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The NFL is not a game that features much in the way of perfection. It is also a game that does not lend itself well to prolonged excellence. But one of the players who comes close to that almost unattainable standard is someone who is not all that familiar to most followers of the game. And it is L.P. Ladouceur, a long snapper, the most anonymous position on any football team.

Ladouceur has been a rock-solid fixture for the Dallas Cowboys since his rookie season in 2005, when he was brought aboard after being released by the New Orleans Saints. A Pro Bowler in 2014, he has been immaculate at his role without a single errant snap in his career. Entering this upcoming season, he has made clean snaps on 940 punts, 428 field goals and 592 PATs, including the playoffs.

He will be returning for his 15th year in a Cowboys’ uniform after signing a one year deal in March.

The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur’s 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Mark… https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e

— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) March 19, 2019

Ladouceur’s length of service with the star on his helmet puts him in rare company with the likes of Jason Witten, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei.

As a specialist at his role, Ladouceur checks all the boxes. He can clearly snap. He can block. He can tackle.

Former special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia once remarked about the traits for the position several years ago.

“They basically have to be a linebacker, but backward. Be able to snap the ball like the quarterback throws. Put all that together and you get a pretty good long snapper.”

Ladouceur’s 2018 season was the usual. No errant snaps, but it was one of his more remarkable seasons due to one moment where his name was mentioned in a football game. And as is the norm with long snappers, it is rarely a good thing when that is the case.

Against the Redskins on October 21, The Cowboys were lined up to attempt a potential 47-yard game-tying kick with three seconds remaining in the game, and then the unthinkable happened. Ladouceur was seemingly imperfect. He was flagged for a false start. The ensuing five-yard penalty made it a tougher 52-yard attempt on kicker Brett Maher. His kick ended up hitting the left upright as time expired.

Would have been good from 47.

Penalty pushes it back five yards.

Maher misses from 52. Cowboys lose.#CowboysNation #DALvsWAS pic.twitter.com/LHLe9BQgUK

— Joey Hayden (@_joeyhayden) October 21, 2018

“Never had that before, I do the exact same thing every time, so when that happens, that’s what I was telling the ref, ‘I do the exact same thing.’ I just adjust it down so I can put my hands on the bottom of it so I can snap it in the right direction. The exact same thing I’ve been doing for 14 years.”

“The illegal ball movement by the center in #DALvsWAS causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman.” -AL pic.twitter.com/Cv8Ugwb99p

— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) October 21, 2018

Even in this case, Ladouceur’s consistency came into play, mostly due to Washington’s coaching staff pointing it out to the officiating crew.

Ladouceur’s upcoming season should be much like every other, more of the same. He has lasted through three coaching eras in Dallas, playing for Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and now Jason Garrett. And it is not as if the Cowboys have not provided him competition for him to earn his role through the years.

No less than three current NFL long snappers have been in a camp battle at some point with the veteran. Since he succeeded Jon Condo, the Cowboys have had Casey Kreiter (Broncos), Charley Hughlett (Browns) and Zach Wood (Saints) in their training camps and he outlasted them all.
Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

This year, Dallas has Kansas State product Drew Scott as the latest “challenger” for his job. It is far more likely that Scott will be in Oxnard to provide the veteran some rest and give an audition for 2020, should LaDouceur decide to hang up his cleats.

The Cowboys have not switched long snappers since week 4 of the 2005 season when an unknown Canadian-born athlete defensive lineman out of the University of California was signed after he impressed at a tryout.

As far as 2019 is concerned, it will be a major upset if Ladouceur is not out there again, doing his thing. Flawlessly.

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Cheap Randall Cobb Jersey

Cowboys receiver Randall Cobb joined the Dennis and Cowlishaw show on ESPN Dallas 103.3 [KESN-FM] recently to talk about all things regarding the team. Here are some of the highlights.

