Todd Archer and Tim McMahon have updated their projections for the final roster all preseason, and I think that Archer's projection today really begins to close in on where the decisions lie. Here are the highlights of his predictions:
- He projects Deon Anderson to make the team and Chris Gronkowski to miss out.
If they have to choose, I could see Anderson getting the spot. As Archer says, he's strong at the point of attack, and this team would benefit from fierce lead blocking with John Phillips gone. More on Gronkowski below.
- He projects five receivers on the roster, with Kevin Ogletree beating out Sam Hurd.
Salary and the positional numbers game may knock Hurd off of the team. Ogletree did finally make some plays Saturday night and does look like more of a realistic option for the offense. But with Watkins going, I really wonder if Hurd could be kept just to provide special teams savvy. At any rate, he does appear to be sixth in the pecking order with Crayton staying, so his battle to make the roster is likely with interior linemen and defensive backs at this point.
- He gives Martin Rucker a spot.
The Cowboys need some sort of a third tight end or H-back type, but here is a spot where I can see someone else coming in. They wouldn't be the only team in the market for a tight end, so that market may preclude them from finding someone. But I bet they try, and if they are unsuccessful, I think that I would just as soon see Gronkowski make the roster, though I know that it would limit them in terms of looks and scheme. Rucker just doesn't do much for me.
- With the OL starters, Alex Barron and Montrae Holland being locks, he gives the last three spots to Phil Costa, Sam Young and Robert Brewster.
This is another spot where I expect the Cowboys to be scouring the waiver wire and trade market over the next week. If no moves are made, I think that these are the ten. I think Young makes the team, and management seems to still be pretty high on Brewster's long term potential. Nine would be a possibility except for all of the injuries. Young won't be on the field for a while, two starters will be pushed to make the start of the season, and their backups have battled injuries themselves in camp.
- He keeps both Junior Siavii and Josh Brent.
As time has gone on, this has seemed more and more likely to me. Brent has talent and I would be pretty shocked to see him exposed. He would almost certainly be grabbed. At the same time, I would be reluctant to head into a season with him as the only legitimate cover on the nose. While he is naturally strong and has a good deal of athleticism, at this point he can be moved and turned a little. Siavii has some experience and at least offers some ability to anchor himself and clog the middle.
- He keeps just the four obvious choices - Sean Lee, Jason Williams, Brandon Williams and Victor Butler - at backup linebacker.
Lee is obviously a lock, as is Butler. I do expect both Williamses to make the team based on their long term potential, but, as Archer points out, Steve Octavien may offer more immediate help than Brandon Williams. I would be really surprised to see the latter go, so I think Octavien makes the team only as a ninth guy by beating out the last special teams player at another position.
- There now appears to be a three-way battle for two spots in the secondary.
Bryan McCann, Danny McCray and Barry Church offer different things, and Archer opts for McCann and McCray. I'm not as high on McCann's return ability as Archer, and I wonder if the Cowboys don't view these players in a vacuum and just keep the two safeties. Keeping four corners is dicey for sure, but, really, so is expecting McCann to play a significant role on defense. There are two promising, developing backup free safeties on the roster in Mike Hamlin and AOA, so moving Alan Ball to corner in certain formations for a game or two may be the more attractive defensive alternative anyway. Church could use a good special teams performance Thursday.
To summarize, the following players and positions appear to be fighting for the last four spots (slash indicates that one of the two would already have a spot):
FB - Chris Gronkowski
WR - Sam Hurd
TE - Martin Rucker
OL - Phil Costa/Robert Brewster, Pat McQuistan
DT - Josh Brent/Junior Siavii
LB - Steve Octavien
CB - Brian McCann
S - Danny McCray/Barry Church
That changes with a waivers pickup or a trade, but the numbers should be steady.
I expect the following to miss out on 53-man spots. Some are likely to make a practice squad or an injured list: