Nov 28, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Rashad Jennings (27) runs the ball against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (39) and defensive end George Selvie (99) during a NFL football game on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium. Dallas beat Oakland 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
On NFL.com on Monday, an article appeared by Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus. In it, he listed the Dallas Cowboys as one of five NFL teams who need quick draft fixes. As Hornsby explains below, the Cowboys particular cure will be edge rushers.
"“Clearly, you don’t need to wait four years to repair a nose-diving position, and hopefully Dallas won’t, but the fact that your hopes for getting pressure on the opposing QB currently rest in the hands of, among others, a Jacksonville Jaguars cut (Jeremy Mincey) and a guy who managed an average of one team per season for the past five years (George Selvie) doesn’t bode well.”"
I certainly agree with Hornsby here. Our current starting edge rushers look a bit weak when compared to just a year ago when Pro Bowl defensive ends DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer were thought to be the Cowboys regular season starters. But Spencer was placed on injured reserve early on and played less than total 40 snaps. While Ware suffered a quad injury and turned in the worst statistical season of his nine-year career. This Dallas defense was the worst in the league last season. And this current depth chart doesn’t inspire confidence that anything will change in 2014. Hornsby confirmed my fears in the rest of his article.
"“The six players manning the depth chart right now managed 97 QB disruptions total in 2013 on 845 pass rushes, nearly equivalent to what the St. Louis Rams’ Robert Quinn managed on his own in about half as many snaps. Edge rushers for the Cowboys ranked 22nd in pass-rush productivity last year, and that was with DeMarcus Ware on the team. There is no question this group will need major bolstering.”"
But Cowboys fans have two lights at the end of this playoff-less tunnel: The possible re-signing of Spencer. And the availability of good edge rushers in the upcoming draft.
Let’s talk about Spencer first. The seven-year veteran and first-time Pro Bowler in 2012 is coming off microfracture surgery. After having nearly seven teams reportedly interested in him earlier this offseason, and two visits to NFC East rivals the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, Spencer remains a free agent. Obvious his health and age (30) have scared off potential suitors.
It simply makes sense (and cents) for Spencer to re-sign in Dallas. A one-year deal at a reasonable rate would be both beneficial for the team and the player. The signing would give Dallas the quality defensive end they desperately need right now, a chance to groom his replacement, and another draft to grow the position from. For Spencer, it gives him another opportunity to prove to NFL teams that he’s recovered fully from his injuries and that 2012 wasn’t a fluke.
As for the draft, the Cowboys will certainly have their fair share of chances to find competent edge rushers. Names like UCLA’s Anthony Barr and Missouri’s Kony Ealy, who should be visiting Valley Ranch this week, both fit the bill perfectly. In fact, edge rushers appear to be one of the deepest prospect positions in this historic underclassman draft. With 11 picks (six of them in the seventh round), the Cowboys should be major players in next month’s event.