Dallas Cowboys

Updated Cowboys 53-man roster predictions: Will Zeke be in by regular season?

After almost three weeks of camp and one preseason game, there is still no sign of holdout running back Ezekiel Elliott. He has said he will not show up and will miss games if he doesn’t get a new contract.

That is starting to become a looming roster concern.

Injuries on the offensive line and the suspension of defensive end Robert Quinn have robbed the team of its depth in the trenches, which vice president Stephen Jones recently compared to the Super Bowl teams of the 1990s.

The trade options won’t be there on the offensive line until guards Connor McGovern and Zack Martin return to health. And Quinn’s suspension and possibly one for Tyrone Crawford likely eliminates the possibility of a Taco Charlton trade.


Quarterback (2)

Starter: Dak Prescott Backup: Cooper Rush

The Cowboys will carry just two quarterbacks. Again, we know Prescott is set. No. 2 is still a mystery. That player might not be on the roster. But right now, Cooper Rush appears to be the man for a third straight season. Mike White has made no impression in training camp and was awful in the preseason opener against the 49ers.

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Running back (4)

Starters: RB Ezekiel Elliott, FB Jamize Olawale. Backups: Tony Pollard, Alfred Morris

This was suppose to be an easy position to pair down. But that was before star running back Ezekiel Elliott decided to hold out of training camp in search of a new deal. He has threatened to miss games if the Cowboys don’t come correct. That is hard to believe but right now he is in Cabo San Lucas and the Cowboys are still in Oxnard. Rookie Tony Pollard has been better than advertised and Morris gives the Cowboys a veteran insurance policy in case Elliott doesn’t show up, pushing Mike Weber to the practice squad.

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Tight end (3)

Starter: Jason Witten. Backups: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz

The release of Rico Gathers last week has made this position set. Jason Witten is back into the starting lineup after a year-long sabbatical with ESPN. Blake Jarwin has picked up where he left off at the end of the last season and will have packages in the offense. Schultz is No. 3.

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Receiver (5)

Starters: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup. Backups: Randall Cobb, Noah Brown, Tavon Austin

The top three are set with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb. Cooper is the clear No. 1 and is expected to sign a long-term contract extension. Nobody has had a better camp Gallup, who has been healthy and on the field with Prescott every day. Noah Brown has yet to practice but he does the dirty work. Austin has had a strong camp and appears set to hold off the youngsters. Undrafted rookie Jon’vea Johnson has gone from a roster possibility to a practice squad candidate because he has come down with a case of the dropsies.

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Offensive line (9)

Starters: LT Tyron Smith, LG Connor Williams, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, RT La’el Collins. Backups: Cam Fleming, Connor McGovern, Joe Looney, Xavier Su’a-Filo

Any talk of trading Xavier Su’a-Filo has slowed down because of Zack Martin’s back injury and Connor McGovern’s pectoral injury. Martin has been out since the first week of camp and McGovern has yet to practice. Su’a-Filo is suddenly needed for depth purposes, though Looney has been getting a look at right guard. Undrafted rookie tackle Mitch Hyatt is no longer a roster candidate; maybe the practice squad.

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Defensive line (10)

Starters: DE DeMarcus Lawrence, DT Maliek Collins, DT Antwuan Woods, DE Tyrone Crawford. Backups: Trysten Hill, Chris Covington, Kerry Hyder, Joe Jackson, Dorance Armstrong, Taco Charlton.**Randy Gregory (suspended) **Robert Quinn (suspended)

The defensive line was supposed to be as deep as it’s been since the Super Bowl teams of the 1990s. But that was before defensive end Robert Quinn was suspended for the first two games. With defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford still recovering from offseason surgeries, Taco Charlton can’t be used as a trade bait. They will need him on the final 53.

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Linebacker (7)

Starters: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch. Backups: Joe Thomas, Chris Covington, Justin March-Lillard, Luke Gifford.

Luke Gifford’s strong camp had him making a run at a roster spot until a high ankle sprain in the preseason opener. Has the undrafted rookie shown enough to stick? Can he get back before the start of the season? If so, he will force the Cowboys to keep seven at linebacker. The other spots appear to be set, though a mild knee sprain for Sean Lee is worrisome.

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Defensive backs (10)

Starters: CB Byron Jones, CB Chido Awuzie, S Jeff Heath, S Xavier Woods. Backups: Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Donovan Wilson, Donovan Olumba, Mike Jackson, Kavon Frazier

There appears to be no more questions about veteran free-agent signee George Iloka He has worked with the third team since the start of training camp. If the Cowboys find a challenger to Heath as the starter it will be via trade or the waiver wire. The Cowboys will keep six safeties because of the camps by Olumba and Jackson.

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Specialists (3)

Starters: K Brett Maher, P Chris Jones, LS L.P. Ladouceur

Anything is possible if you consider Maher came out of nowhere to win the kicking job last season in training camp. He certainly needs to be more consistent and regain the team’s trust. So far, he done nothing to dispel those fears. He has missed easy kicks in camp and in the preseason opener. The Cowboys could will look outside if he doesn’t get it together quickly.

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.