Dallas Cowboys cut-down analysis

Most significant move: It’s not so much who the Dallas Cowboys cut, but who they kept. For the first time since 2011, the Cowboys will keep three quarterbacks. In 2011 they had Tony Romo, Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee. Undrafted rookie Dustin Vaughan will join Romo and Brandon Weeden. For now. Vaughan has made great strides since May and finished the preseason with 212 yards on 22-of-43 passing with a touchdown. With Romo’s return from back surgery at least a minor issue, the Cowboys figured it was worth keeping Vaughan as a developmental player. It’s possible the Cowboys could cut Vaughan if they need help elsewhere in the next few days, which potentially would give them a chance to sneak the West Texas A&M product through waivers. Tailback Ryan Williams led the Cowboys in the preseason with 112 rushing yards and caught a team-high nine passes but was among the final cuts. With needs elsewhere, the Cowboys did not deem it necessary to keep four tailbacks. If Williams clears waivers, he could be brought back to the practice squad.

See you in a month: Cornerback Orlando Scandrick and safety Jakar Hamilton cannot have contact with the Cowboys for the next month now that they are on the suspended list. Both players will miss four games with Scandrick violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy and Hamilton violating the substance abuse policy. They will be allowed back on Sept. 29 and eligible to play Oct. 5 against the Houston Texans. Despite losing Scandrick, the Cowboys opted only to keep four corners on the roster: Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Sterling Moore and Tyler Patmon.

Changes coming: The Cowboys kept 11 defensive linemen, but by Tuesday that number is expected to be 10 when rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is moved to short-term injured reserve as he returns from foot surgery. Lawrence will have to miss the first eight games, but can start practicing after six weeks. The Cowboys hope Lawrence will be able to be a designated pass rusher over the final eight weeks of the season. When he broke his foot in training camp, he was close to becoming the starting right defensive end. By putting Lawrence on short-term injured reserve, the Cowboys would not be able to use the designation on another player this season.

What’s next: A word to the wise for those on the bottom of the Cowboys’ roster: don’t celebrate. The Cowboys will be active in adding players either through trades, waivers or free agency. It’s not just about upgrading the bottom of the roster. The Cowboys need to upgrade starters and key backup roles at every level of their defense. Last year the Cowboys added four players after the final cuts before the season opener. They could potentially add more players this year, so dire is the state of the defense.

Cowboys moves: RB Ryan Williams, RB Phillip Tanner, RB D.J. Adams, WR LaRon Byrd, WR Jamar Newsome, WR Dezmon Briscoe, TE Asa Watson, T Josh Aladenoye, G Uche Nwaneri, G Stephen Goodin, C Ronald Patrick, DT Zach Minter, DE Kenneth Boatright, DE Caesar Rayford, DE Dartwan Bush, LB Will Smith, LB Orie Lemon, LB Keith Smith, LB Dontavis Sapp, CB Terrance Mitchell, S Keith Smith, Orlando Scandrick (suspended), Jakar Hamilton (suspended)