As the last several days pass before the Dallas Cowboys open training camp in Oxnard, California, we’re going to begin a journey: We’ll rank the entire 90-man roster, counting down to the best players on the team. The rationale behind these rankings is mostly subjective, based on a combination of positional value, overall talent evaluation, financial and draft investment, pending disciplinary problems, injury questions, likelihood to make the 53-man roster, and a few more criteria.
Without further ado, let’s begin the journey through the 90-man, starting with the last 10 guys.
90 – Sam Irwin-Hill, Punter
The Cowboys have a punter they are very happy with in Chris Jones, the 2015 Special Teams Co-MVP who then had a good 2016 season. Irwin-Hill, an undrafted rookie from Arkansas, is simply a training camp leg brought on to help the team get through training camp and the preseason, without overworking Jones in the six weeks of practices leading up to the games and kicks that count.
89 – Zach Wood, Long Snapper
Similar to Irwin-Hill, Wood plays a position where the team will keep only one player, and the other player they have at that position is firmly entrenched on the team. LP Ladouceur is literally perfect as a long snapper, and will not be replaced until he decides he is ready to retire. In training camp of 2016, because of injury, Wood actually got some work on the defensive line, but with the team having made multiple investments at that position group in the offseason, Wood is likely to be relegated to full-time long snapper duty in Oxnard.
88 – Darnell Leslie, Defensive End
Leslie is a 6-foot-2, 235-pound undrafted defensive end from Monmouth. While the Cowboys have a track record with undrafted guys from that school, Leslie faces a size hurdle in the NFL that is likely too much for him to overcome. Despite the potential weaknesses near the top of the depth chart at defensive end, there is no shortage of NFL-quality bodies at the position on the team, meaning there is truly a mountain to climb for Leslie to be noticed in camp.
87 – Lance Lenoir, Wide Receiver
Lenoir, an undrafted receiver from Western Illinois who was added to the roster just before minicamp, faces a similar problem as Leslie: The Cowboys’ depth chart at wide receiver is absolutely stacked all the way through the likely practice squad players. However, the wide receivers get a ton of work in training camp and preseason, and Lenoir will have the opportunity to prove whether his toughness and physicality can overcome his speed deficit and enable him to latch on as a practice squad player or special teams contributor with another team.
86 – Sammy Seamster, Corner
The Cowboys added Seamster in 2016 to their practice squad after the end of training camp. After seeing him work for the full season, they decided that they needed to draft three corners and sign a veteran free agent. Similar to Lenoir, Seamster will get plenty of opportunities in training camp, but the Cowboys’ depth in the secondary likely means Seamster’s work will be more of an audition for other teams than for the Cowboys.
85 – Kennan Gilchrist, Linebacker
Gilchrest was a staple in the Appalachian State defense for the last several years, but with the level of investment the Cowboys have in their top five linebackers (Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, Kyle Wilber, and Mark Nzeocha), Gilchrest will again fight an uphill battle to find his way on the team’s roster or practice squad.
84 -Ross Burbank, Center
Burbank is an undersized interior lineman who was added late in the offseason and spent part of the 2016 season on the Seattle practice squad. He’s likely to get work at both center and guard in the late parts of pr-season games, but will likely audition for a team with less depth on the interior of the offensive line than the Cowboys.
83 – Joe Jones – Linebacker
Jones’s freakish athleticism allowed him to be a very good player on the Northwestern defense, and will give him a chance to shine in training camp practices as well. His speed makes him the kind of linebacker the Cowboys like, but like Gilchrest, Jones’s battle up the depth chart will be steep.
82 – Clay DeBord, Offensive Tackle
DeBord has spent time on the Patriots’ and Cowboys’ practice squads after being signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2016. There simply aren’t many open spots on the Cowboys’ depth chart for offensive tackles, meaning DeBord’s best hope is to land on the team’s practice squad, or perform very well and be scooped up off waivers before the start of the season.
81 – Woody Baron, Defensive End
Baron was disruptive as a defensive tackle at Virginia Tech, but doesn’t possess the elite athletic traits to make up for his lack of size and length at that position, or to allow him to be a speed player off the edge. He likely will struggle to be productive against NFL blockers. His effort will probably make him a Rod Marinelli favorite in camp, but without the necessary traits, he’ll be hard pressed to earn a spot with the Cowboys or another team.
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