Cowboys Training Camp Opens; 55-Man Roster Projections - Defense
FRISCO - Today marks the full opening of Dallas Cowboys training camp here at The Star, with the entire group expected to report ... and then to undergo COVID-19 tests that will render it something shy of a "full opening.''
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The first days here at The Star are about testing, then strength-and-conditioning stuff ... Atypical. But it is a benchmark day nevertheless, and a prime time to guesstimate at the final 55-man roster. Here goes defense ...
(Sidebar: This year NFL teams will, as usual, cut to 53 first. But the change in the CBA will then allow the eventual carrying of 55. So we'll use that number.)
DEFENSIVE LINE (10): This is about DeMarcus Lawrence - and a complete rebuild alongside him. For certain, three brand new tackles. Add a brand new end in Aldon Smith and slide Tyrone Crawford into a utility role and it’s quite a revamping.
New coach Mike McCarthy has made it clear he wants "six rushers and four inside players.''
With Crawford as a swing guy, that's what we were giving McCarthy here, until ...
UPDATE: Adding to the competition, Dallas on Tuesday announced the retention (via his exclusive rights contract) to Antwaun Woods. Woods has been a starting 1-Tech here; him making the club knocks Joe Johnson off our list and alters McCarthy's 6/4 formula.
LINEBACKER (7): The Cowboys might move around some pieces here. Is post-neck-surgery Leighton Vander Esch able to play MIKE? Would Jaylon Smith thrive in a move from the middle to being a pass-rushing SAM? Can Sean Lee endure the burden of being a full-time WILL?
Thomas, March and Gifford can all excel on special teams ... but UDFA Francis Bernard has a chance to push from behind there.
Leighton Vander Esch
DEFENSIVE BACK (11): The Cowboys believe the NFL Draft just provided them with two rotational corners - and in Trevon Diggs, a possible starter. They see Xavier Woods as a budding standout and lots of position flex in this group overall.
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What they need most of all? Ball-hawking. We'll see if this new coaching staff can walk the walk in its pursuit there.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Reggie Robinson II
SPECIAL TEAMS (3): There will be a legit competition between kickers Greg Zuerlein and Kai Forbath. There might be a punter competition, too, but a healthy Chris Jones can be fine. There will be no long-snapper competition.