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Dallas Cowboys Roster Cuts: Breaking Down The 53

There were some pleasant surprises, as well as some head-scratchers, when the Cowboys announced who made the cut on Friday night.

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Quarterback (3)

  • Tony Romo
  • Kyle Orton
  • Stephen McGee

** Note: Stephen McGee was reportedly cut on Saturday morning.

Tony Romo and Kyle Orton are the best combination of quarterbacks the Dallas Cowboys have had on the roster in a very long time.

Stephen McGee making this roster is an absolute shame. He has shown barely any development since being drafted in 2009. His spot on the 53-man roster is preventing another player from making the team with the actual talent to develop into something for the future.

I understand the need of carrying three quarterbacks in the NFL, but McGee is just not a very good football player.

Running Back (3)

  • DeMarco Murray
  • Felix Jones
  • Phillip Tanner

If Murray gets the blocking up front, he will be in line for a huge season. Felix Jones is in his contract season, but hasn't managed to stay healthy or consistent during his career in Dallas. If I were the Cowboys, I would field offers for him, but that is a whole other topic.

Phillip Tanner missed time with a hand injury, but he rushed back and performed well against the Miami Dolphins. Tanner has a bright future with this team. Lance Dunbar nearly made the team and should be a candidate for the practice squad.

Fullback (1)

  • Lawrence Vickers

Vickers was brought in via free agency for a reason, to block. He has been one of the better blocking fullbacks in the NFL, and there was nobody on the roster who could really challenge him for his roster spot.

Undrafted free agent Jamize Olawale is a versatile player who can possibly play a short yardage and FB/TE hybrid role, so he is another candidate for the practice squad.

Tight End (3)

  • Jason Witten
  • John Phillips
  • James Hanna

Witten is one of the best in the game, but his spleen injury may keep him on the sideline for the season opener against the New York Giants.

Phillips and Hanna should be able to pick up some of the slack with Witten gone. Each player looks to be a good receiving threat, but their blocking leaves a lot to be desired. Don't be surprised if the Cowboys look to add a blocking tight end.

Wide Receiver (6)

  • Miles Austin
  • Dez Bryant
  • Kevin Ogletree
  • Dwayne Harris
  • Cole Beasley
  • Andre Holmes

Austin and Bryant need to stay on the field. Unfortunately for the Cowboys' offense, they haven't been able to at the same time. Depth is a major concern at the wide receiver position. Ogletree and Harris could step in and play on the outside if needed, and Harris brings a special teams aspect to the 53-man roster.

In my opinion, Beasley was a lock to make this team since mini-camp. He could develop into a very good slot receiver for the Cowboys.

The most surprising decision made at receiver was releasing fifth-round draft pick Danny Coale in favor of Jerry Jones pet cat Andre Holmes. Even with six wide receivers on the roster, it wouldn't be a shocker to see the Cowboys sign a veteran, of course that will only happen if the right name hits the streets.

Offensive Line (9)

  • Tyron Smith
  • Nate Livings
  • Phil Costa
  • Mackenzy Bernadeau
  • Doug Free
  • Ryan Cook
  • David Arkin
  • Jeremy Parnell
  • Derrick Dockery

Really no surprises here except for the last minute trade for former Minnesota Viking and Miami Dolphin offensive lineman Ryan Cook. The Cowboys didn't want to get into a bidding war for his services, so they surrendered a 2013 seventh-round pick.

Ronald Leary received a draftable grade from the Cowboys' scouting department, and a received a hefty signing bonus from Jerry Jones. He was downright terrible during the pre-season, but he is another candidate for the practice squad where he can develop.

Defensive Line (7)

  • Jay Ratliff
  • Jason Hatcher
  • Kenyon Coleman
  • Sean Lissemore
  • Marcus Spears
  • Josh Brent
  • Tyrone Crawford

Veteran defensive ends Coleman and Spears are rumored to be on the trading block, but I don't see a team giving up anything too significant, if anything at all for them. They were both pushed by undrafted free agent Ben Bass, but Bass was released and is another candidate for the practice squad.

Even if they don't trade Coleman or Spears, the Cowboys' defensive line looks to be stronger than it was last year. Brent and Lissemore could see a lot of playing time if Ratliff doesn't get healthy in 2012. He is on the wrong side of 30 and is beginning to suffer the type of injuries that linger throughout the season.

