Austin On Dallas: Several Returning Starters, Few Additions Expected


“Uncomfortable”.  For such a powerful term to be thrown around at the conclusion of the 2012 season, Jerry Jones’ handling of his returning starters to this point seems quite the opposite.

With several unlikely ringing endorsements of returning starters, Mr. Jones seems unnervingly comfortable with fielding a majority of the players he trotted out last season.

Aside from the release of Gerald Sensabaugh and questions surrounding Doug Free, most of the remaining cast will take the stage again in 2013.


Tony Romo is still king at QB and his impending contract extension will cement that for the foreseeable future.  DeMarco Murray is unquestionably returning as the starter at RB.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin will remain as the 1,2 punch at starting WR.  The current crop of young Cowboys receivers will fill the #3 spot with Dwayne Harris getting most of the work.

Jason Witten is a rock at TE, while James Hannah showed nice promise for the future. A blocking TE will be added here to only start in 2-TE sets.

With ringing endorsements of each 2012 OL starter aside from Doug Free at RT, good luck replacing more than one starter there with new additions.  We may see Mackenzy Bernadeau take over at center and Jeremy Parnell at RT, yet both are returning Cowboys.

It’s likely a rookie guard will be added in the draft to start next year, but no other new starters will be acquired from the outside.  Depth is a different story, yet the focus here is on starters.

There could be a possible change at starting FB as Lawrence Vickers was noticeably lacking in 2012.  This adjustment is still very uncertain and probably unlikely.  An undrafted rookie will join the team to compete for the spot, yet likely won’t snatch it away from the veteran.

Other than those changes, Dallas seems shockingly comfortable with OL and everything surrounding it.  At the least we’ll see 9 of 11 offensive starters who currently wear the star.

The more likely scenario is 10 of 11 starting spots will be filled by returning Dallas Cowboys. Sounds quite comfortable for the 15th ranked scoring offense, Mr. Jones.


On defense it remains just as cozy.  8 of 11 starters are definitely locked in.  Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff, and DeMarcus Ware are starting along the DL.

Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are the MIKE and WILL LB’s.  Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, and Barry Church are good to go in the secondary.

SAM LB will be chosen from current Cowboys Alex Albright, Kyle Wilber, and Ernie Simms. Only Safety and DT remain open positions where an outside addition may get the start.  To be precise, that’s even far from a certainty.

The rookie selected for either spot is going to have to beat out talented current Cowboys to take the lead role.  Any safety addition below Kenny Vaccaro will have his hands full supplanting the promising (finally healthy) Matt Johnson.

While any DT selected from the entire draft crop will get all he can handle from the Jay Ratliff / Jason Hatcher combo.  Both those guys can mix it up with solid NFL starters.

Conventional wisdom may say neither is built for the “1 technique”, yet I have a feeling those guys have much to say about that before all is said and done.

Which is why I see the first round selection either being Vaccaro, OG, or trading up or back to get one of those.  I do not feel one of the top 3 OT’s (Luke Joeckle, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson) will be available at 18 nor warrant a move up.

Nor do I believe Dallas feels in dire straits enough at DT to spend a pick there at 18, unless surprisingly fortunate to find Shariff Floyd or Star Lotulelei still around.  Sheldon Richardson is not the guy here, IMO.

For opening weekend, I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see 10 defensive starters that donned the star last season.  As a matter of fact, I think that is the probable way it will go.

Either Dallas won’t be able to get Kenny Vaccaro at 18 and Matt Johnson wins the safety spot, or the Cowboys won’t grab a DT until Round 2 / 3 and that guy will rotate behind Jay Ratliff / Jason Hatcher.  I don’t expect both scenarios, but one should happen.


With a maximum of 4 new starters coming from newly acquired players, I just don’t see how the clubhouse could feel “uncomfortable”.  Is it through some positions being up for grabs between current Cowboys?  These are the same guys that wore the star last year and finished 8-8.

Are we supposed to buy that player rotation will markedly improve results?  The running game was beyond impotent both in yardage and scoring production.

Tony Romo constantly scrambled for his life and avoided many sacks all on his own accord. Good luck with a repeat of that now that rushers will adjust pursuit angles to stop Romo’s patented roll left spin way.

On defense, I have to reserve judgement as the group looked playoff worthy aside from massive injuries.  There were some letdowns before they lost several starters, but for the most part they played well.  A few additions there and the defense is good to go.

The more I analyze this team, the more I realize OL is still the place to heavily focus improvement.  And that doesn’t mean switching current Cowboys around.  I feel a minimum of 2 newly acquired OL starters is needed to make this thing effective again.

That being said, I’d have to spend my first 3 picks in the draft on 2 OL and 1 safety (or DT). The choice between the safety and DT has to be according to value.  If the DT on the board is more valuable than the safeties available, I’d go that way.

The one rule I would follow is finding 2 OL who will likely start next season in the first 3 selections.  I feel it’s that important to immediate success and by far the most incompetent, lacking area with what we offer in current players.

By getting the OL situation squared away as best as possible, it will undoubtedly also help the defense by providing longer rests and less pressure to hold solid offenses to unrealistic points for any chance to win.

The best teams in the league last year had one common attribute, they put up points in large numbers.  Half of the 12 teams in the playoffs scored an average of 27+ points during postseason play.  While 8 of 12 amassed 398+ total yards per postseason game.

One very telling playoff stat is that 8 of 12 teams produced an average of 124 rushing yards or more per game during postseason play.  San Francisco and Baltimore rushed for a combined 12 postseason TD’s.  Translation, you must run the ball effectively to beat the best teams.

The Cowboys defense is already superior to the offense, they must quickly approach closing that gap, which begins with OL.  Then we can realistically talk playoffs and an NFC East title.