Your Wednesday edition of news on America’s Team.
Maybe Michael Gallup will not go on the PUP list.
Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup said at the start of training camp that returning for the season opener was “not a reasonable possibility.” The Cowboys, though, still have him on active/physically unable to perform, leaving the question of whether he might return before the minimum four games he would miss on reserve/PUP.
“You know how this fourth quarter goes in the rehab,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said, via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News. “All I can tell you is when we have the meeting every morning, (associate athletic trainer) Britt Brown is obviously running the rehab, and he feels real good about Michael’s progress as far as his timeline and so forth. He hasn’t had any setbacks, and I hope we will continue to be blessed with that process. He’s doing really well.”
The Cowboys could look outside the organization to find a swing tackle.
Nate Solder. There was a time when Nate Solder was one of the hottest names in the free agency market. A second-round pick from Colorado in 2011 (the same year the Cowboys took Tyron Smith out of USC), Solder spent the first seven seasons of his career with the New England Patriots where he helped them win two Super Bowls while blocking for Tom Brady.
He then hit free agency in 2018 and signed a four-year $62 million deal with the New York Giants. Solder would start 48 games in four seasons (he sat out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns) but was never close to the player New York expected him to be.
Solder signed a new deal with the Giants in 2021, which allowed him to become a free agent after the season. There was a time when it sounded as though he would retire, but he has not done so yet so he could be convinced to join a team for the coming season. Even with his struggles, Dallas should consider giving him a home for the year. Solder not only has experience at both left and right tackle but also did a decent job in run-blocking last season. He wouldn’t be called upon to start every game but is a savvy veteran who would be an upgrade over Ball.
Cooper Rush and Will Grier are neck and neck for the backup QB spot.
In two preseason starts, Rush led the Cowboys on nine offensive possessions with one scoring drive. Grier, who missed the first preseason game at Denver with a sore groin, returned for five offensive drives against the Chargers on Saturday night leading to two scoring drives.
As the Cowboys enter the final week of the preseason, it’s clear the No. 2 quarterback hasn’t been established. “That was tough missing last week,” said Grier, who completed six of 10 passes for 98 yards in the Chargers game. “But been ready to go, been preparing since last year [and] just trying to get better every day. It was kinda just get out there and get the first one over with and [get] more and more comfortable in the offense.”
Grier is a 2019 third-round pick by Carolina and has played in just two regular season games. The last time he saw game action was Aug. 27, 2021 for the Panthers where he completed five of seven passes for 47 yards in a 34-9 preseason victory over Pittsburgh. Grier also had a 24-yard fourth quarter touchdown run in that game. But the Panthers released him, allowing the Cowboys to snag him. He was inactive for 16 weeks of the 2021 season.
Keep these things in mind when projecting a final 53.
There will be just two. Some teams keep two quarterbacks, some keep three. The determinant is whether or not a team is keeping a developmental quarterback on the roster. When the Cowboys drafted Ben DiNucci (2020) and Mike White (2018), they stashed them as their third quarterback. The Cowboys don’t have a development guy this year who warrants holding a roster spot, so they should be rolling with just two guys that will come from either Cooper Rush or Will Grier.
Running backs matter, but not to Dallas. Running back is a grueling position and many teams keep four of them on the roster to give themselves enough depth. However, the Cowboys are a little different. In three of the last four years, the Cowboys have only kept two running backs, including last season when they started the year with just Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. They do sometimes keep a fullback if a player like Jamize Olawale or Rod Smith also brings special teams ability to the roster, but they don’t currently have any fullbacks on the roster.
The UDFA has impressed so far.
Davis, an undrafted free agent signed in April, has pieced together an impressive last several weeks at camp and the attributes routinely put on display in team practices are spilling over into scrimmages and, more importantly, preseason games.
His success creates a very poignant question as the Cowboys work to reduce their roster ahead of the August 30 deadline: is Dallas open to carrying four running backs on their active roster?
Dowdle entered camp healthy and fully recovered from a hip injury that cost him the entirety of what might’ve been a very promising 2021 season, and he’s showed no signs of having lost a step – neither in practices, scrimmages nor games – and running backs coach Skip Peete notably cast his early vote for RB3 in early August; but also left the door open for Davis and Aaron Shampklin to find a way to enter the conversation.
What does your final 53-man roster look like?
The first pertains to the league’s waiver system: When a player with three or fewer accrued seasons is cut, he is waived; when a player with four or more accrued seasons is cut, he is released. There is a big difference between being waived and released. A released player can be cut today and re-signed tomorrow while a waived player must clear waivers before a return.
For example, quarterback Will Grier has three accrued years. If cut, he would be subject to waivers. The Cowboys could re-sign him only if all 31 other clubs declined to submit a claim within a day of his cut being processed.
The second rule adds a dimension to the first.
A player on injured reserve is eligible to return later in the season only if his IR placement occurs after next Tuesday’s 3 p.m. roster cutdown deadline from 80 to 53 players. At least two Cowboys players, wide receiver James Washington (foot) and rookie tackle Matt Waletzko (shoulder), are strong candidates to go on IR with the activation option. They would need to appear on the initial 53.
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