Ten Burning Questions Surrounding the Dallas Cowboys

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Dec 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) watches from the bench against the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Cowboys won 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is now less than a month away. And with some major losses suffered in the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys are under more pressure than ever to have a successful draft. Especially considering their lack of moves in free agency to address those losses. With anticipation building for Cowboys fans and nothing to do but wait, I thought this would be a perfect time to address Ten Burning Questions Surrounding the Dallas Cowboys as of right now.

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church (42) reacts after the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

10. Who Will Start At Safety Beside Barry Church?

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones appears to be happy with the current state of the team’s safeties. But by my account, fans are not. Besides safety Barry Church, the Cowboys only have a handful of inexperienced players to take the other starting safety role.

The leading candidate to start beside Church is J.J. Wilcox. The kid has potential and showed glimpses of greatness in the preseason last year. But inexperience, the death of his mother and injury (MCL sprain) really hurt J.J. in his rookie campaign. Let’s not forget that Wilcox was a third round pick out of Georgia Southern who had just one year of experience at safety. That’s a tough jump from the Sun Belt Conference to the NFL. But the Cowboys appear to be all-in on Wilcox right now.

Behind him are safeties Jeff Heath and Matt Johnson. Heath has a slight edge over Johnson simply because he’s seen a quite a bit of regular season action. Heath started in six games last season and had 60 total tackles. He also led the team in special teams tackles with 13. But Heath also got ran over by Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson for a score and was repeatedly abused by New Orleans Saints quarterback Dree Brees. Pro Football Focus ranked Heath as the 62nd best safety in the NFL last year. Wilcox was ranked 49th.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys fourth round pick out of Eastern Washington in 2012 has yet to even see the field in the regular season. Safety Matt Johnson suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason of his rookie campaign that ended his season before it started. Last year, he sprained his left foot in the very first preseason game and soon landed on the injured reserve list yet again. Johnson has been a Cowboy for two years and played in just two preseason games. But the Dallas front office and coaching staff must see something in him to keep Johnson around that long. Many believe this will be his final chance to prove he’s been worth the wait.

Finally, here’s a name not a lot of people are talking about: Jakar Hamilton. The undrafted rookie out of South Carolina State was called up from their practice squad after Wilcox suffered a knee injury mid-season. Although Hamilton looked lost at times, underground rumblings amongst fans had some excited by his potential. Clearly, he is raw. But honestly, so are the rest of the safeties other than Church.

It appears the Cowboys are hoping one or two of these “projects” will step up this year and validate the time and effort placed into them by this team.

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Tags: Anthony Spencer Dallas Cowboys Henry Melton Tomy Romo

  • Old Frog

    Draft O line and run the damn ball! Garrett ain’t going anywhere – the Cowboys will either make the playoffs or have enough reasonable excuses (like Romo goes down) to justify keeping him.

  • David

    Yeah they should stick with that group of safeties. Wow…

  • Sad Fan

    My only question is, when is Jerry Jones going to die?!!!

  • SmartThinking

    You’ve stated and answered, brutally honestly, all ten. Other than the question of how much will big Jones muck up the draft with bad decisions, everything else is pretty much what us pragmatists see with this team as well.

    Here are my major areas of concern: a) good as he is, and I think he’s the best I’ve ever seen, you just can’t rely on Marinelli to push the envelope much more than he already has, especially with what I can only expect will be new draft picks and raw 1 yr. men on defense. B) every major talker on this team has refused to address the most important and easiest to fix component of the offense — two new OG’s to power the O line so Murray can get 1,500 yds. instead of 1,000+. C) can Garrett stand up, be a real coach and instill enough grit and determination in this team, particularly in the face of a brutal schedule, to make them competitive, even if just in their own division (I don’t see Dallas winning against the Giants or Eagles and splitting against Washington).

    Twenty or so years without a competent contender is long enough. I believe this team’s fan base has had enough. Witness lagging Cowboys merchandise sales as Exhibit A. I’ll wager that stadium seat contracts will falter this year as well and tha by itself will drive a stake through big Jones’ facsimile of a heart.

    And I also think big Jones has seen the writing on the wall and is slowly passing off responsibility to others …. reserving the right, as ego-maniacs do, to screw up the system at any point he chooses.

    Another year of backwards progress and big Jones will have even less to boast about plus a lot more angry villagers at his gates. We shall see. I just hope it doesn’t get any bloodier before it gets better. But I’m a cynic, too.

  • baronmwd

    I disagree with the notion that Dallas is trying to replace the production of the 4 probowl defensive linemen. In 2013 you had Ratliff & Spencer who had no production for our D-Line. Ware had his worst season ever so his 2013 production should be easy to replace. Melton if healthy should be an adequate replacement for Hatcher with more upside due to his age.

    Also I’m not sold on bringing Spencer back. First off, no matter what we pay him it’s going to be a price that’s too high for a 30+ year old player coming off a major injury. Let’s not forget that we still don’t even know if Spencer can even be productive at DE. He has always been good against the run but only had one good season as a pass rusher but all of that production was as a stand up OLB. I think we draft a DE in 2nd or 3rd round and that player would be better, cheaper, younger & healthier then Spencer.

  • Earl Robertson

    As long as Heath isn’t on the field the defense will improve greatly

  • Guy Smith

    Know what’s scary, we could trade Down and get a team to Overpay, maybe give up a Second AND third rounder, but then you have to see Who’s doing the selecting for us, and That;s when it gets scary.