Inside Linebacker (4)

  • Sean Lee
  • Bruce Carter
  • Dan Connor
  • Alex Albright

Second year linebacker Orie Lemon intercepted a pass against the Dolphins and ran it back for a touchdown, but it wasn't enough to keep him on the team. Lemon has come a long way since joining the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent last year. He continues to develop his overall game, but his lack of speed is a liability. He is another candidate to come back and join the practice squad.

Albright is extremely versatile and that is what kept him on the team. He can play as a defensive end in four man fronts, inside linebacker and outside linebacker. He is the type of player you keep around and plug him in when needed.

Outside Linebacker (4)

  • DeMarcus Ware
  • Anthony Spencer
  • Victor Butler
  • Kyle Wilber

The worst decision that the Cowboys made was releasing undrafted free agent Adrian Hamilton. He flashed his pass rushing ability during the pre-season, but the book on him is that his lack of contribution on special teams kept him off the roster.

Personally, I don't see Hamilton coming back to the Cowboys. I believe a team will pick him up, but I would love to see him back on the practice squad. It may have been wise to give him a few snaps a game on the 53-man roster and develop him slowly, but that isn't going to happen for Hamilton in Dallas. With Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler set to become free agents in 2013, the Cowboys should probably start thinking about the future at outside linebacker.

Cornerback (5)

  • Brandon Carr
  • Morris Claiborne
  • Orlando Scandrick
  • Mike Jenkins
  • Mario Butler

Cornerback is the strongest and most talented it has been in years. The front office made it a priority to upgrade their secondary, and they made it happen.

Jenkins was close to becoming a casualty of the PUP (physical unable to perform) list, but that would have prevented him from playing until the seventh week of the season. He has been cleared to practice, but I want to make something clear. He has barely even run this training camp, so he is not even close to being in football shape. I don't expect to see him give us any real contribution, until at the very least, after the bye week.

Butler has been playing a lot of free safety during training camp and the pre-season. Having the ability to play cornerback and safety is going to be a great tool for Rob Ryan in case of an injury. Butler spent last season on the practice squad and earned a job on the roster this year. Young undrafted players who come to Dallas should look to Butler as a success story.

Safety (5)

  • Gerald Sensabaugh
  • Barry Church
  • Mana Silva
  • Danny McCray
  • Matt Johnson

Sensabaugh looks to be playing the best football of his life. Church has gone from an undrafted free agent who had to play a lot in the box as a hybrid linebacker to a starting safety for the Dallas Cowboys. Church should be in consideration for the most improved award, but he must carryover his strong offseason into the regular season, because that is where it counts.

Silva just made play after play in the pre-season. He showed up when his number was called and he was great on special teams. He may not be Ed Reed, but he does have some starting potential.

McCray made the team because he is a specials team ace, but he is also one of Rob Ryan's favorite players to use in his Dollar package on passing downs.

I didn't want the Cowboys to give up on Matt Johnson too early because of injuries. They did the right thing in keeping him, but I doubt he gives them any production in 2012.

Specialists (3)

  • Dan Bailey
  • Chris Jones
  • L.P. Ladouceur

Dan Bailey was a miracle, I am serious. Kicker has been an issue on this team for years, all it took was an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma State in 2011 to come in and out kick everyone the Cowboys brought in. He was consistent all summer, again.

The Cowboys may look at adding another punter, but of course, that is just my opinion. Jones looks shaky at times, but he has also looked very good, so he needs to show more consistency.

I thought it was crazy to consider even replacing Ladouceur with a rookie long snapper just because it would save the Cowboys some money. Once again L.P. shows up, does his job and doesn't make mistakes. He has one of the hardest jobs in football, but you just wouldn't know it.


Is the best 53-man roster that the Cowboys could have put together? In my honest opinion, no it isn't, but this is the team they will be going to New York with, well for now anyway.

There are only four decisions that I was totally against.

  1. Keeping Stephen McGee
  2. Releasing Danny Coale
  3. Releasing Lance Dunbar
  4. Releasing Adrian Hamilton

We'll have to see how this plays out before we completely judge the Dallas Cowboys and their 53-man roster.This team could change before then.

Remember, the Cowboys added Laurent Robinson and Tony Fiammetta last year during the season. Is there another Robinson or Fiammetta out there waiting to be signed? Maybe there is, good players will be available after the other 31 teams make their cuts as well, but that doesn't mean the Cowboys will get lucky and find another player who can produce the way Robinson and Fiammetta did for them last season.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.