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First 53: Dallas Cowboys initial roster

This is the first 53-man roster of the season for the Dallas Cowboys, not the final one. It will change soon and several times.

Having said that, here is an initial look at the 2014 Cowboys:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

Tony Romo

Brandon Weeden

Dustin Vaughan

Vaughan, the undrafted free agent from West Texas A&M, surviving the cuts is a mild surprise. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback on the roster in recent years, but they saw enough potential in Vaughan to determine he was worth developing and didn’t want to expose him to waivers. They had a sixth-round draft grade on Vaughan.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

DeMarco Murray

Lance Dunbar

Joseph Randle

Tyler Clutts

Ryan Williams was the best player to be cut by the Cowboys. The former second-round pick, whose three seasons in Arizona were ruined by injuries, proved that he is healthy and an NFL talent. He just got caught in a numbers game and couldn’t contribute as much on special teams as Randle, who also ran well during the preseason. There was some question about whether the Cowboys would keep a fullback, but head coach Jason Garrett believes Clutts can help enough in short-yardage and goal-line situations to justify the roster spot.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

Dez Bryant

Terrance Williams

Cole Beasley

Dwayne Harris

Devin Street

If the Cowboys had the luxury of keeping six receivers, LaRon Byrd would probably be on the roster. The big receiver should end up on the practice squad if he clears waivers, but he never really had a chance to crack this top five, which features four proven playmakers and a fifth-round pick.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jason Witten

Gavin Escobar

James Hanna

It would be nice to have a better blocker among the backups. The coaches need to find ways to utilize Escobar’s receiving ability.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

Tyron Smith

Ronald Leary

Travis Frederick

Zack Martin

Doug Free

Mackenzy Bernadeau

Jermey Parnell

John Wetzel

Darrion Weems

It’s a curious decision to keep tackles Wetzel and Weems over guard Uche Nwaneri, who started 91 games over the past six seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nwaneri didn’t perform well in the preseason finale, but neither did Wetzel, and Weems didn’t play the whole preseason.

DEFENSIVE LINE (11)

George Selvie

Henry Melton

Terrell McClain

Jeremy Mincey

Tyrone Crawford

Davon Coleman

Ken Bishop

Nick Hayden

Anthony Spencer

DeMarcus Lawrence

Lavar Edwards

The Cowboys traded a conditional seventh-round pick to get Edwards from the Tennessee Titans. This group is expected to be trimmed to 10 when the Cowboys place Lawrence, the second-round pick recovering from foot surgery, on the short-term injured reserve, meaning he will miss the first eight games. When Josh Brent is added, will it cost Hayden his job? The Cowboys should still search for pass-rushing help.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Bruce Carter

Justin Durant

Kyle Wilber

Anthony Hitchens

Rolando McClain

Cam Lawrence

Seventh-rounder Will Smith was one of two draft picks who didn’t survive the cuts. The first five players listed in this group are still competing for starting jobs and will continue to, maybe for the whole season. Lawrence is one of the Cowboys’ best special teamers.

CORNERBACKS (4)

Brandon Carr

Morris Claiborne

Sterling Moore

Tyler Patmon

The Cowboys are taking a risk by only going with four cornerbacks while Orlando Scandrick is suspended, especially considering Claiborne’s durability issues. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if they added to this group. Seventh-rounder Terrance Mitchell had a golden opportunity to make the team after Scandrick’s suspension and 2013 fourth-round pick B.W. Webb’s release, but his lack of discipline led to his release. Mitchell could end up on the practice squad.

SAFETIES (5)

Barry Church

J.J. Wilcox

Jeff Heath

Ahmad Dixon

Jemea Thomas

Jakar Hamilton is expected to have a spot on the team after finishing his four-game suspension. Without him, the Cowboys don’t have any center-fielder type safeties on the roster.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Dan Bailey

Chris Jones

L.P. Ladouceur

Never any questions here.