Prediction Meets Reality

IRVING, Tex. - A month ago, we endeavored to predict the 2008 Dallas Cowboys' 53-man opening-week roster. While Dallas continues to do some juggling in anticipation of Sunday's opener at Cleveland, let's gauge where Prediction meets Reality.

OFFENSIVE LINE PREDICTION: Starters – Flozell Adams (left tackle), Kyle Kosier (left guard), Andre Gurode (center), Leonard Davis (right guard), Marc Colombo (right tackle). Backups – Joe Berger, Pat McQuistan, Doug Free, Cory Procter, James Marten.

REALITY: We got those 10 right, but of course couldn't foresee Kosier's injury and therefore the trade acquisition of Denver's Montrae Holland. Our sense is that the massive Holland – a 16-game starter for the Broncos last season – is being hurried into a starting guard spot. And maybe that Marten will be squeezed off the roster.

TIGHT ENDS PREDICTION: Starter – Jason Witten. Backups – Tony Curtis, Martellus Bennett.

REALITY: We nailed these, too, though we should concede that our depth chart might end up being wrong. Bennett came on in the last couple of weeks, and with the WRs ailing for the opener in Cleveland, some snaps for Witten out wide could mean 10-15 snaps at TE for the rookie.

WIDE RECEIVERS PREDICTION: Starters -- Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton. Backups -- Sam Hurd, Miles Austin, Isaiah Stanback, Danny Amendola.

REALITY: And here's the problem – and the source of any mess elsewhere. Hurd is down. Austin is down. Stanback is down. We were so wrong about Amendola that even with the injuries he didn't do enough to stick (though he is on the P-Squad and could theoretically earn a temporary activation this week.) More changes must be coming here, witness the Ernest Wilford-from-Miami rumors.

RUNNING BACKS PREDICTION: Starter -- Marion Barber. Backups -- Felix Jones, Tashard Choice, Deon Anderson (fullback).

REALITY: We got the group right – and so did the Cowboys. This has a chance to be an extremely successful unit.

QUARTERBACKS PREDICTION: Starter -- Tony Romo. Backup -- Brad Johnson

REALITY: Complete honesty here: Had we been pushed, we would've predicted Chris Simms being on the roster by now. (We first heard the notion in June. Dallas probably should've pulled the trigger then.) Now the Tampa Bay ex is on the street, and Richard Bartel is on the P-Squad, and if you ask us, Dallas is "hanging out'' at this position, as Jimmy Johnson used to say. "Hanging out'' is not, by the way, a good thing.

SPECIALISTS PREDICTION: Nick Folk (kicker), Mat McBriar (punter), L.P. Ladouceur (snapper).

REALITY: Easy picks for us. Flawless work by these fellas. Honestly, last Thursday against Minnesota, Folk was popping 50-yarders like they were M&Ms.

DEFENSIVE LINE PREDICTION: Starters – Chris Canty (end), Jay Ratliff (nose tackle or end), Marcus Spears (end), Tank Johnson (nose tackle). Backups -- Jason Hatcher, Stephen Bowen.

REALITY: Other names emerged over the course of the summer for a day or two, or even for a game or two, but these guys were – and are – locked in.

LINEBACKERS PREDICTION: Starters -- DeMarcus Ware (outside), Bradie James (inside), Zach Thomas (inside), Greg Ellis (outside). Backups -- Kevin Burnett, Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Spencer, Justin Rogers, Erik Walden.

REALITY: We thought Walden would stick to give Dallas nine ‘backers. Did he not play well enough? Or is this another aftereffect of the WR situation?

SECONDARY PREDICTION: Starters -- Terence Newman (cornerback), Roy Williams (safety), Ken Hamlin (safety), Pacman Jones (cornerback). Backups -- Anthony Henry, Pat Watkins, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick, Courtney Brown, Evan Oglesby.

REALITY: Six months ago, the Cowboys were excited about Alan Ball – but then it seemed like he did nothing all summer. So I omitted him from the prediction in place of the surprise Oglesby. Instead, both Oglesby and Ball are on the squad … though again, nothing is in cement here thanks in part to those nagging WR problems, which necessitated the re-acquisition of special-teamer Keith Davis (nice move, Parcells) and might have a trickle-down effect on a last man of a unit.

OVERALL REALITY: In summary, in our month-ago guesswork we missed on Amendola, missed on Walden and missed on Ball. Amendola might return to help our score, Holland can't be counted against us, and if Simms ends up here, we'll puff a Red Auerbach victory cigar. There are 53 on the roster, we correctly forecast 50 of them, and now there is only one judgment remaining:

For the Cowboys' decisions to be as accurate as ours were!

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