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The Cowboys roster must be down to 53 men by 8pm Friday

The Dallas Cowboys must have roster cuts in by 8 p.m. Friday. Here’s how I see the final 53-man roster shaking out. Note that the Cowboys will take things like injuries and ability to clear young players through waivers and onto their practice squad into account when making their final cuts.

Quarterback (3): Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Stephen McGee.

Why: Jason Garrett says the Cowboys value the quarterback position. The Cowboys could live without a third quarterback, but Romo’s injury history will probably compel the Cowboys to keep a third. Rudy Carpenter just didn’t do enough to beat out McGee.

Running backs (3): DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, Lance Dunbar.

Why: Two things put Dunbar over Phillip Tanner. First, Dunbar had a huge game against Miami and showed off the game-breaking ability the Cowboys love at that position. Tanner may be a tougher runner, but he lacks Dunbar’s breakaway speed. Second, Dunbar worked at both kick and punt returner against Miami and did well. That’s value that Tanner can’t provide. The third running back might be one of the hardest decisions on the roster.

Fullback (2): Lawrence Vickers, Shaun Chapas.

Why: Vickers is the clear-cut starter. Chapas adds value as a special teams player. Jamize Olawale is a hybrid fullback-running back who showed enough to earn a practice squad invite, but not a full roster invite. If the Cowboys can get him through the post-cut process, they’ll get Olawale on the practice squad. They clearly like him.

Wide receivers (6): Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris, Kevin Ogletree, Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes.

Why: Some believe the Cowboys will keep seven receivers. Others don’t. That means the Cowboys won’t have to part with either Holmes or Danny Coale, the latter of which is a fifth-round pick. My money is on Coale being released, who has been hurt part of this preseason. The Cowboys like hope to get him to the practice squad through waivers. Bryant and Austin are expected back for Game 1. Beasley’s absence against Miami could be a signal that the Cowboys like him and intend to use him right away. Holmes – who can also help returning kicks – played his way into a role against the Dolphins. Tim Binford came close, but in the end there are other receivers who are playing better right now.

Offensive line (9): Tyron Smith, Nate Livings, Phil Costa, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Doug Free, Derrick Dockery, Pat McQuistan, David Arkin, Ronald Leary.

Why: Arkin was maligned at times during training camp. But he was forced into the center role with Costa’s injury and can now provide solid play at center and guard, which makes him more valuable. McQuistan is a swing tackle and Dockery is a veteran guard. The line has, for the most part, looked solid this preseason.

Defensive line (8): Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Josh Brent, Tyrone Crawford, Marcus Spears, Sean Lissemore, Clifton Geathers.

Why: Brent is needed to help back up the hobbled Ratliff, who is questionable for next week. Crawford is a draft pick and has shown some promise this preseason. Lissemore is a nice keeper because of his special teams experience. The word is that Spears could be cut due to his contract and the perception that Spears hasn’t lived up to being a first-round pick. The Cowboys have to weigh the value of keeping Spears with his contract or going with a cheaper version of Spears. Geathers slips in as the final spot on the roster.

Linebackers (9): Anthony Spencer, Dan Connor, Sean Lee, DeMarcus Ware, Victor Butler, Orie Lemon, Alex Albright, Bruce Carter, Kyle Wilber.

Why: In the end this position appears to be shaking out without much fuss. Albright solidified his position against Miami, and with Conner a little banged up that assures Carter of a roster spot. The Cowboys will cut Adrian Hamilton in the hopes that they can sign him to the practice squad. He has intriguing talent and could be a real player for Rob Ryan’s defense, once he figures it out.

Secondary (10): Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Gerald Sensabaugh, Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, Mike Jenkins, Mana Silva, Mario Butler, Danny McCray, Matt Johnson.

Why: This position is banged up, so the Cowboys will probably keep more players here than you would normally expect. Jenkins has been cleared to play, but there is uncertainty around McCray’s availability for Week 1, which is a big deal for special teams. Silva and Butler earned roster spots with consistent play all preseason. Butler’s growing ability to play safety, along with corner, helps his case. The Cowboys like their draft pick, Matt Johnson, even though he’s played little this season.

Specialists (3): Dan Bailey (PK), Chris Jones (P), L.P. Ladouceur (LS).

Why: One thing to watch is if the Cowboys are happy enough with Jones to not take a look at Mat McBriar, who was released by Philadelphia. Otherwise, Bailey and Ladouceur are secure.

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