On developing chemistry with Dak Prescott

Cobb: “Right now, the biggest thing is me learning the offense and trying to pick up on everything as fast as I can and communicating with [Dak Prescott] through our routes and just get on the same page as him and be on that chemistry. That takes time and I’m just trying to do it as fast as I can.

“What I love about him is his competitive nature. He’s definitely a competitor the way he comes out here and competes in practice every day. He’s in tune with the offense, he knows exactly what he wants to get to, he knows the checks that he needs to make. The protection adjustments, he does a great job with that and just making sure that we’re on page with whatever check he makes at receiver. He does a great job signaling that to us and he’s made some great throws and me and him are continuing to build our chemistry.”

On if he compares Dak Prescott to Aaron Rodgers

Cobb: “No. That’s not what I do. There’s different types of players and different things that people do. It’s like comparing receivers. You can look at the stats all you want, but the way they run the routes are differently. I’m just trying to get on page with him and continue to grow.”

On why he comes to Dallas with a chip on his shoulder

Cobb: “I’ve had a chip on my shoulder since I was a kid. That don’t change because I’m in the pros now, that don’t change because I’m on a different team. Obviously, circumstances change. This is a business, this is part of it. Things happen, you end up other places, but I’m excited for this opportunity and there’s a reason they tell you to not read the comments on Twitter and read the comments on social media, but I think there’s a lot of people out there that doubt me and I’m cool with that. I’m fine with that.

RELATED: Randall Cobb’s QB days are helping him learn the Cowboys’ offense as he enters year with a ‘chip’ on his shoulder

“I’ve been doubted my whole life, from high school to college to now so I’m fine with stepping up to the plate and going to bat and doing everything I can to prove what I want to prove to myself and to know that I can do what I want to do.”

On his statistical decline in recent years

Cobb: “I only played in nine games last year so obviously my numbers aren’t going to be comparable to years before. I was used a little bit differently than I had been early in my career. It’s a lot of things that you can factor in, but at the end of the day, the only thing you can look at are the numbers and the numbers aren’t what I would like to see and the numbers aren’t comparable to somebody you would consider a top slot receiver in the league or top whatever in the league. I’m excited to be here and hopefully be able to play 16 games and prove myself.”

On his impressions of Kellen Moore at offensive coordinator

Cobb: “I’m excited to work with Kellen, I’m excited to learn from him. I think that he is showing so far here in our OTAs that he’s a multiple-formation guy and he likes to spread the ball around and get it to his playmakers and that’s one thing we have a lot of. Lots of playmakers, a lot of guys that can make a play downfield and also a couple of running backs in the backfield that can make big runs.

On his role with the Cowboys

Cobb: “You can label me whatever you want, put me in whatever box you want, but at the end of the day I’m a football player and I’m here to make plays. Whatever opportunities I get, I’m going to try and be the best I can and do everything I can to help this team out.”

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Cheap George Iloka Jersey

On first blush, it seems that things are going slow for Cowboys safety George Iloka, a veteran free-agent signee charged with the task of unseating Jeff Heath at strong safety.
Heath was second in the league with 22 broken tackles in 2018, according to Pro Football Outsiders. And he had 19 missed tackles, including 13 in the run game – a league-high for safeties, according to Pro Football Focus.

His tackling efficiency was second-worst in the league among those who played at least 535 defensive snaps, 63rd out of 64 eligible players, per PFF.

And this doesn’t even include the missed assignment by Heath in the NFC Divisional playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

So the Cowboys did a lot of homework in the off-season looking to upgrade the position.

They brought in Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry for visits in free agency before signing Iloka to a modest one-year deal for $930,000.

The Cowboys considered taking a safety in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft but opted for defensive tackle Trysten Hill. They eventually took Texas A&M’s Donovan Wilson in the sixth round.

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Cheap Mike Jackson Sr. Jersey

Dallas Cowboys: CB Mike Jackson Sr.
9 OF 32

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press
Dallas Cowboys DBs coach Kris Richard has long favored size in the secondary. Given that, it wasn’t surprising that the team used a fifth-round pick on Miami’s Mike Jackson Sr., a 6’1″, 210-pounder who head coach Jason Garrett raved about while speaking to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News.

