Mailbag: Defensive end rotation and the final roster spot

What’s on your minds, Cowboys fans?

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Ranking the defensive ends

This is always a tricky question with the Cowboys, because guys like Tyrone Crawford and David Irving play end and tackle. You also never know which Cowboys pass rusher is the next to be suspended (It was Damontre’ Moore last week, for those who may have missed it).

But let’s take a crack at it anyway. Here is how I anticipate the defensive end rotation stacking up by the final week of the year:

First team: DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving
Second team: Benson Mayowa, Taco Charlton
Third team: Damontre’ Moore, Charles Tapper

Now trying to stack the depth chart at defensive end is somewhat of a pointless exercise. Many of those guys play both sides of the line, and the third team is going to get almost as many snaps as the first team due to Rod Marinelli’s frequent rotation. While first, second, and third team are somewhat meaningless terms, I still think that’s how the Cowboys will rank them by skill at season’s end.

I expect Lawrence to have a strong year with his free agency payday slated for next spring. Even though Irving will miss the first four games to suspension, I think he’s your starting left end when he returns. The Cowboys played him a lot the final three games of the season (playoffs included).

Being the team’s first round pick lends you some benefit of the doubt in the rotation, so I think Charlton will receive steady snaps no matter his performance. If he plays well, he could rise even higher. If he struggles, I don’t think he’ll dip below 2nd team. Joining him on that second team will be Mayowa. Mayowa led the Cowboys with six sacks last season, but I think the intrigue of Irving, and the expectations of Lawrence will make him the team’s third defensive end.

The back end of the rotation will be Moore and Tapper. Both have received positive reviews early in camp, but they both have muddy situations. Tapper hasn’t played football in almost two years, and has never taken an NFL snap. Not only does Moore have off-field questions, but writer Bryan Broaddus has suggested the team might split Moore between end and SAM linebacker.

By the skin of his teeth

Good question. Folks talk about the “54th man on a 53 man roster,” but who booted 54 from the team? And I’m talking about the genuine 53rd spot, not the guys who are only on the roster until suspended players like Irving and Moore make their debut.

The way I see it, there are three candidates for the final spot on the roster. Not surprisingly, they are all rookies.

Noah Brown – Wide Receiver

Noah Brown is likely a victim of numbers. The Cowboys have their top five receivers locked in place (Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Butler, and Switzer) and I just don’t know that they’re likely to add a sixth. If they do, it might be Andy Jones rather than Brown.

But there seems to be some affection towards Brown from the coaching staff, so even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of logistical sense, I could see Brown making the roster as the object of lust. There would only be so long that the team could justify keeping Brown under those circumstances, which means the first time a player would need to be sacrificed, Brown would be a strong consideration.

Joey Ivie – Defensive Tackle

The Cowboys have so many bodies along the defensive line, and there’s only going to be so much room once Irving and Moore return from suspension.

While Ivie had a disappointing career at Florida (relative to expectations), and has been bothered by an injury during the first week and a half of training camp, Marinelli clearly likes the kid:

If Marinelli is a fan, that will go a long way towards securing you a job. But even when you have Marinelli in your corner, there are still other positions that require roster depth. Ivie may be defensive lineman number 10 for the Cowboys, which based off that number alone would make him a candidate for purging if corner, offensive line, or anywhere else began experiencing depth concerns.

Marquez White – Cornerback

White has the same story as Brown and Ivie. He’s a guy who has had a strong camp by all accounts, and has valuable fans within the organization, but there are only so many spots available. Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie all have secure jobs. It doesn’t appear at this point that Nolan Carroll and Orlando Scandrick are in danger of being released. That makes White, at best, corner number six. Like receiver, it’s tough to justify carrying more than five.

Despite the crowded position, the Cowboys might opt to carry White because of his strong camp, and because he fits their typical athletic preference at the position. He is still very raw, particularly with his footwork, so that may mean the Cowboys attempt to hold him until they no longer can, and then try to stash him on the practice squad.

The Cowboys could take the “release and stash” approach with any of these three players, but Dallas would have to be prepared for the potential consequences. Cleveland scooped up SPARQy running back Darius Jackson last season when the Cowboys attempted to release him and quietly move him to the practice squad.

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