Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys: Keep ’em or cut ’em

After three weeks of training camp in Oxnard, Calif., and three preseason games, the Dallas Cowboys must start trimming their roster. Randy Gregory (94) is a surefire keeper, but other decisions won’t be so clear cut.
After three weeks of training camp in Oxnard, Calif., and three preseason games, the Dallas Cowboys must start trimming their roster. Randy Gregory (94) is a surefire keeper, but other decisions won’t be so clear cut. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has taken his share of grief over the years, but cutting the roster to just 53 players isn’t so easy.

The first wave of cuts come Tuesday; the final decisions are due Saturday, but here’s your chance to play GM.

Choose which players you’ll keep at each position, and who you’ll cut loose. If you’re not sure, we’ll give you our opinions on who has made their case to make the Cowboys, and who hasn’t.

Keep in mind that injuries to rookie draft pick Chaz Green and veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick (out for the season) and a suspension for defensive end Greg Hardy, have created at least three extra spots for now.

And keep in mind, that the owner really wants another Super Bowl ring this season.

Let’s take a look:

Punter (1)

6 Chris Jones P He dropped 21 punts inside the 20 yard line. Overall, he averaged 45.4 yards per punt with a net of 39.8. KEEP

1 Tom Hornsey P Hornsby is in camp to challenge or at least keep Chris Jones uncomfortable. Barring injury, Hornsby will not be on the final roster. CUT

Kicker (1)

5 Dan Bailey K The most accurate kicker in NFL history will not be going anywhere. The new PAT rule, from 33 yards away, won’t have any impact either. He was arguably the MVP of the team the past two seasons. KEEP

Long snapper (1)

91 Louis-Philippe Ladouceur LS He has not made a mistake on 703 punts, 307 field goals and 450 PATs since joning the team. KEEP

49 Casey Kreiter LS This specialty position will only have one player, but Kreiter will have other suitors when the Cowboys let him go. CUT

Quarterbacks (2)

9 Tony Romo QB He’s healthy. We can stop there. Just for fun, we’ll add the 3,705 passing yards and 34 touchdowns he had last season along with leading the league in passer rating (113.2). KEEP

3 Brandon Weeden QB Solid backup who got caught off his game two years ago in a regular-season final against Philly, but proved he’s capable for spot duty in 2014. He might not be able to close 16 games, but he’s a good backup. KEEP.

7 Jameill Showers QB An intriquing rookie prospect whose versatility could help the special teams. He’s thicker than most quarterbacks and is elusive. CUT

10 Dustin Vaughan QB He convinced the Cowboys to keep him around so he could develop more, but his preseason has been a mix of good and mostly bad. CUT

Wide receivers (6)

88 Dez Bryant WR The Pro Bowler led the NFL with 16 touchdowns on 88 catches with 1,320 yards last season, and he got a major payday from Jerry Jones in the off-season. He’s not going anywhere. KEEP

83 Terrance Williams WR Williams is a deep threat opposite Bryant. He also had eight touchdowns. KEEP

11 Cole Beasley WR Blossomed last season as a clutch slot receiver with 20 of his 39 receptions earning first downs and 13 converting on third or fourth down. KEEP

15 Devin Street WR The Cowboys are looking for growth out of Street, who has the measureables but is still learning the game. Year 2 will be interesting. KEEP.

13 Lucky Whitehead WR Elusive receiver/kick returner has shown heart on returns if he can hang onto the ball. Potential game-breaker on special teams. KEEP.

16 A.J. Jenkins WR Team is taking a flyer on Jenkins, who was a first-round pick by San Francisco in 2012. He knows how to play and has talent. Sleeper pick. KEEP

19 David Porter WR You only get one time to make a first impression. That’s what Porter did with three touchdowns less than four hours after signing with the team. The rookie from TCU has earned a job on a practice squad somewhere in the league. CUT.

85 Antwan Goodley WR Reputation for speed might have overshadowed his skills. Didn’t get many touches in camp. CUT

86 Phil Bates WR He was a late add in training camp and never really proved to be more than a camp body. CUT

17 Nick Harwell WR Not enough touches to show what he can do, but he might be seen again later in the season. CUT.

81 Clyde Edmond Gates WR Part of the churn at the bottom of the roster to try to find some gems. He got a brief look. CUT

Tight ends (4)

82 Jason Witten TE He has changed his game some, doing more blocking than he has in the past to help the powerful running game. He still had 64 catches in 2014 and was named to his 10th Pro Bowl. KEEP

89 Gavin Escobar TE The Cowboys keep saying they’re waiting on a break-out year from Escobar. They forgot that Witten is still in front of him. Escobar’s Achilles’ Heel used to be his blocking. It’s not any more. KEEP