“He certainly has all of the physical tools,” Garrett said. “He’s big, long, fast, physical, all the things we like in our guys. He’s best in press [coverage]. You’re talking about drafting a guy in the fifth round at a premium position with all the traits you’re looking for. Again, we liked him a lot. Strongly endorsed by the people in Miami on the kind of guy he is.

“All those things are very favorable.”

The Cowboys have several young talents in the secondary, but Jackson has the ability to at the very least earn some work in the dime, if not push third-year pro Chidobe Awuzie for the right to start opposite Byron Jones.

 

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FRISCO, Texas – Rookie offensive lineman Connor McGovern, the final unsigned draft pick in the Cowboys’ 2019 class, has agreed to contract terms.

McGovern, a former All-Big Ten selection at Penn State, gives the Cowboys position flexibility at guard or center. He’s not practicing at this week’s minicamp because of a pectoral strain.

Typically third-round picks take a little longer to sign because of salary language in the NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement.

The Cowboys’ other seven draft picks have already signed their rookie deals: Trysten Hill, Tony Pollard, Michael Jackson, Joe Jackson, Donovan Wilson, Mike Weber and Jalen Jelks.

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It’s been a rather exciting offseason for the 2019 Dallas Cowboys. After making quite a few splashes in free agency and the trade market, Cowboys fans seemed to be much more excited heading into the NFL draft this offseason, more so than others.

If there’s one position Cowboys Nation still seems to be concerned about it’s the talent at the safety position outside of third-year safety Xavier Woods. With Jeff Heath slated to be the starting strong safety, many Cowboys fans are ready to see some new blood take over as the starter. Heath hasn’t been a bad player for the Cowboys, but there’s no denying that if there was one position that could be upgraded on the defensive side of the ball, strong safety would likely be at the top of the list.

After not signing Earl Thomas in free agency, and not looking to make a trade for any of the names floated around on the market, Cowboys fans are left wondering who on the current roster will be giving Jeff Heath competition in training camp and the preseason?

It may just be sixth-round pick, Donovan Wilson.

Wilson is the epitome of strong safety with his big hit ability, and cover abilities out of the slot. Wilson, while lacking ideal size, plays with tremendous effort, toughness, and leadership at the safety position, and is already started to turn some heads this offseason in OTA’s and minicamp.

Wilson’s pick to end practice was easily the play of the day for me.

The rookie darted from the numbers to the sideline after reading Rush’s throw. Dove at the sideline to come down with the INT, which the ref ruled a catch.

— David Helman (@HelmanDC) June 11, 2019
While Donovan Wilson is known more for his run-support abilities and enforcing skills in the middle of the field, continuing to make plays on the football while in coverage will force Jeff Heath to bring his “A” game this offseason. Wilson is coming for the starting strong safety job.

While it’s still early, and Wilson still has a long ways to go, splash plays like this should get fans excited for his ability to stick around the next four years, and potentially play a much more valuable role in the Dallas defense than many expected when he was drafted in the sixth round by the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Donovan Wilson could push Jeff Heath for the starting strong safety role?

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Cheap Mike Weber Jr. Jersey

Dallas Cowboys running back Mike Weber Jr. runs drills during the Cowboys rookie minicamp practices at The Star in Frisco, Texas on Friday, May 10, 2019.(Shaban Athuman/Staff Photographer)

By Jon Machota , Staff Writer Contact Jon Machotaon Twitter:@jonmachota

FRISCO — Cowboys rookie running back Mike Weber left Saturday’s morning rookie minicamp practice with a knee injury. The seventh-round pick out of Ohio State attended the afternoon practice but did not participate.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Weber is expected to have an MRI.

The two days of rookie minicamp are considered to be more of an orientation. Players do not wear helmets or pads and the work on the field is non-contact.

