Seven; the number of free agents the Cowboys have signed this off season, and the most the Cowboys have ever signed in this ‘modern’ off season era. Each of these signings has filled a need. Granted, only two of the signings are superstars (Brandon Carr and Kyle Orton; and before you start to question, what other team has a backup as good as Orton?)
There were two glaring holes that have been reiterated and tweeted and talked about for the past three months; defensive secondary and interior offensive line. Since the start of free agency, the Cowboys have signed two defensive backs (Brodney Pool and Brandon Carr) and two offensive guards (Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings).
Now I’m a believer in fixing things right. A team will be stronger if you completely fix one of the issues, rather than putting band-aids on both. Now the question remains, which problem do we want to completely fix, and which problem has a bigger need to fix?
Our offensive line last year was horrible, but it wasn’t the worst. According to the New York Life protection index, the Cowboys had the 13th ranked offensive line in terms of protecting the QB. The Cowboys scored a cumulative 66.1 (Compared to top ranked Saints with 88.0). The run game was abysmal until Tony Fiametta and DeMarco Murray arrived on scene, leaving me to believe that the offensive line wasn’t horrible, but the lack of a true full back and hard runner (Felix Jones is speedy, shifty, and quick – not a hard punisher) lead to the horrible run average for the beginning of the season. Our offensive line is also extremely young; meaning the more off seasons with six-time Super Bowl champion Strength and Conditioning Coach, Mike Woicek, the better this young offensive line will be. Needless to say, the offensive line will continue to grow exponentially with time, especially with the infusion of youth, and jettisoning old.
The defensive secondary, however, is not so easily fixed. With the release of Terrence Newman and the signing of Brandon Carr, we have turned the weakest link of the secondary into the strongest. Mike Jenkins showed some real toughness last year, playing through stingers and several separated shoulders. Scandrick will never be a starting outside corner (he lost that battle his rookie year against Mike Jenkins) but Scandrick has become an excellent slot corner, and an integral piece to defending opposing passing offenses. Recently signed to a $27 million extension, Scandrick will continue to man the slot, and possibly fill in on the outside as an injury replacement.
Gerald Sensabaugh greatly improved his play in the beginning of last year. If anyone remembers correctly, Megatron had no catches against the Cowboys until Sensabaugh went out with a concussion due to an Anthony Spencer boneheaded tackle. Sensabaugh had a nagging foot injury that limited his practice time, and it reflected in his play. He will continue to be great part of the secondary. Abe Elam was a one year communications stop-gap man. He was brought in to help the team learn Rob Ryan’s system, but the communication still seemed to be lacking. Now that our secondary has one full year and will have one full off season under its’ belt, Elam is expendable and we have gone younger and more athletic in another ‘Rob Ryan’ man with Brodney Pool. Brodney is just a band aid, and Mike Jenkins might not be around after his contract expires this year.
Jason Garrett should be thinking “draft defense”. Especially in the first two rounds. But even more importantly, he should be thinking “draft secondary”. The two 1st round secondary prospects out of the NCAA National Championship winning Alabama Crimson Tide will help the Cowboys the most. Dre Kirkpatrick (CB) didn’t have many interceptions, but he suffers from what I like to call the “Asomugha effect”, where a corner is so deadly, opposing offenses will avoid throwing the ball to that side because the risk of interception is so great. He would be a great addition, even if he plays in the slot or in sub packages his first year. Imagine if the Cowboys had four legitimate corners that could rotate to keep fresh, or have a high quality corner on each receiver opposing offenses put out.
Mark Barron (S) would also be a great asset to the Dallas Cowboys, as he is a Right Kind of Guy (RKG) with his community service and attitude. Both of these players played on a top 5 ranked defense for the past three years, and were big contributors. Both of these players held LSU scoreless in the NCAA National Championship game, and either or would aid in completely fixing the secondary for years to come.
The Dallas Cowboys won’t be perrenial Super Bowl champions every single year, but with the steps that Jason Garrett is taking to replenish the youth and stir the bottom of the roster, our Cowboys are putting one foot in front of the other. And in football, if you’re not taking any steps back, you are always moving forward. As Bill Parcells would say, “You either get better, or you get worse. You never stay the same”.