the intended receiver.
3. Patmon with a pick 6 thrown by former Cowboys QB Matt Moore. This one was a thing of beauty as Patmon followed the receiver in motion from left to right and then stepped in front of the swing pass to take it in for a score. It was if Patmon had been in the Dolphins huddle before the play. Later he said he recognized the play from film. Patmon displayed outstanding quickness on the interception as well as instincts for the ball.

One thing the Dallas secondary needs is defenders that have ball hawking instincts and Patmon showed he has them. With Scandrick suspended the first four game, Dallas needs depth in the secondary and in Patmon I believe they found a guy who knows how to create turnovers.

“Bend but Don’t Break” Defense:
The Defense certainly allowed plenty of rushing and passing yards in the first half however they played well at the goal line and held the Dolphins to only a field goal in the important first half. To win games this season, the defense will need to make offenses settle for a few FGs. It could be another season of allowing huge numbers of yards based on the preseason, but games are won and lost by scoring not yards.

Kicking Game:
The kicking of Dan Bailey is solid and consistent as he was 2/2 including an impressive 52 yarder. No worries here. Also Dwayne Harris provided some nice kickoff returns as well including a 50 yarder. Punt and kick returns are in good hands with Harris who ended the night with an injury that doesn’t appear serious. He is expected to be ready to go week one.

THE UGLY:

Offensive Line:
I didn’t expect to call out the offensive line, considered the strength of the team, for playing poorly in this preseason game but as a group they had a tough night. QB Tony Romo was sacked three times in the first half with tackle Doug Free responsible for two of those. Free was beat outside and then he got beat inside. The third sack was on guard Ron Leary. While recovering from back surgery, Romo is probably not quite as mobile as we expect him to be so pass protection matters even more. On a positive note he seemed to survive the contact just fine.

Free has struggled some in the past and after this performance, we have to be a little concerned about the right tackle spot.

Also the offensive line never really got Murray going in the run game either as he finished with just 18 yards on 6 carries. Tyron Smith was flagged for a holding call as well as other linemen too. These flags prove to be drive killers for the offense more often than not.

PENALTIES:
I just called out the offensive line for penalties that kill drives and now a call out to the defense that had penalties late in the game which kept the Dolphins game winning drive alive. It included a late hit penalty on the rookie safety Ahmad “the bomb” Dixon on 3rd and 9. That penalty allowed the Dolphins to continue for a TD instead of a FG.

While we enjoy watching Dixon blow up players on the other team for sure, he can’t be called for penalties that keep the chains moving. The team finished the game with a total of 10 penalties for 68 yards. This is an area that needs to improve quickly because this team isn’t good enough to survive many penalties.

LB PLAY:
The Cowboys have desperately been searching for answers at linebacker but so far, they simply haven’t found it yet. And with the bad news of Holloman’s career ending neck injury this week, the Cowboys defense finds itself in an even tougher situation.

In the Dolphins game, LB play was weak and in particular in pass coverage. The two rookie LBs, Smith and Hitchens, are playing like typical rookies with inconsistent play and often appearing lost in pass coverage. Their hope is in Rolando McClain who missed practice this week after suffering muscle cramps. Durant and Carter have been OK for the most part but probably don’t offer long term solutions. As the season progresses, the Cowboys will continue to search for answers at linebacker.

Lack of Pass Rush:
Another area of concern is in applying pressure on opposing QBs. Against the Dolphins the Cowboys front four were just ineffective at pressuring the QB. DE Martez Wilson came away with their only sack of the night and he may be needed more with Selvie suffering a shoulder injury in the game. The defense has yet to include DT Henry Melton who is recovering from a knee injury last season. Last week against the Ravens, DT Zach Minter had a coming out party while playing with the back ups late in the game. But he was much quieter in this game against the Dolphin starters.

Going into the regular season, Dallas can’t feel great about the play of their defensive line so far. Answers needed here as well.

Final Wrap:
The dress rehearsal wasn’t a disaster by any means, but I don’t see how even the most optimistic Cowboy fan can feel great about taking on the 49ers in week one. I like the way the defense created turnovers in the game and made the Dolphins first offense settle for just a FG in the first half.