The Cowboys selected Weber last month to compete for a backup role and help manage Ezekiel Elliott’s touches. Dallas also used a fourth-round pick on versatile back Tony Pollard. They view Weber as a more traditional back.

“I loved him on tape. I loved him when I went to Ohio State and watched him,” Cowboys running back coach Gary Brown said of Weber. “He can do all three downs. That’s the type of back we want to draft. We want three-down guys that can protect the ball and protect the quarterback and play well in the running game.”

The 5-10, 211-pound Weber was one of the Cowboys’ 30 pre-draft national visitors. During his three seasons at Ohio State, he rushed for 2,676 yards and 24 touchdowns. He battled through hamstring and foot injuries in college.

“When I first got to Ohio State, Zeke did a good job of helping me with the playbook and showing me the ropes,” Weber said Friday. “When I was hurt, he helped me out a lot. I think it’s the same thing over again. He can help me again.”

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Dallas Cowboys Will McClay: This late rounder jumped off the tape! – Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat
Which late-round rookie stood out to Will McClay in the 2019 draft process?

Here’s what McClay told Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about Oregon defensive end Jalen Jelks, the team’s final selection (241st, seventh round) in the 2019 NFL Draft.

“[Jelks] just jumped off the tape. The length, the ability, the effort, the motor. You see it all on tape. He played a multitude of positions at Oregon so he never got to hone in on one. But he was competitive everywhere. He battled in there, even against the guards and was productive and disruptive.”

There is plenty to be excited about when it comes to Jelks. Possessing a tall but thin frame at 6-foot-5, 256 pounds, the rookie defensive end needs to add some bulk and strength to find success on the next level. But he possesses the raw traits, tenacity, and mobility that could land him a spot on the active roster in his first season. Especially with the questions surrounding the availability of both suspended pass rusher Randy Gregory and veteran Tyrone Crawford.

Three rookies who might just fight their way onto the Cowboys 53-man roster – Danny Phantom, Blogging the Boys
BTB’s own Danny Phantom gives three under-the-radar rookies who may push for a roster spot.

CB Chris Westry, Kentucky – undrafted

The Wildcats backup cornerback has been on our radar as he was one of the 65 players on our final big board as a potential late-round pick. His size and press ability just seems to fit perfect with what Kris Richard likes in his corners. At 6’4” and 33 3⁄4 “ arms, Westry presents an imposing wingspan, and when you combine that with his 4.3 speed, he can provide quite an obstacle to throw over.

What I’m excited about: He’s a wild card wildcat, but you have to love the traits. He might not amount to anything, but then again – he could be a mold of clay Richard can work with. Westry is smothering, and if he can work out some of his balance issues, he might be a nice depth guy for the future.

What I’m interested in seeing: Can he be more disciplined with his hands? Westry is a grabber and as nice as it is to see him all over the receiver throughout the route, but if he can’t control his hands, he’ll be a liability out there.

Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott not on board with reduced workload – Colton Pickard, NFL Spin Zone
There has been a ton of talk about reducing Ezekiel Elliott’s workload in 2019. Is that something he’s okay with?

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott isn’t too happy about the possibility of him being pulled off the field more often in 2019, something running backs coach Gary Brown mentioned last week. Elliott is an All-Pro running back, so it makes sense that he would want to stay on the field more often than not.

However, he is extremely valuable to the Cowboys and it looks like the coaching staff is going to try to protect their star running back. In the past couple of years, Elliott has been the reason the Cowboys offense has had success — and he knows that. Elliott touched the ball on over 35 percent of the Cowboys’ play in 2018, so his importance to the Cowboys offense is not understated.

Brown said last week that Elliott would eventually slow down if he continued to take on his current workload. Elliott didn’t like those comments, and in response at the Cowboys’ annual charity fundraiser on Wednesday, he said “I haven’t worn down yet”:

Cowboys safety Jeff Heath has a chip on his (healing) shoulder – Mike Fisher, 247Sports
Fisher’s latest on Jeff Heath, and the noise surrounding his name and job.

