2018 Dallas Cowboys starters, 53-man roster, schedule prediction

The Dallas Cowboys roster heading into the 2018 season (starters in bold):

QUARTERBACK (3): Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White

Prescott played 39 preseason snaps and delivered 17 points on three of his four drives, but he better continue to be durable after Rush did not impress in the preseason. Prescott will be asked to run an efficient passing game for the first time without Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. White, a rookie, has enough potential to warrant keeping a third quarterback.

Running back (2): Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith

Elliott’s success will determine the success of the season. He will be asked to carry the load in the running game and be a bigger part of the passing game than he was in his first two years. Smith is a solid No. 2 back with ability to grind out yards while also helping in special teams. Bo Scarbrough and Darius Jackson were among the cuts but one or both could be brought back to the practice squad.

Fullback (1): Jamize Olawale

He did not get much work in the preseason, but he has some flexibility in that he is good out of the backfield in the pass game and can carry the ball in emergency situations, while also being a core special-teamer.

Wide receiver (6): Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Michael Gallup, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown

There is one career 1,000-yard season (Hurns) in a group that enters the season with a ton to prove. Beasley had a strong camp and could develop into more than just a slot receiver. Austin is the wild-card as the Cowboys look for ways to get the ball in different ways. Gallup, a third-round pick, has a high ceiling but needs to develop consistency in his game

Tight end (4): Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Rico Gathers

Like the receivers, this group has a ton to prove without Witten. Swaim has nine catches for his career. No other tight end has a catch in a regular-season game. Witten played almost every snap for years. The Cowboys will now go to a committee approach. Gathers was kept for now despite his Friday arrest. If he stays on the roster, will the coaches trust him enough to get into a game?

Offensive line (9): Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Joe Looney, Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Cameron Fleming, Parker Ehinger, Kadeem Edwards, Travis Frederick

The Cowboys don’t know when Frederick will be able to return from his bout with Guillain-Barre Syndrome but they will keep him on the 53 for now with the possibility of putting him on injured reserve later. Looney will take over as the center. Smith (hamstring) and Martin (knee) have dealt with injuries late in camp but both will be ready Week 1. They acquired Ehinger from the Kansas City Chiefs because of his ability to play multiple positions.

Defensive line (10): DeMarcus Lawrence, Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong, Brian Price, Datone Jones, Daniel Ross

This is the best group of pass-rushers Rod Marinelli has had, led by Lawrence, who had 14.5 sacks last season. Woods is the biggest surprise on the roster, having been signed in May as almost an afterthought and working his way into the starting lineup. Collins did not play in a preseason game but he started to work into full practices last week. He will be limited early, but Crawford has seen time at the under tackle with Gregory and Charlton showing they can get to the quarterback.

Linebacker (7): Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, Leighton Vander Esch, Joe Thomas, Chris Covington, Justin March-Lillard

This could be the most talented group they have had since switching to their current scheme in 2013. Smith is looking quicker and faster than he did a year ago in his comeback from serious knee surgery. Lee has been limited over the summer to make sure he is ready for 16 games. Vander Esch was slowed the last two weeks by a groin injury but his athleticism opens up different coverage possibilities. Thomas can play all three spots if necessary.

Secondary (8): Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, Tyree Robinson

Jones and Awuzie have fit in nicely with what Kris Richard wants out of his cornerbacks but safety remains a big question made even bigger with Woods likely to miss the opener because of a hamstring strain. Frazier is battling s shoulder injury. Robinson is the only undrafted player to make the roster but the Cowboys will continue to look for help at the spot.


Specialists (3): Brett Maher, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur

The biggest surprise is the cutting of Dan Bailey, their kicker since 2011 and the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history. Maher made four of five kicks in the preseason, including a 57-yarder. The chemistry between Bailey, Jones and Ladouceur will be difficult to replicate. Maher will be under the gun early if he struggles.