All the penalties must be a concern and need to get cleaned up. Once the only area of confidence, the offensive line, now causes some concern after that performance. Romo will need time to throw and may not be able to improvise as much as we have become accustomed to seeing from him. The defense will continue to search for answers at LB and defensive line during the season.

4 Players to Watch in the Cowboys Third Preseason Game

Kiffin man crush on Patmon

Kiffin man crush on Patmon

Saturday represents the crucial third preseason game for Dallas where starters get more work, and guys on the roster bubble need to make the most of their precious opportunities. For a variety of reasons, there are a few players who haven’t played much and now find themselves with a small amount of time to impress the coaches.

A look at 4 players who need to standout immediately that will be worth watching in the third preseason game.

1. DT Zach Minter:
Minter was only signed 5 days ago from the Bears when injured rookie defensive lineman Ben Gardner left the team for surgery. Minter entered the game in the 2nd half against the Ravens and made the most of his time by making 2 sacks and causing a fumble.

It was an impressive performance by Minter for sure however, his achievements come with a bit of caveat since he did all this against third string Ravens. During practice this week, Minter has been running some with the first team defense and that means we should see him much sooner in the Dolphins game and against better competition.

Can Minter show up like last week when playing against starters on the offensive line? That’s exactly what the Cowboys defense needs to find out because the defensive line is where they could use the most help.

2. LB Will Smith:
Smith was drafted by Dallas in the 7th round but you probably have heard very little about him during camp. Smith has missed time with a groin injury. Injured groins appear to have replaced the hamstring injuries that Dallas was once plagued with in a case of “if it isn’t one thing it’s another”.

Smith saw his first action as a Cowboy late in the Ravens game and was actually pretty impressive in a short amount of time getting credit for a tackle and an assist.

In evaluating Smith’s college play after Dallas drafted him, I was quite impressed with his ability to move and get to the football. I came to the conclusion that he would impress when the pads come on and I still believe he can help this defense. He is a solid tackler and very active on the field.

Holloman has a neck injury and Dallas is still searching for a LB combination for week one. Smith needs to make the most of his opportunities in the next 2 games and I’m looking for this guy to show the coaches what he can do.

3. CB Tyler Patmon:
The undrafted rookie corner out of Oklahoma State impressed in OTAs but has missed practice in camp with a hip flexor (at least it’s not a groin). He returned to action in the second half of the Ravens game and he recorded a tackle and an assist in limited action. I thought Patmon displayed good cover skills and I noticed that the Raven QB avoided throwing his way because the receiver was covered.

Currently Dallas knows Scandrick will miss the first four games of the season. Claiborne has missed time with a shoulder injury, Webb has continued to struggle in coverage, and the rookie Mitchell has been inconsistent. Patmon will need to have a couple good preseason game performances to make the roster but he should certainly get an opportunity.

I’m watching Patmon to see if he can make some plays and convince the coaches to keep him on the roster.

4. RB Ryan Williams:
The 2nd year player that Dallas signed from the Cardinals, is in a battle for a roster spot with 2nd year player Joseph Randle. I believe Randle may hold a slight edge primarily because he is contributing on special teams. Last week Williams showed something with a TD and 36 yards on 6 carries. His running has been impressive displaying a combination of power and quickness.

Have to think Dallas would prefer to keep just 3 RBs on the roster, but Williams is making a solid case for keeping him as the 4th one. I’m looking for Williams to put together another solid performance to convince the decision makers that they need him on the roster.

Did the Cowboys find a Defensive Lineman in the Ravens Game?

MInter

MInter

Observations from the Cowboys 37-30 loss to the Ravens in a preseason game Saturday.

It’s difficult to evaluate the Cowboys defense when playing such a variety of players. It was a combination of starters, backups, and guys who likely won’t even make the roster, all out there at the same time.

No surprise that the results were a mixed bag but I do think the Cowboys may have found a much needed defensive lineman and I think one guy stepped up on defense that they are expecting to help them. More on that later but first, a look at the return of their QB.

ROMO:
In a earlier blog, “5 Things to look for in the Ravens game” I said I wanted to see how Romo performs in a game. I came away feeling encouraged that he is ready to go but not completely convinced that he is 100%. Romo moved nicely to buy some time and complete a pass for a first down on their first drive which was nice to see.

