Another whirlwind season in the books for the Dallas Cowboys, of course this season also ended in bitter disappointment again. It is safe to assume that Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones will have to make some moves in order to get America’s team back to prominence once again. The casual fan has been asking for Jason Garrett’s head according to local sports radio and the sports blog sites. Not to say that they are not partially right, that is just not the right move at the moment. No coach can make the necessary changes within the culture of a team in just two short seasons. Although you could argue that Jim Harbaugh was able to, however he took over a much more talented team.
Put your “Tony Romo is the problem” argument to the side, he is definitely not the problem. There were a multitude of issues for the offense including protection, injury issues and the disappearance of certain players. There were many games in which, without Romo, the Cowboys would have been defeated easily. In order to get started in the right direction there are a few key areas that need immediate attention, mainly the offensive line.
Doug Free has regressed since impressing the team and earning himself a big payday. He has issues coming out of his stance, problems with leverage and speed rushers run straight to the quarterback. The talk around Valley Ranch is that Free could make the change to guard, however if strength and athletic ability is an issue for him this is not the answer. If I were to grade the line only one player would return next season, Tyron Smith.
The running back position has been anything but consistent with DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. Jones is not the type of player who can be feature back, he is also a free agent and not likely to return to Big D in 2013. Murray is the type of player who can really frustrate you with so much potential but on top of high ceiling there are injury concerns. He fell to the Cowboys in the 2011 NFL Draft in the third round due to durability issues during his tenure at Oklahoma. This position should be a point of emphasis come April.
As far as the receivers on this team, Miles Austin once again did his annual disappearing act. It would seem that the Cowboys have a few players that will frustrate you with Austin being on that list. Not only was Austin disappointing but Kevin Ogletree was another player that the Cowboys were hoping to lean on. However after Ogletree’s 114 yard and two touchdown performance on opening night, he seemed to disappear as well. If it had not been for Dez Bryant’s sizzling performance down the stretch and the surprising rise of Dwayne Harris this would have been a much worse season for Garrett and company.
If there is one group on this team that doesn’t seem to have issues on the field it is the tight end group, especially with the annual pro-bowler Jason Witten. The All-Time yardage leader for the Cowboys did have a slow start (due to injury) but by season end was back to form. James Hanna didn’t have a huge productive season but learning from one of the greatest at that position should make his production go up in the coming years.
If the Cowboys expect to compete with the Redskins and Giants annually their defense is in need of an upgrade. Switching to the 4-3 defense, defensive line will need to be a focus in the draft. Anthony Spencer’s contract demands are likely to be above the available cap space for the Cowboys, and the defensive tackles have had legal trouble with their recent DUI cases. With DeMarcus Ware moving up to defensive end, this would likely increase the productivity to that position but creates issues at linebacker.
In what used to be the deepest position for the Cowboys defense, now seems to be a weakness. Sean Lee is likely to remain as the middle linebacker next season, but what do you do with Bruce Carter? He has the athletic ability to cover running backs and tight ends, while at the same time rush the passer. It would be safe to say that he can fill the strong side linebacker position but weak side is an obvious opening.
Maybe the weakest position for the Cowboys is the secondary despite Maurice Claiborne and Brandon Carr commanding the corner spots. Gerald Sensabaugh and whomever they plug in at free safety is a liability in the passing game. Constantly taking bad angles or just getting beat deep, this should be a top priority in the first round. With Kenny Vacarro and Jonathan Cyprien available the Cowboys should take a long hard look at both of them.
This franchise has a long history of being at the top, but for the younger fans all they know is mediocrity. Whether this team is good or bad, people still show up to watch them. However if Jones wants to get back to the top like he was with Jimmy Johnson, he will need to hit on every one of his six picks.