FRISCO – Jeff Heath is lining himself up to hit some golf balls at teammate Travis Frederick’s “Block Hunger’’ charity event at Top Golf when it occurs to me that just 20 minutes earlier the Dallas Cowboys safety told me he would not be hitting golf balls on this night.

”I’ve got a minor shoulder thing,’’ Heath told me, “so I’m going to be careful with it.’’

But here he is, swinging away, albeit “carefully.’’

”I was just working on my short game,’’ Heath later jokes to me. “No big swings.’’

Twenty-four hours later, Heath is part of the lineup for the Cowboys Home Run Derby to raise money via Reliant Energy for The Salvation Army. And here he is again, taking his swings — again maybe “carefully,’’ but swings nevertheless.

SOURCE: Cowboys begin talks with Jaylon Smith, projected deal – Patrik Walker, 247Sports
Could the Cowboys be looking to lock up Jaylon Smith ahead of his 2020 RFA? A source close to the situation thinks so.

A source close to the situation tells me the Cowboys have begun talks with linebacker Jaylon Smithas well — one no one outside of the organization saw coming.

Smith is set to become a restricted free agent after 2019, meaning the Cowboys have the right to issue a tender that could be original round, second-round or first-round. Seeing as his original round is the second round — being the 34th-overall pick in 2016 — that leaves just two options, in reality. There is a difference between those two tenders from a financial aspect, and we’ll get into that momentarily. Logic dictates they’d put a first-round tender on him, though, considering he was a consensus top-5 talent before suffering a catastrophic knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl nearly five months ahead of the draft.

Smith was told by many he’d never play football again, but the Cowboys’ medical staff didn’t agree, and rolled the dice on him. Following a redshirt rookie season, which is why he’d be an RFA in 2020, Smith had a mix of growing pains and awe-inspiring plays in his 2017 return to the field and debut in the NFL.

Rank ‘Em: Where’s Beasley Among Opposing WRs? – Bryan Broaddus, DallasCowboys.com
Where does former Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley land on the receiver rankings the Cowboys will face in 2019?

Yes, the Cowboys still have 10 offseason practices to go through. But with the draft out of the way, we’ve seen most of the excitement until training camp finally starts in late July.

With that in mind, I’m thinking ahead to this year’s schedule. It’s way too early to know how the NFL pecking order will shake out, but we do know the Cowboys will be going against some great players this fall.

Over the next couple weeks, I want to preview the best of the Cowboys’ opposition at each position – starting today with receivers.

Cowboys News: Jason Witten Says Current Team Has ‘The Most Talent I’ve Seen’ – Adam Wells, Bleacher Report
Check out what starting TE Jason Witten had to say about the current state of the Dallas Cowboys roster!

Per Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Witten said the Cowboys roster has “the most talent I’ve seen” in his time with the organization.

Dallas certainly has enough talent to be among the best in the NFC in 2019. Its defense ranked sixth in the NFL with 20.3 points allowed per game and seventh with 329.3 yards allowed per game last season.

Quarterback Dak Prescott has had his ups and downs, but the 25-year-old completed 67.7 percent of his attempts in 2018 and has thrown at least 22 touchdown passes in each of his first three seasons.

The Cowboys also have Ezekiel Elliott, who has led the league in rushing yards twice in the past three seasons, and Amari Cooper, who notched 725 receiving yards and six touchdowns in nine games last year after he was acquired from the Oakland Raiders.

Christian Covington called “under-the-radar move to love” for the Cowboys this offseason – Dave Halprin, Blogging the Boys
This offseason has been a whirlwind for the Cowboys, that the signing of Christian Covington has flown under-the-radar. Don’t forget about the intriguing iDL.

When talking about the Cowboys defensive tackle position this offseason, most of the conversation is around Trysten Hill. The Cowboys chose Hill with their first pick of the 2019 draft (58th overall) to supplement the middle of the defensive line. Hill’s tabbed to play the 3-tech spot, and will be asked to use his athleticism and quick-twitch get-off to create havoc in the opposing backfield. That’s something the Cowboys need, especially now that David Irving will no longer be with the team.

