New year, new Cowboys defense for 2016
By Tyrone Starr
If the Dallas Cowboys can focus on their defense this offseason, a return to glory may be imminent.
Most everyone uses this time of year to reflect on things that went poorly or possibly just things that they want to change in their life and promise to do something about it in the new year.
The popular refrain is commonly referred to as “New Year, New Me.”
Along with that, when your football team manages to only win four or five games, it’s certainly appropriate to attempt to turn over every rock and find out what causes such atrocities.
With that in mind, reflecting on the 2015 Dallas Cowboys season, the problems pretty much began and ended on the offensive side of the ball.
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We all know the horror show at quarterback. Even though he only managed to start four games this year, Tony Romo has more wins (3) than the other three players asked to fill his shoes combined (1). He also threw for the same number of touchdowns (5) in just four games that Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore have in ten starts.
Factor in the injuries to star wide receiver Dez Bryant and the constant shuffling of running backs and it’s easy to point at the lack of continuity as a major factor in this season’s failures.
Meanwhile, with all this turmoil going on offensively, the defense has been under immense pressure.
While they have done pretty well in some aspects, such as being 12th overall in total yards allowed and fifth in passing yards allowed, almost every other measure has been, at best, mediocre.
The largest issues defensively have been the lack of ability to pressure the quarterback and the complete incapability to create turnovers. Going into the final game of the year, the Cowboys are 24th in total sacks, second to last in interceptions and dead last at both forcing fumbles and recovering them.
So when it comes time to put out what seems to be multiple fires and get this thing back on track, what do you do?
In my opinion, I believe the offense is going to fix itself. Give this team a full year of a healthy Romo and Bryant, allow running back Darren McFadden to play with those two, freeing him of seeing stacked fronts and I’m confident things change drastically.
That leaves the defense.
I am fully entrenched in the camp that the top pick in the upcoming draft needs to be a defensive player. After careful research, I highly doubt the Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa will be around when the Cowboys are on the clock so I would like to see them address the back end first and choose Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey.
With another high pick coming their way in the second round, the Cowboys could then address their defensive line and look towards two guys who both played in this year’s college playoff. Either Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson or Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun would be a nice get here with my preference being Lawson.
With the top two draft choices both working towards bolstering the defense, Dallas can also use some of its free agency resources in this regard as well.
Addressing their own talent first, the Cowboys must make decisions on cornerback Morris Claiborne, linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end Greg Hardy.
Each comes with excessive baggage as well as appealing intrigue.
Can Claiborne stay healthy and ever get to close to reaching the potential that made him a top six overall pick? Can McClain stay focused and passionate about the game? Can Hardy find balance and play with the reckless anger that makes him a problem on the field while not allowing that to be a problem off it?
I think that Claiborne and McClain could return on team friendly deals. I also don’t see a huge market for Hardy, but I don’t think the Cowboys can afford him at the almost $9 million he made this year.
Outside of the team, the free agent pool has some big names that will all be available. Seahawks pass rushing linebacker Bruce Irvin, Chargers safety Eric Weddle and Giants sack specialist Jason Pierre-Paul all could be major additions.
Ultimately, I don’t expect the Cowboys to spend big money going this route but if they can get Pierre-Paul or Irvin for close to the same $9 million that they paid Hardy this year, I would make that move.
One thing is certain. The Cowboys need to be honest in their evaluations and make necessary moves to improve the pass rush and turnover issues. If that can be done, expect this team to be right back in the conversation when it comes to the most dangerous teams of 2016.
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But what do you think? Feel free to keep the conversation going at the bottom of this article in our comment section. Just please remember to be respectful in your responses and towards others. Thanks!