Later he threw a couple underthrown passes to Dez Bryant which Dez actually turned one into a touchdown with a nice adjustment. Did Romo intend to throw the ball short to let Dez make a play? Or is his back preventing him from putting a zip on deeper passes? Should we be concerned a bit?

I’m actually not sure which is the case but Dez is such a beast it may not matter anyway as long as Romo throws it his way. It is not a bad strategy at this point, to just throw the ball up toward Dez and let him do his thing. Even in double coverage, I like the chances Dez comes down with the ball.

Found a Baller on the Defensive Line?:
The Dallas defense finally recorded a sack Saturday which came from Martez Wilson. But late in the game recently signed Zach “The Sack” Minter entered and took over the game recording two sacks, four tackles a forced fumble. He brought some much needed energy to the defensive line and proved to be unblockable as he led a come back for Dallas that came up a bit short.

Have they found some much needed help on the defensive line in Minter? Perhaps so, but I would like to see him play in the game earlier against better competition next time. The Ravens backups couldn’t handle him but that’s all we really know for now. Minter was previously on the Bears roster.

Rolando McClain Stepping Up:
A big need for Dallas is a player to step up and take control of the middle LB spot and that is why they went out and signed a retired McClain. During the game, he displayed his athletic ability which made him a first round pick by the Raiders. Rolando led the defense with a total of 6 tackles and a forced fumble.

It has been a while since a LB instead of a safety, led the team in tackles. It could be a good sign that Dallas may have their MLB. Durant who has been playing the middle only finished with one tackle in the game.

Where was Ahmad “The Bomb” Dixon?”:
I refer to Dixon as the “The Bomb” because of his aggressive tackling style that unmercifully blows up ball carriers. Earlier I read that Dixon was cleared to play on Thursday with concussion like symptoms, however I didn’t see him in the game Saturday.

It turns out he was suspended for the game by Jason for showing up late for practice on Friday. No word yet on why he was late but after the draft, I noted that Dixon does comes with character red flags. Hopefully the physical safety returns to action next week.

Deep at Wide Receiver:
Wide receiver is one position that Dallas is deep at and eventually they will likely cut a pretty darn good receiver. We know the five they are likely to keep, Dez, Williams, Beasley, Harris and the rookie Street. But Jamar Newsome and LaRon Byrd and making plays that must make Dallas consider keeping a 6th WR. Newsome had 2 catches for 29 yards and a nice TD grab. The 6-4 Byrd caught a 13 yard pass.

If there is an NFL team out there in need of a WR, keep an eye on the Cowboys’ final roster cuts. Could pick up a good receiver.

Commit to the Run:
Before the season, Jason, Jerry, Stephen, and play caller Linehan all talked about how they intended to run the ball this year. We have heard all that before so being a little cynical is justified. So how did it go in the Ravens game? Like last season, it is a tale of two half’s.

In the first half Dallas ran the ball 16 times and passed it 19 times. That’s not a bad ratio and I would consider that committing to the run. But in the 2nd half they passed 16 times and only rushed 8 times. Being down a couple scores will dictate a change in plans.

There are 3 things that can interrupt their commitment to the run game.
1. Penalties. Creates greater distances for a first down.
2. Being behind by a couple scores. Forces passing to lengthen the game.
3. QB audible. Changing the play from a called run to a pass based on defense alignment.

Early in the game, they appeared committed to run Murray but penalties made them turn to the pass. Also I thought the timing with Murray in the game was a off a bit. It was his first action this season and there clearly was rust in the play timing and execution. The fumble on the Romo-Murray exchange was proof of that. It all needs to be tightened up.

Not so special “special teams”:
The kick off coverage was so weak It isn’t worth talking about much. Let’s just all agree it must improve quickly. The kick returns appeared very training camp like and not ready for prime time. Lot of work to do here!

Final Take:
Romo looks good enough to move the ball but I’m not so sure he is totally back yet. When in doubt, throw it up for Dez the beast!

The defense still has a LONG way to go to respectability but they may have found a MLB in McClain and a defensive lineman in Minter to get after the QB.

They should be able to run the ball this season but penalties and getting behind early, threaten to make them a very predictable passing team.