But there’s another aspect to the middle of the defensive line, and that’s clogging the middle and stuffing the run. The Cowboys got worked toward the end of the season in that department, here’s how John Owning explained it:

Against the Colts and Rams last season, Cowboys defensive tackles were thoroughly dominated by opposing interior offensive linemen, enabling blockers to get to the second level quickly to inhibit the effectiveness of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Cowboys defensive tackles failed to hold their ground at the point of attack as they were easily displaced from their gaps, opening giant alleys for opposing ball carriers.

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One of the most repeated descriptions of the Dallas Cowboys roster this offseason is that they are a deep team. They have certainly loaded up at some positions. The staff is going to be faced with some hard decisions at the end of training camp. However, that depth is not evenly distributed. Forced to deal with a cap on how many players can be signed, no team can address all needs the same. The Cowboys have certainly made some specific allocations already.

That depth not only tells us where the camp battles will be, but also where the team is likely planning on going a bit short or long. It can also point out some places that there could be some churn even before the team reports to Oxnard.

But depth is about much more than numbers. It also is affected by the talent level and experience of players.

As we are about to wind up minicamp and go into the dead zone before training camp opens, here is how the team stands position-by-position.

Quarterback
Right off the bat. we get to a place where things are not very good – and it is a perennial. With only Mike White and Cooper Rush to back up Dak Prescott, the team is flirting with disaster.

However, so are most NFL teams. The situation in Philly a couple of seasons ago was definitely the exception, rather than the rule. In acknowledgment of the fact that many of you may have blocked the memories due to the trauma involved, I will remind you that the Eagles lost their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, who was having a superb year and had led the team to an 11-2 record. They were able to plug in Nick Foles, who only went on to be named MVP in the Super Bowl.

It is exceedingly rare to have two starting level QBs on an NFL roster. There are actually not 32 of them to go around. So teams have to either rely on an untried young player (like the Cowboys are) or carry a veteran who will hopefully help them stay competitive. As you may also have blocked from you mind, that is what Dallas tried and failed miserably to do in 2015.
Still, neither White nor Rush looked good last preseason. Actually, they really didn’t look all that competent. The Cowboys need to have one of them step up this summer. If Prescott would not be available for an extended stretch, the season is likely not going to go well. What they need is someone who can keep the wheels from falling all the way off for two or three games. Right now, that is not at all certain.

Running back
Like at quarterback, the running back situation is set at the top, but there is not anything assured behind Ezekiel Elliott. Tony Pollard looks promising. He is also obviously untried at the pro level. Behind him, Darius Jackson and Mike Weber are probably fighting for one backup job. The team may elect to try and keep Jackson, if he does well in camp, and stash Weber on the practice squad. There are plenty of backs out there, so the risk of him being poached would be low.

Jamize Olawale is the lone fullback, but no team carries two of those. Many don’t bother with it at all.

Tight end
Looking at the numbers, it seems likely that the team is just going to carry three on the 53-man roster. This is also affected by the ascension of Kellen Moore to offensive coordinator. It is expected that he will prefer to use more wide receivers in his sets and fewer multiple TE packages. Jason Witten is of course one of the wiliest veterans in the league, and Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz are not bad backup options. This may well be the end of the Rico Gathers experiment. The team also has Codey McElroy. The fact many of you just went “Who?” says about all you need to know there.

Wide receiver
OK, now for some really good news. This is a loaded position, with a dozen currently on the roster. And most of them are just plain fast. One thing that came out in the OTAs is that the deep pass is getting a lot of work, and it has looked very good. Prescott is of course a part of that, but the guys have also been catching the ball well.

