After a busy free agency, coaching changes, and a productive draft are the 2012 Dallas Cowboys now ready to win the very competitive NFC East and make the playoffs? Owner Jerry Jones thinks the Cowboys are better.
“I think we’re better,” Jones said after the draft Saturday night. “And we’re certainly better with what we did in free agency and certainly just all the way around.”
Keep in mind this is the same guy that declared at the end of last season that the Cowboys were “Super Bowl ready“.
In some areas the Cowboys are definitely going to be better but in some other areas it appears they may be about the same as last year or perhaps even worse.
Let’s analyze the off season changes breaking it down by positions and assigning a rating of Better, Same, or Worse compared to last year’s 8-8 team.
CBs: Key Personnel additions/losses: Signed CB Brandon Carr and drafted Morris Claiborne. Released Terrance Newman.
Comments: So far this is the area that the Cowboys have done the most to improve. With the way they were lit up by the Giants WRs at the end of last season, this was an area of need. Not sure how Jenkins will fit in now. Opportunity to improve depth at this position too. Carr and Claiborne represent major upgrades at corner.
Safeties: Key Personnel additions/losses: Did not resign Elam and signed Brodney Pool from the Jets. Drafted Matt Johnson in 4th round.
Comments: At this point I would consider Pool for Elam about an equal swap. Sensabaugh and Pool are both approaching 30 so some youth was needed. The Cowboys drafted Matt Johnson who played at the DIV II level as a safety. Expected to be a special teams contributor and known to be a good hitter. How quickly he can develop his cover skills and how he adjust to NFL level of play, remains to be seen. Depth wise they have Barry Church and are looking at Justin Taplin-Ross who was an undrafted free agent last year.
Still lots of room for improvement at this position.
Defensive Line: Key Personnel additions/losses: Drafted Boise State DE Tyrone Crawford in the 3rd.
Comments: No key personnel losses here and the addition of Crawford should offer some much needed youth and energy. Crawford is a bit of a project as he learns to play the 3-4 DE. His non stop motor will put him in the rotation I expect. He will need to add weight and strength too but brings good quickness and long arms which are a big asset at DE. Lots of upside potential for Crawford. The Cowboys got a little better on the D line.
OLB: Key Personnel additions/losses: Drafted Kyle Wilber in the 4th.
Comments: The Cowboys sure could have used another pass rusher here but I’m afraid Wilber is more like Spencer. A solid defender against the run but he has work to do to become a pass rusher. Expected to be a special teams contributor. As the season progresses, I look for Wilber to contribute but for now the Cowboys are about the same at OLB.
ILB: Key Personnel additions/losses: Did not resign veterans Keith Brooking or Bradie James. Signed Dan Connor from the Panthers. Drafted Caleb McSurdy in the 7th round.
Comments: Some youth was needed here so the Cowboys made changes. Connor is a decent ILB and a healthy Bruce Carter is expected to play this year. My expectations for a small school late round pick McSurdy, are low. Sean Lee is the man at this position and while I don’t think Dallas made drastic improvement here, I like the youth movement. Carter’s performance determines if the Cowboys will improve at ILB.
Offensive Line: Key Personnel additions/losses: Guard Kyle Kosier was released. Signed Nate Livings from the Bengals and Mackenzy Bernadeau from Panthers.
Comments: Of all the areas, the O line is where I’m the most concerned. The Cowboys are not significantly better yet and it was an area of noticeable weakness last season. Several rookie undrafted free agent O linemen have been brought in and may offer help to the interior line. Guard Ronald Leary of Memphis is one of them that seems to have a good chance to help the line. This area needs more improvement before they go play their first game against the Giants tough defensive line.
WRs: Key Personnel additions/losses: Did not resign Laurent Robinson or Jesse Holley. Drafted Danny Coale in the 5th.
Comments: Disappointed that Robinson and Holley are gone. The Cowboys are looking for Ogletree, rookie Coale or one of a few practice squad players to handle the slot WR spot. Coale certainly looks like a good prospect as do some of the practice squad guys too but overall the Cowboys took a step backwards at WR.
QB: Key Personnel additions/losses: Jon Kitna retired. Signed Kyle Orton.
Comments: Kitna was a fine back up but bringing in the younger Orton should prove to be an improvement backing up Romo.
TEs: Key Personnel additions/losses: Martellus Bennett released. Drafted Oklahoma TE James Hanna in the 6th.
Comments: Bennett just never developed into what was expected so they parted ways. I like the athletic ability that Hanna demonstrates. Naturally he needs development, but he should be a fine back up to Witten and Phillips. I think the Cowboys are a little better at TE now.
RBs: Key Personnel additions/losses: NONE
Comments: The Cowboys are looking at a couple of rookie undrafted free agents, Lance Dunbar (N. Texas) and Darrell Scott (S. Florida). Cowboys always seem to run short on depth at RB during the season. At this point, they are about the same as last year but having a healthy Murray will be a tremendous help.
It’s a mixed evaluation of the Cowboys off season activities. I’m not quite ready to declare the Cowboys “Super Bowl ready” yet.
As we look to next season, the Offensive line and WRs are the areas that I have the most concern. There is still time to improve these areas through personnel acquisitions or perhaps someone currently on the roster will step up. However a reason for optimism is the Cowboy secondary should be much improved next season. If they can manage to protect Romo better, I think the Cowboys can be a factor in the brutal battle to represent the NFC East.