Some Names to Watch on the Cowboys’ Depth Chart

Miles Austin and the Cowboys open their preseason on Sunday.

The excitement that comes with the start of preseason will evaporate after about a quarter of Sunday’s game between the Cowboys and Bengals when the starters come out, but at least we have football.

There are few positions on the team where the starters are in question. What is less certain is the status of several of the backups.

Here’s a look at the names on the Cowboys’ depth chart on the eve of the first preseason game.

Offensive Line

Players lost from 2009: T Flozell Adams, C/G Cory Proctor, C Duke Preston

New starter: Tackle Doug Free, who filled in for Marc Columbo at right tackle for nearly half of the 2009 season, replaces Flozell Adams at left tackle.

Backup center: News from the Cowboys is that starting guard Kyle Kosier will be the backup center, with Montrae Holland moving to guard to replace Kosier. With the team losing Cory Proctor and Duke Preston, the team doesn’t have a true backup center on the roster. The depth chart now lists two reserve guards in the backup center position– Travis Bright and Phil Costa. Bright was on the practice squad last year.

New backups at guard and tackle: The Cowboys acquired Alex Barron from St. Louis in a trade for linebacker Bobby Carpenter, and Barron will be the principal backup at tackle. Pat McQuistan has been a tackle since entering the league in 2006, but he is now listed as a backup at right guard.

Draftees to watch: Robert Brewster was a third-round pick in 2009 but missed all of last season with an injury to his pectoral muscle. List on the third team behind Brewster is a sixth-round pick from 2010, Sam Young.

Other rookie free agents: In addition to Bright and Costa, two others (both rookie free agents) will try to make the team: Will Barker and Mike Tepper.

Offensive Backfield

Few changes: There is virtually no change in the offensive backfield from 2009. The Cowboys’ site still lists Marion Barber as the starter, though news during the offseason indicated that Jones would be the starter. Tashard Choice should see more action this year as well. Quarterbacks are, of course, Tony Romo, Jon Kitna, and Stephen McGee. With Kitna not looking especially impressive last preseason, and with him not playing a down in 2009, some eyes will be on McGee to see whether he might be ready to step up in front of Kitna.

Rookie: The only new name that shows up on the depth chart for now is a rookie fullback named Chris Gronkowski.

Receivers

Depth chart without an injured Dez Bryant: The biggest question about starters has focused on receiver, where many want rookie Dez Bryant to supplant Roy Williams in a starting role. But with Bryant out for four to six weeks with high ankle sprain, the lineup at receiver looks the same as 2009. The talented list includes Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton at receiver, with Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, and John Phillips returning at tight end. Bennett hasn’t made many friends among fans, and several have called for Phillips to move into the second tight end role.

Hurd ahead of Ogletree? : Sam Hurd was good on special teams last season, but he only caught seven passes in 2009. Kevin Ogletree saw more action towards the end of the season, and it’s not a bad bet to think he has a better chance than Hurd to make the team.

Rookie: One new name that shows up at receiver is Titus Ryan, who played in Canada in 2009. At the moment, Ryan is listed as the principal kickoff and punt returner.

Defensive Line

Same starters: The Cowboys brought back defensive end Marcus Spears to match up once again with opposite end Igor Olshansky and nose tackle Jay Ratliff. However, Spears sprained a ligament in his knee and will miss the entire preseason. His backup is Jason Hatcher, who had a solid season in 2009 as part of the defensive line rotation. Also returning are backups Junior Siavii and Stephen Bowen.

New names: The Cowboys have three new names for the defensive line on the current roster– seventh-r0und pick Sean Lissemore, former practice squad member Marcus Dixon, and rookie free agent Josh Brent.

Linebackers

Starters return: The Cowboys have a strong corps of linebackers, with starters DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Keith Brooking, and Bradie James returning.  The 2010 season would (barring injury) mark the first time since the Cowboys ran a 4-3 defense in 2003 and 2004 that the team would have all of its starting linebackers return for a second consecutive season.

Promising backups: Three of the Cowboys’ backups were draft picks in 2009: Victor Butler, Jason Williams, and Brandon Williams. Butler and Jason Williams saw action in 2009, but Brandon Williams missed the entire season with a knee injury. A third Williams– Leon Williams— also signed with the Cowboys in the 2010 offseason. Two other members of the 2009 team– Steve Octavien and Curtis Johnson— also remain on the preseason roster.

Rookie draft pick: The team’s site lists second-round pick Sean Lee as a third-stringer, but he will likely move past Leon Williams as a backup inside linebacker. Lee will likely miss the preseason opener with a quadriceps injury.

Defensive Backfield

New free safety: With the Cowboys releasing Ken Hamlin, the new free safety is Alan Ball, who has been with the club since 2007. Otherwise, the backfield remains largely intact, with Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman in place at the corners and backed up by Orlando Scandrick. Gerald Sensabaugh returns for a second season at strong safety.

Backups: The “other” Hamlin from 2009– former fifth-round pick Michael Hamlin– appears to be the primary backup at safety. Patrick Watkins remains on the depth chart, but he is current listed on the third team. The other veteran backup is Cletis Gordon, who saw action in one game for the Cowboys in 2009. Other backups are rookies: fourth-round pick Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, sixth-round pick Jamal Wall and free agents Bryan McCann, Danny McCray, and Barry Church.

Special Teams

All eyes on David Buehler: David Buehler showed he was a great kickoff specialist in 2009, but now he will need to show he can make field goals. Word is that he has been generally accurate during camp, making 20 of his first 24 attempts as of last Monday.

Returner? The Cowboys have a number of players who can return punts and kickoffs– Felix Jones (kickoffs), Patrick Crayton (punts), Kevin Ogletree (kickoffs), Terence Newman (punts). Right now, though, the name that shows up for both returner positions is Titus Ryan. We shall see.

Enhanced by Zemanta