Although it is not outside the realm of possibility for the team to carry seven into the season, it is doubtful, given other needs. Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Michael Gallup are locks, which leaves us with a real dogfight for what will probably be three more slots. And, health permitting, none of the remaining names can be disregarded. Allen Hurns and Cedrick Wilson still have to show they are fully recovered, and Tavon Austin also had an injury. But look at the rest: Noah Brown, Lance Lenoir, Jon’Vea Johnson, Jalen Guyton, Devin Smith, and Reggie Davis. Some will undoubtedly falter in camp and preseason, but Johnson and Davis were turning heads in OTAs, and any of them can stake a claim with a strong showing, This is a loaded group with a good mix of experience and untried potential.

Offensive line
We are all hoping Travis Frederick is back to his old form, or at least close to it. And his superb ability to call protections is just as important as his physical condition. If Tyron Smith and Zack Martin can stay healthy, the core is in extremely good shape. Connor Williams is bigger and hopefully better, while La’el Collins seemed to be benefiting from the switch to Marc Colombo as line coach midway through the season.

But here, the depth may be the most valuable on the team. That doesn’t just apply to being able to keep winning if one of the starters is out, especially for just a few games. It is a major plus for preseason. Too often in the past, the backup QBs were not able to perform well because they were under constant pressure behind a poor bunch of backups in the preseason games, when the starters were cocooned in bubble wrap on the sidelines. But now, the team has Cameron Fleming, Joe Looney, and Xavier Su’a-Filo, all of whom started games last year, and who could probably win a starting job on one or more other NFL teams. Offensive line depth is not good across the league. Add in rookies Connor McGovern, Mitch Hyatt, and Brandon Knight, and the blocking should be markedly improved in preseason, which will aid immeasurably in evaluating White and Rush. Adam Redmond, Cody Wichmann, Jake Campos, Larry Allen, Jr,, and Derrick Puni are the third string, and most of them are not going to be around in September. Still, there is a reason the team has sixteen linemen. We may see one or two released before camp, but it may be a good idea to hang on to as many as possible to get through the preseason grind. Look for them to try and carry at least nine on the 53, with one or two stashed on the PS.

Defensive line
The Cowboys have a clear preference for building the roster from the inside out, and they have done the same thing on the defensive line of scrimmage. They also have sixteen on the roster now, and just as the will likely go heavy on the offensive line, look for them to have nine or ten defensive linemen on the season roster as well.

DeMarcus Lawrence is the crown jewel, but there is impressive talent to line up with him. Robert Quinn, Maliek Collins, and Antwuan Woods are the leaders to start. Tyrone Crawford is able to play all positions, depending on the situation. Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong are looking to prove they belong in the rotation. Kerry Hyder and Christian Covington are intriguing veteran additions. Trysten Hill, Joe Jackson, Jalen Jelks, Ricky Walker, and Daniel Wise were the rookies brought in to beef up the group. Soto Shakir (another “Who?”) looks to be the odd man out.

And there is still the possibility that Randy Gregory might be reinstated. Even without him, this is another deep and talented bunch.

Linebacker
Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee (if he stays healthy) just might be the best starting trio in the league. Joe Thomas could win a starting job on some teams. Justin March-Lilliard is a good depth player, and Chris Covington has value as a special teams player. The Cowboys went heavy in the UDFA market to find some options to carry a seventh (which may be needed given how valuable they are on ST), signing Luke Gifford, Nate Hall, Justin Phillips, and Andrew Dowell. That may be more about protecting the starters in preseason, but they have the numbers now to do that. The preseason may see some substandard performance, but with that trio of starters, it is not a concern.

Cornerbacks
The top four look solid, with Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie as the starters, Anthony Brown the current slot, and Jourdan Lewis just doing too much for his failure to fit Kris Richards’ template to knock him out of contention. Mike Jackson will likely force them to carry at least five corners this year, and Chris Westry is really big, which has to have Richards intrigued. C.J. Goodwin, Treston Decoud, and Donovan Olumba will probably wind up carrying a lot of the load in preseason, although all face an uphill battle in breaking through.