84 James Hanna TE More than adequate blocker and receiver, and a very consistent contributor in the red zone. Experience, even as a backup, counts. He has 10 career starts. KEEP

87 Geoff Swaim TE Another impressive rookie, from the University of Texas, who might get caught in the numbers game. Worst-case scenario is the practice squad. KEEP

80 Brandon Barden TE He’s made some noise, but like so many of his colleagues, this second-year player is at a stacked position. CUT

Running backs (4)

Darren McFadden RB Off-season pickup from Oakland is salivating to run behind the team’s massive line. His tender hamstring is a concern, but his size and speed are still elite. KEEP

21 Joseph Randle RB Randle says there’s still some meat on the bone. But he’ll have help block in the backfield, and durability might be an issue. Neither McFadden nor Randle have shown that they can carry the load yet. KEEP.

25 Lance Dunbar RB He is supposed to be more involved in the offense this season, but the former University of North Texas star can’t put himself in the game. So it’s up to the coaches to give him touches. Speed still kills. KEEP

44 Tyler Clutts FB Cowboys thought enough of him to re-sign him in the off-season, but there’s no guarantee the team will keep a true fullback. If they do, it’ll likely be Clutts. KEEP.

33 Ben Malena RB Return to Dallas was due mainly to injuries in the backfield. Limited touches in the preseason didn’t hurt nor help his chances. Camp body. CUT.

34 Michael Hill RB Another addition to the backfield long after training camp had begun, Hill’s quickness has caught the attention of the coaches. CUT.

37 Gus Johnson RB Rookie running back from Stephen F. Austin is a tough inside-out runner. But the backfield is full at Valley Ranch. He could make the practice squad. CUT

48 Ray Agnew FB Veteran came in to compete at the fullback spot. It’s a two-man race with Tyler Clutts. Clutts has the edge. CUT.

Offensive lineman (9)

68 Doug Free T The pupil is now the teacher. Veteran Free didn’t make the Pro Bowl or All-Pro, but he was solid and a good fit. KEEP

70 Zack Martin G He made the Pro Bowl and earned first-team All-Pro honors as a rookie. KEEP

72 Travis Frederick C Returning Pro Bowler on the best offensive line in the league. KEEP

77 Tyron Smith T Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors are becoming the norm for Smith the former USC star. KEEP

65 Ronald Leary G Returning starter on the best offensive line in the league. KEEP

71 La’el Collins OL Rookie from LSU is pushing for playing time and perhaps a starting role. Plays with a sense of gratitude that the Cowboys added him after the draft. If he plays well, gratitude transforms to big bucks in this league. KEEP

73 Mackenzy Bernadeau G He can play both guard positions and center. Too valuable to move. KEEP

75 Darrion Weems T The most watched player on the line. Jury is still out on whether he can be a true swing tackle. KEEP

79* Chaz Green OL Third round pick had hip surgery in June and hasn’t done much in training camp. Will stay on the Active/NFI list. KEEP

61 John Wetzel T He has pushed his way into the offensive line conversation as a potential key reserve. CUT

62 Shane McDermott C Got limited action during the preseason and didn’t make much impact. Not as versatile, but solid at center. CUT

67 Laurence Gibson T Seventh-round draft pick from Virginia Tech might be heading to the practice squad. Got a look on special teams in preseason. CUT

74 R.J. Dill T Too much competition in this area and a four-game suspension is too much to overcome. CUT.

78 Ronald Patrick C Because so many players can play multiple positions on the line, Patrick gets squeezed out. At least for now. CUT

Cornerbacks (5)

39 Brandon Carr CB He didn’t take a pay cut in the off-season nor was he traded. Owner Jerry Jones says he still believes in Carr. That alone will keep him in Dallas. A few interceptions would solidify his stay. KEEP

24 Morris Claiborne CB Some consider the former first-rounder out of LSU a bust even though he’s only been in the league three years. How he rebounds from patellar tendon surgery will dictate his future. KEEP

31 Byron Jones CB This year’s first-round pick from Connecticut has shown his versatility, and it will be needed with a secondary that’s in flux. Is Jones a safety or a cornerback? Doesn’t matter. He’s a player. KEEP

26 Tyler Patmon CB Patmon has more than a fighting chance to make the team, unlike last season when the former Oklahoma State star arrived as an undrafted free agent who didn’t even get a signing bonus. KEEP

*32 Orlando Scandrick CB The team’s best cover cornerback tore the ACL in his right knee and is lost for the season. KEEP

23 Corey White CB White has been impressive in training camp. He plays a need position. His chances of sticking really improved when Scandrick got hurt. Even before that, he proved that he’s a battler. KEEP

