Following another successful draft, this young Dallas Cowboys team is better equipped to contend than last year’s squad that went a surprising 13-3.
Contrary to what it might look like, the Dallas Cowboys were not cornered in the 2017 NFL Draft last week in Philadelphia. While defensive backs dominated the selection process, it’s important to note that America’s Team didn’t merely sell out in grabbing back-end defensive players in the annual player selection meeting.
What I wanted to see the Cowboys not do was repeat the catastrophic failure of the 2012 offseason.
How did that turn out?
Compounding that failure was the equally ill-advised free agent signing of Brandon Carr just a couple of months prior.
Dallas was done with previous defenders Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins, if you’ll recall. At least concerning the former, you could argue that Newman should have been retained. The former Kansas State star is still in the NFL while Claiborne and Carr are now playing elsewhere in the NFL.
The Cowboys cornered themselves during that ’12 offseason because they put all of their resources into the secondary while still lacking that sorely needed nose guard in the previous 3-4 alignment that was dropped just a year later.
In 2017, Dallas couldn’t ignore the lack of a pass rush and also young, capable bodies to man the interior of a defensive line that had zero star power last season.
Leading off the draft with Taco Charlton of Michigan was the right way to go. The 2015 first round selection of Connecticut defensive back Byron Jones notwithstanding, there’s been plenty of attention placed in recent years on the offensive side of the ball to begin the NFL Draft, you can pick any year.
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The time was now to get serious about building the defensive deep end for a Dallas defense that’s really been without a face-of-the-franchise player since the departure of DeMarcus Ware following the 2013 season.
No, Charlton doesn’t appear to be the new Ware, so to speak. The former Wolverine is just a different type of player than Ware. Charlton doesn’t have the athleticism or explosion that Ware possessed coming off the edge, but he brings different intangibles that could pay off equally well, even if not in the stat-column.
The presence of defensive lineman David Irving, my guess as the next Pro Bowl player on the Dallas defensive front, takes a lot of pressure off Dallas to land an instant double-digit sack type of player on the defensive line. Irving is the guy who is simply unblockable, and he likely needs just one other quality player close to him to ignite his still-young career.
In fact, the combination of Irving and Charlton gives the Cowboys some tremendous length that will be a huge difference-maker in the coming seasons. It’s not all about sacks, after all. The ability to reach out and grab the arms of opposing quarterbacks and also tip some passes can sometimes work out just as well – or better – than sacking the quarterback.
Yes, the Dallas defense needs to force more mistakes on the part of opposing offenses, but placing too much attention on back-end players that are seldom close to the football is not the way to go. In this case, the Cowboys took care of the main course in Charlton and two more defensive tackles, but also grabbed lots of dessert with the selection of three cornerbacks and an additional safety.
The defense is Dallas may be onto something this season, and the offseason is still going on. Whether or not the Cowboys add any additional pieces to this restructured defense between now and Week 1, there’s little question that this young team is better equipped to contend than last year’s squad that went a surprising 13-3 while also clinching the top seed in the NFC playoff bracket.