Let’s see how Phil Costa handles his position in his 2nd full year as a starter, especially with bigger linemen beside him, but if there are no changes from the 2011 season, Seattle Seahawks’ Center Max Unger ( a player the Cowboys highly coveted in the 2009 draft ) will become an unrestricted free agent, sign him immediately.
Moving on to the Defense, where this side of the ball is in its rebuilding stage.
The Positives :
It begins with the 2 newest additions at cornerback. Brandon Carr was signed right off the bat with a 5 year, $50.1 mil contract, guaranteeing him a starting role in the secondary. Carr may not be the fastest CB in the league, but he has away of knocking the receiver off of his route with his jabs, and not afraid to take an interception in traffic. Just when you thought the Cowboys were finished with the secondary, they trade up with the St. Louis Rams from #15 to #6 surrendering their 2nd round pick, and selecting LSU’s Morris Claiborne, who happens to be the best defensive back in the whole draft, and should be given the starting nod right away. Now Carr spent most of his days at RCB in Kansas City, and will most likely replace Mike Jenkins at RCB in Dallas. Claiborne also spent most of his days at RCB with the Tigers, but did play LCB as well. He will most likely replace Terence Newman on Day 1. Demarcus Ware will remain the leader of this defense, and Rob Ryan is hoping to see him break the sack record this season. Gerald Sensabaugh was handed a 5 year $22.5 mil extension, and was moved back to strong safety where he belongs. He should repeat the performance and numbers he had in 2010 where he finished with a combined 71 tackles, 2 sacks, 10 passes defensed, and 5 interceptions, and that was in 14 games, he had missed 2 games due to injury. Signing FS Brodney Pool to a 1 year contract. And finally, the inside linebackers. I just can’t wait to see how Sean Lee performs with a younger and faster duo of 2011 2nd round pick, Bruce Carter, and UFA Dan Connor, his former team mate at Penn State. No matter who starts beside him, both Carter and Connor will bring a faster, younger dimension than former team mates, Bradie James and Keith Brooking, whom was not resigned during the off season.
The Questionables :
This all starts with the Front 3 of this Defense. Sean Lissemore’s and Jason Hatcher’s names kept coming up as players to watch this season. Will they both be starting on opposite sides of each other this season ? Or would they make an excellent rotating combo ? Why is Jay Ratliff still a starting Nose Tackle at 6′-4″ 287 lbs. ? Would Ratliff excel much better in this 3-4 Defense on the outside, rather than taking a double team beating in every game ? Will this defensive front be able to put pressure on the quarterback, and help out the linebackers ? Why was OLB Anthony Spencer franchised on a 1 year $8.8 mil deal ? Will Spencer be signed to a long term deal after or during the season, or will he be replaced ? Are the Cowboys satisfied with UFA free safety Brodney Pool starting this season, or will they search for a better prospect ? Any chance that 4th round pick Matt Johnson can unseat and replace Pool this season ? Will rookie OLB Kyle Wilber be ready to replace Spencer next season, if they decide not to resign him ? Where does Marcus Spears fit on this defense ? With a full offseason and training camp, Will this defense be alot better, and can actually stop offenses from scoring at will ? Will Mike Jenkins remain happy as a 4th CB ? Will Orlando Scandrick become more effective in pass protection as a #3 slot/nickel CB ?
The Negatives :
It all starts with franchising Anthony Spencer. After 5 seasons, The Cowboys knows what they have in Spencer, 21.5 sacks, which is pitiful playing opposite of Demarcus Ware. Ware takes so many double teams, it should free Spencer up more. Spencer is very good vs. the run, I understand, but he doesn’t have the motor and heart to get after the QB on passing plays. at age 28, Spencer isn’t going to improve. The Cowboys should have simply let Spencer go, and should have signed Kamerion Wimbley, also 28, for half the money, and a player that has more speed, and heart, who has ties with Rob Ryan in Cleveland, and has 42.5 sacks to his credit, and excelled vs. the run. Not improving the front 3 that added next to nothing in pressuring the quarterback. Signing Jay Ratliff to a 5 year, $40 mil extension to play as an undersized Nose Tackle, at age 31 when the season begins, Don’t even know if Ratliff should be playing in a 3-4 Defense, he may not have the speed to play outside at end. The Cowboys not getting a big nose tackle to start upfront, this position needs addressing next season. Keep an eye on Ratliff getting man handled this season. Free Safety still has a huge question mark sitting on top of it.