28 Robert Steeples CB CUT First-year player was around a lot of plays in the preseason but did not stand out enough. CUT

29 Joel Ross CB Rookie for Appalachian State got a late look in training camp. CUT

30 Rod Sweeting CB Second-year cornerback was brought in for depth during camp. CUT

Safeties (4)

27 J.J. Wilcox S He had three interceptions last season and recovered two fumbles. The defense emphasizes takeaways and Wilcox contributed five. KEEP

42 Barry Church S Budding star led the team in tackles for the second consecutive season and had two interceptions. KEEP

38 Jeff Heath S Big hitter who has made a living as a backup safety and on special teams, where he had eight tackles. KEEP

40 Danny McCray S McCray is making his second stint with the Cowboys after a one-year hiatus in Chicago. He’s a special teams star. KEEP

41 Tim Scott S Undrafted rookie from North Carolina showed he can hit. Coverage skills were clear. CUT


59 Anthony Hitchens LB Played all three linebacker positions as a rookie last year and kept the position afloat through injuries and transitions. KEEP

55 Rolando McClain LB Four-game suspension will give him more time to return at 100 percent. He was a difference-maker last season. Maybe the lingering injuries won’t catch up with him this time. KEEP

50 Sean Lee LB Expectations are very high for Lee, a tackling machine. He’s hungry to return to action after coming off an ACL injury. The team is hungry to see him do his thing. KEEP

51 Kyle Wilber LB He had 23 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season, but will have an expanded role in 2015. KEEP

54 Jasper Brinkley LB The six-year pro provides quality depth and experience at the position. KEEP

52 Andrew Gachkar LB Mostly known for his special teams. He was specifically brought in for that job, which means he’s really good at it. KEEP

57 Damien Wilson LB Big, physical rookie out of Minnesota who was drafted in the fourth round. KEEP

43 Dakorey Johnson LB Undrafted rookie wasn’t involved enough in practice to get a good look. CUT

45 Jonathan Brown LB Signed for training camp depth. Bounced around the league on practice squads in 2014. CUT

46 Donnie Baggs LB Undrafted rookie’s best chance to stick is on special teams. The Cowboys need to see more, but won’t have time. CUT

47 Ka’Lial Glaud LB Second-year man made a couple of plays in the preseason in limited minutes. CUT.

53* Mark Nzeocha LB Because of injury, this seventh-round pick is probably headed to the practice squad. CUT.

56 Keith Smith LB Smith has history with the Cowboys. He moved between the active roster and practice squad last season, was cut in May then brought back in July. Tough call. CUT

Defensive Ends (5)

90 DeMarcus Lawrence DE He has added weight and says he’s stronger. He might be the sleeper of the upcoming season. KEEP

92 Jeremy Mincey DE Had a brief holdout before training camp began. He got a raise, but not a long-term contract. He’ll have another year to prove his monetary worth. KEEP

94 Randy Gregory DE The edge rusher and second-round pick was the star of the preseason, and he has been as good as advertised early. The number 94 fits him and that is saying a lot. KEEP.

*76 Greg Hardy DE He’ll have to wait four games for action because of suspension, but the controversial free agent who was a star with Carolina is not going anywhere. KEEP

99 Ryan Russell DE The team likes his skills as a pass rusher. He appeared to get better as the pre-season progressed. Tough call. KEEP

95 Lavar Edwards DE Trying to make an impact at a crowded position. Might be one of the tougher roster calls at the end. CUT

93 Ben Gardner DE Seventh-round pick is likely headed to the practice squad. He’ll be closely watched and might end up on another roster. CUT

79 Kenneth Boatright DE Scary injury during training camp set him back. Competition will likely push him out. CUT

63 Efe Obada DE He’s a project at best from London. Not getting much time in preseason games is a bad sign. Learning curve is too great right now. CUT

Defensive lineman (4)

98 Tyrone Crawford DT He’s a big body who plays physical in the trenches, and the NFC East is no place for lightweights. KEEP

96 Nick Hayden DT First arrived in Dallas as a stopgap until someone could challenge for the job, but Hayden kept making plays and is now a starter. KEEP

97 Terrell McClain DT Finished 2014 with 20 tackles, a sack and seven pressures. It’s the pressures he can provide more of in 2015. KEEP

58 Jack Crawford DT London’s favorite son made a couple of plays last season and is a solid option as a reserve. KEEP

60 Davon Coleman DT Second-year player had spot duty in 2014. They’ll need him again as insurance while Greg Hardy waits. CUT

66 Ken Bishop NT Second-year player was hoping to get more playing time. CUT

64 Carlif Taylor DT Got a good look by two teams. First by the Giants, and then the Cowboys. He’ll land somewhere in the league. CUT

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram