The Dallas Cowboys have two roster spots open after waiving safety Justin Taplin-Ross on Sunday.
Taplin-Ross did not play on Saturday’s 28-20 loss to San Diego and was far down the depth chart. With his departure and the cutting of running back Ed Wesley on Friday, the Cowboys have 88 players on the roster entering Monday’s practice against the Chargers.
The Cowboys do not have any immediate plans to fill the roster spots. Linebacker Isaiah Greenhouse, who has a broken thumb, is not with the team but has not been cut.
This roster is jammed full at 90 players. That’s a lot of guys of course, but over the last few months, with a dozen practices and several other days trying to come up with stories to write, you’d think just about every guy is mentioned somewhere.
Either someone got twisted an ankle here, made a great catch there, or did anything to get mentioned in a possible position battle.
But with 90 players, a few can get overlooked. Maybe it’s a bad thing, but maybe it’s not the end of the world, considering how we like to mention guys who make mistakes or struggle.
Either way, here’s a group of five guys who just haven’t been heard from too much over the last month.
Maybe that will change for the better – or worse – come training camp.
G Harland Gunn – A rookie free agent from Miami, Gunn somewhat resembles fellow undrafted rookie Ron Leary, but Jerry Jones certainly didn’t mention his name in the post-draft press conference like he did Leary. And he’s definitely rotating first-team snaps at guard like Leary. Gunn needs to take advantage of those late preseason game snaps.
WR Donovan Kemp – There are a lot of players vying for those backup spots and even a few undrafted guys like Cole Beasley and Tim Benford have flashed potential. For now, Kemp hasn’t really made any noise. For some positions, it’s not always a bad thing, but receivers are one of the few spots where you can get noticed in a non-padded practice. Kemp, an undrafted rookie from UTEP, needs to come on strong at camp, especially in those first few practices when it’s only rookies and quarterbacks out there.
LB Isaiah Greenhouse – He’s the only player on this list who was actually here last year. But while Greenhouse made some news by switching positions and jersey numbers – moving from LB to FB, so far he’s been rather quiet since he’s moved back to LB. Then again, we haven’t seen a ton of special teams drills. That’s where Greenhouse will have to make his mark, and force the Cowboys to keep him because he’s one of the best kick-covering players on the squad.
FB Jamize Olawale – You’d like being a local guy from North Texas, he’d get some attention. But that UNT love is going to fellow undrafted rookie RB Lance Dunbar. Olawale caught the Cowboys’ attention in the rookie minicamp when he was invited as a tryout guy and ended up getting signed. So far, he hasn’t really made a splash, especially since Lawrence Vickers is here, with 2011 draft pick Shaun Chapas behind him. Like many other rookies, big plays in preseason games and/or special teams is vital.
FS Eddie Whitley – The rookie from Virginia Tech is probably the most under-the-radar player on this entire team right now. And that’s too bad considering safety has always needed an upgrade and Gerald Sensabaugh and Matt Johnson have missed most of the summer. What could help Whitley in the preseason games is special teams. Virginia Tech players have traditionally been good in the kicking game because it’s of high importance at his school. But Whitley will need that, and a few big plays on specials teams to get over that radar.
Ok, so there’s a handful of guys. Someone else who follows this team might have had a completely different five that likely would’ve includes guys such as LB Baraka Atkins, OT Tyrone Novikoff, LS Charley Hughlett, DE Ben Bass and OT Jeff Adams.
Then again, it’s not always a bad thing to be on here. Some players are missing because they have been noticed – for all the wrong reasons.
Don’t forget it’s late June. Offseason work is over but the real stuff begins in late July. I wouldn’t be surprised if a guy like Romo or Austin would’ve been on this same list when they were rookie free agents years ago.
Courtesy: Nick Eatman
Simply put, the fullback position was a key for the Cowboys in 2011. In the six games without Tony Fiammetta in the lineup, the offense averaged only 3.3 yards per carry on 152 rushes. The other 10 games, when Fiammetta was suited up, the Cowboys rushed for 1,304 yards on 256 carries, an average of over 5.0 per run.
When Fiammetta was knocked out of action by an inner ear infection, the Cowboys mostly tried to get by at the position by lining up tight end John Phillips in the backfield, and seventh-round pick Shaun Chapas even got a chance, but it wasn’t the same.
Now the team’s No. 2 tight end, Phillips may not be available for such utility work going forward, and he was hardly a natural as a lead blocker to begin with. Rookie James Hanna isn’t exactly a dominant blocker, either. Now, there’s new fullback Lawrence Vickers.
One of the nice things about Vickers is his durability, as he’s played all but six games in his six seasons, but the position is one of the most demanding in the sport. On almost every play he will be asked to square up for contact with a lineman or linebacker.
Given the questions of depth at receiver and tight end, the fullback position may be featured more this year than it has for the Cowboys in some time. So it makes sense that the team would consider keeping two players at the position, which has not been the norm in Dallas.
Other teams have done it, though. It may mean the Cowboys have to go short elsewhere, but keep in mind they’re not going to have two kickers for the first time since 2008. A third quarterback may not even be a necessity.
It would seem a real possibility that the club could keep a second fullback, either Chapas, who is still around, or another player on the roster.
Isaiah Greenhouse, who converted from linebacker to fullback during last year’s camp, is back with the team now, but has been working exclusively on defense this summer.
The Cowboys were intrigued enough by Isaiah Greenhouse in last year’s training camp that they moved him from linebacker to fullback to give him a chance to make the roster.
Now he’ll get another chance.
Greenhouse is the latest free agent signed by the Cowboys. The club gave him a one-year deal Wednesday to compete for a fullback spot with Shaun Chapas and Lawrence Vickers, who was signed last week.
Greenhouse was among the team’s final cuts on Sept. 3 as the Cowboys set their 53-man roster and was signed to the practice squad. He was then released from the practice squad 10 days later when the club signed Tony Fiammetta.
Courtesy: David Moore