Are the Dallas Cowboys rebuilding or are they contending for titles? It’s hard to tell what the Cowboys are expecting out of this upcoming season. Drafting strategies and position battles at middle linebacker, cornerback, and offensive guard will tell Cowboys fans much more than who is the better player, but also will shed light on the coaching staff’s and front office’s expectations for this season.
The draft strategy of the Cowboys indicates that the Cowboys want to win now as opposed to later. Rookie and jack-of-all-trades offensive lineman, Zack Martin, shows promise and potential to be a great lineman for years to come, but Jerry Jones was more concerned for his early production. Zack Martin was drafted solely to protect quarterback Tony Romo, in his post-back surgery years. Both Martin and second round selection DeMarcus Lawrence were drafted to provide an immediate impact at positions of need. The Cowboys drafted to contend.
Unfortunately for the ‘Boys, a wrench was thrown into their machine when star middle linebacker, Sean Lee, was likely lost for the season with a torn ACL. Names for his replacement started to pile up, but most expect the Cowboys to address the position in free agency. Although it may be tempting to grab a free agent replacement, maybe it’s time to start looking from within. Coach– let the kid’s play!
Starting at middle linebacker, the Cowboys have multiple options to cover for Lee’s absence. Second year linebacker and former a former 6th round selection, DeVonte Holloman, may be the Cowboys short term answer in the middle, and a long term solution for an outside position in the linebacking core. Holloman, while replacing Lee last season’s finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, was involved in 11 tackles and added his first two sacks of his NFL career. Holloman is a converted safety from his college days and his coverage instincts will be essential to replace Lee and his four interceptions from last season.
Speaking of coverage, there seemed to be little of it in Dallas last year. Although the Cowboys made a splash to move up and select cornerback, Morris Claiborne, 6th overall in the 2012 NFL draft, he has shown little to warrant that selection in his first two years as a pro. Claiborne can only boast two interceptions in his career, but it may be time to cut the kid some slack. Fans love when a player plays through injury, but rarely understand when it hinders their play. Claiborne did exactly that last season with his nagging dislocated shoulder injury and eventually lost his starting position. Claiborne’s progression, in the long run, may just be too valuable to the Cowboys. The ‘Boys might just have to stomach a few blown assignments here and there in order to get everything possible out of Claiborne and all that was invested in him.
The Cowboys must allow their younger players game experience. Short term fixes will continue to doom the ‘Boys into 8-8 mediocrity. Maybe by playing younger and less experienced players the Cowboys may lose an extra couple of gains, but for the good of the franchise, Jerry Jones, head coach Jason Garrett, and the Cowboys fan base must be patient. It may not be pretty and it certainly wont be perfect, but it’s time to see what the kids can bring to the team.