Safeties
In a bit of a pattern that has emerged this year, the further you get from the line of scrimmage, the worse the depth is, and safety caps this off. Xavier Woods is certainly good, but Jeff Heath has too much of a tendency to be a boom or bust player on any given play. Kavon Frazier is a bit underrated and will almost certainly stick due to his ST value. George Iloka was brought in to provide some help. The team must have some faith in him since they waited until the sixth round to draft Donovan Wilson. The rest of the group consists of Kyle Queiro, Jameill Showers, and Darian Thompson. That could also lead to some spotty play in preseason, although Queiro shows flashes at times. But finding four or five solid performers here is crucial for the team, and it is still one of the most concerning spots for the Cowboys.

Specialists
L.P. Ladouceur is simply perfect so far in his career, and there is no sign he is going to fall off. Scott Drew is here just to give Ladouceur a rest – we think. (Never forget what happened with Dan Bailey.)

That brings us to Bailey’s replacement, Brett Maher, who was not exactly a model of consistency last year. Punter Kasey Redfern has been handling some of the placekicking duties in the OTAs, but is he really competition there? The team may well elect to bring in another leg during camp to see if Maher is the way they want to go.

Chris Jones may face real competition from Redfern. After last year, we all should be ready for anything.

That is the whole list. If you stuck with it, you can see that there is outstanding depth at some positions, but others are not nearly as good. Injuries are sadly a part of life in training camp and preseason, so things can change in a hurry. Some of the groups can weather those better than others. We will find out just how well the team prepared in a few months.

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Can an undrafted rookie out of Nebraska crack the Dallas Cowboys final-53 man roster at one of it’s most stacked positions?
In the recent past, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line has been considered the overall best positional group on the entire team. And with three perennial Pro Bowlers on their depth chart, it’s easy to see why.

But very quickly, the Cowboys linebacker corps is starting to rival their offensive line. This upcoming season, Dallas is expected to field the most talented group of linebackers in the NFL. With a projected starting lineup that includes two-time Pro Bowler Sean Lee, former second-rounder Jaylon Smith and one of last year’s top rookies, Leighton Vander Esch, there simply is no other defense in the entire league that can match that talented trio.

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Beyond the star-studded starters, the Cowboys linebacker corps features some quality depth as well. Veteran Joe Thomas returns for another season in Dallas after impressing early last year. Justin March-Lillard is also back, but his impact has mainly been on special teams so far. Kyle Queiro is a converted safety that is a name to watch this summer. Finally, Chris Covington was a sixth-round selection last year whom the Cowboys certainly hope can take another step in his development this offseason.

In this year’s draft, the Cowboys didn’t select a single linebacker with their eight total picks. Instead, the team brought in a trio of undrafted rookie free agents including Michigan State’s Andrew Dowell, Northwestern’s Nate Hall, and Nebraska’s Luke Gifford. The latter has been earmarked by DallasCowboys.com’s Bryan Broaddus as his kiss of death player to watch through OTAs.

Here’s what Broaddus had to say about the undrafted rookie linebacker’s play so far.

” … keep an eye on Luke Gifford – the linebacker out of Nebraska … there is something about his game that translates to this scheme … It appears the defensive staff is asking him to play more inside, which has allowed his instincts to shine. Gifford has some slippery traits to him. He has a feel for how to play through gaps and avoid blocks.”
Hip injuries really impacted Gifford’s college career. But the former team captain has the intangibles, motor, and leadership qualities that the Cowboys covet. Gifford posted a solid senior season for the Cornhuskers, recording 62 stops, a team-high 13 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks according to NFL.com.

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NEXT: Top 10 Undrafted Free Agents in Dallas Cowboys History
In order to crack one of the most talented positional groups on the Dallas Cowboys roster, Luke Gifford will likely have to earn his bones as a special teams ace. But the fact Gifford is impressing this early into OTAs is a positive sign. But can the rookie continue to impress into training camp and the preseason? It’s worth watching.