The Dallas Cowboys have made an effort to bolster their pass rush this offseason. When the team signed defensive end Greg Hardy to a lucrative one-year deal in March, many crossed pass rusher off as the team’s top need. Some feel that cornerback, running back, or even defensive tackle are bigger needs now.
The corner position has become the hot bed of Cowboys draft talk since the Hardy signing. Cornerback Brandon Carr could be headed to a contract stalemate with the team as they could ask him for a pay cut. They likely will examine his contract after the draft takes place. Morris Claiborne is a question mark as his poor play and serious knee injury don’t leave much hope or anticipation for a rebound season.
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However, the team has it’s top cover man, Orlando Scandrick, who may move over the left corner this year where the majority of targets go. If Carr is willing to accept a restructure, he is more than suitable as a number two man. The veteran rebounded nicely down the stretch of last season after some early struggles. The emerging Tyler Patmon and newly signed Corey White can battle it out for third corner with Claiborne possibly providing reinforcement.
The running back position took a huge hit when DeMarco Murray left town for Philadelphia. It is hard to imagine his production could be replaced by Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden. However, the sweet spot for running backs likely won’t begin until the second round of the draft.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley looks to be headed for a top-20 selection. He is the only back who is deserving of the Cowboys’ 27th overall pick. The team could have a nice selection of backs in the second round such as Boise State’s Jay Ajayi, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon.
The want and need of getting a workhorse back is completely understood. The front office is undoubtedly eying some backs who can be that type of runner. Unfortunately, Gurley is not looking to be available by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. Fortunately, there are a sleigh of good backs who will be around for the team’s second round choice. Look for that need to be addressed after the first round sans Gurley.
While a tandem of Hardy and second-year end DeMarcus Lawrence seems formidable on paper, there is really no guarantee. Hardy’s legal problems have been well-documented. The NFL recently purchased evidence from a North Carolina court that shows pictures of the female victim’s injuries, according to profootballtalk.com. Some have predicted suspensions of more than eight games.
While Lawrence had a nice playoff run, he missed eight regular seasons games. In the other eight contests, he failed to record a sack. His combination of injury history and lack of production make him far from a sure thing. Added to that, backups Anthony Spencer and George Selvie departed in free agency.
Starter Jeremy Mincey is set for a return after leading the team in sacks last season. While he had a productive season, he doesn’t boast an ideal set of pass rushing traits. Mincey is best suited as a backup end, and maybe even has a role as a nickel defensive tackle.
There could also be a sweet spot for pass rushers at the end of the first round. Players like Mississippi State’s Preston Smith and UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa could be ripe for the picking at 27. A player taken at that stage could transition nicely into a backup role, and contribute on obvious passing situations. Assuming Lawrence or Hardy are unavailable, their roles could significantly expand.
While the Cowboys are obviously not void of needs, the cornerback position could have a resolution coming in the future. Further, they can approach the draft knowing that Carr will be under contract. The running back position is not top-heavy enough for first round consideration.
For those reasons, look for defensive end to be the top target of the first round, despite an offseason that bolstered the position.