IRVING, Texas – Week 4 of Five Wonders will focus on the makeup of the Cowboys’ 53-man roster, and I’m holding off on Alex Tanney for a post later, so he will not be in the following paragraphs.
The first set of cuts comes Aug. 27 when they have to pare down from 87 to 75 players. The final cut to 53 comes Aug. 31.
As Jason Garrett has said two or 200 times, injury provides opportunity. The season-ending back surgery for Alex Albright, who will go under the knife on Wednesday, opens up a roster spot for a linebacker. I wonder the Cowboys can still go with seven linebackers for the opening week. Undrafted rookie Brandon Magee finally showed up and made some plays last week at Arizona. He can also play some weakside linebacker. Caleb McSurdy played some at strongside linebacker and has inside linebacker experience. Taylor Reed also has position flexibility. But here’s one name that hasn’t been talked about much: Cameron Lawrence. He got some work on the early special teams units against the Cardinals. When you’re down to the final spots at linebacker, special teams can be the great separator.
Garrett won’t offer up opinions on players unless he is asked specifically about a guy, so I took notice when he brought up “92,” Landon Cohen, when asked about some surprises on the defensive line. I wonder if Cohen, a training-camp pickup like George Selvie, can play his way onto the roster. The first thing Rod Marinelli wants for his defensive linemen is to get off the ball. Cohen can do that, and in fact he did it too fast with a couple of offside penalties in the first two preseason games. He has the look of the traditional one-technique in this scheme: short and squat, but he also has some quickness. Garrett went on to say Cohen has “some snap” to his game.” It's another name to keep an eye on.
I wonder if the foot injury suffered by Lance Dunbar took the sixth wide receiver off the table. Dunbar is looking at a 3-4 week rehab, which puts him in doubt for the Sept. 8 season opener against the New York Giants. It was not a good injury for Anthony Armstrong, who I’ve had as the No. 6 guy on my roster projections. He has done nothing to get cut. He has showed up on offense. He has done a nice job on special teams. He has speed to burn. I just wonder if he is caught in a numbers game because now the Cowboys almost assuredly have to keep four running backs for at least the opening week. Could Armstrong jump Cole Beasley, who has been slowed by a foot injury of his own? I don’t see it right now, but Armstrong will be a tough call.
I wondered last week about the possibility of an undrafted rookie not making the roster this summer, and I threw a dark horse in there with Jeff Heath. He has taken some first-team special teams snaps and was a second-teamer on defense last week because of injuries. He did not look out of place, but I wonder if he can beat out Matt Johnson. And, yes, I wonder if Johnson can not only get healthy but stay healthy as he battles a foot injury suffered in the Hall of Fame Game. He’s not going to play this week, so all of his eggs will be in the Houston game, provided he can get on the field. I wonder if the Cowboys would give up on a fourth-round pick from last year despite what the apparent chronic injuries. After putting in all the time with Johnson last year, I’d be a little surprised if they would cut him loose now.
What to make if Demetress Bell? The Cowboys signed him even though he was in extremely poor condition at the start of camp. They were patient with him, and he finally got on the field last week in Oxnard, Calif., and played against Arizona. When he signed, I viewed it as a move to just help the backup quarterbacks get through some preseason games. But when the Cowboys stuck with him, I wondered if they look at him as future development guy. It’s hard to find big guys who can move and have some experience. He was bad last year at Philadelphia, but he wasn’t bad in Buffalo.