Dallas Cowboys 2014 Draft Needs: The Offense

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In a previous blog, I looked at how Dallas can improve their defense through the draft. Now a look at the offense which actually didn’t perform as poorly as the defense did last season.

Offense rankings last season:
16th in total yards.
5th in scoring. The offense scored 27.4 points/game.
14th in passing yards.
24th rushing yards.
7th in fewest sacks allowed. (Allowed 35 sacks)
8th in yards per rush with 4.5 yards/rush.

I think the offensive line is an area that could be improved next season. The run game needs to become more consistent as they ranked 24th in rushing yards. However they did run for 4.5 yards per rush which indicates the Cowboys play calling actually is a problem since they tend to mysteriously abandon the run in games even when they are effectively running it. “Can’t fix stupid” and the draft can’t fix bad play calling.

Last year the offensive line performed better than in 2012. I think it can be attributed to the addition of rookie center Travis Frederick who solidified the middle of the line. Pro Football Focus ranked Frederick as the top run blocking center in the League.

Also young tackle Tyron Smith was outstanding as he seem to become very comfortable in his left tackle spot this year and was named to the Pro Bowl team. Even Doug Free performed well at right tackle which was a big concern coming into the season.

The center position is in good hands and the starting tackles are in place but it may not be a bad idea for Dallas to try to upgrade their depth at tackle at some point in the draft.

Biggest draft needs by offensive position, ranked in order of need.

1. Guard
Guard Nate Livings was out all season with an injury and the Cowboys released him. GM Jerry Jones attempted to get by with 36 year old veteran guard Brian Waters but predictably, he didn’t last for half a season before getting injured. Waters future isn’t clear at this time.

Undrafted guard Ronald Leary and career back up guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, held down the guard positions and didn’t perform terribly but make no mistake about it, there is plenty room for improvement here. Bernadeau seemed to play better toward the end of the season.

There is no depth to speak of at guard currently.

2014 DRAFT– I was actually surprised and a little disappointed, that Jerry failed to draft a guard last year but I think he may see the need this time. Dallas could use a guard who can play right away so I look for them to draft one early.

Prospect: G Cyril Richardson Baylor. Cyril is large at 6-5, 340 pounds and is described as a “mauler”. For his size, he does move quite well. With Richardson lined up next to Tyron Smith, and with Murray carrying the ball, the Cowboys could establish a very physical run game. Cyril is originally from Fort Worth and is ranked as the second highest guard in the draft. (cbssports)

2. Wide Receiver
Currently the Cowboys are in good shape at WR. Dez Bryant had a good season and appears to be one of the better WRs in the NFL. He was ranked 3rd among WRs in TDs with 13 for the season.

Cole Beasley has been a good pick up for Dallas and Dewayne Harris is an option at WR not used as often as he should be in my opinion.

Miles Austin is expected to be released REPORT by the Cowboys after missing 5 games with his nagging hamstring injury and catching only 24 passes.

Rookie Terrance Williams improved as the season progressed and appears to be a guy Dallas feels good about replacing Austin. Williams finished with 44 catches, 736 yards and 5 TDs.

2014 DRAFT-If Austin is released as expected, then I think Dallas may draft a WR to add depth. I would look for them to pick up a WR in the middle to late rounds of the draft.

3. Quarterback
Jerry Jones locked Tony Romo with a large contract extension so a commitment has been made that leaves Romo as QB. Romo had a good season (QB rating of 96.7) and gave a heroic effort at the end of the Redskins game, leading them to a win. He suffered a back injury that caused him to miss the last game. Jerry expects Romo to fully recover and be ready to go next season but I have concerns that the serious back injury could become an issue next season over the course of 16 games. We will see how that plays out.

Kyle Orton the Cowboys well paid backup, was called upon in the Eagles game and given the circumstances, I thought he played as well as could be expected. He did a nice job of getting the passes away quickly and avoiding sacks. He represents a dependable option in the absence of Romo.

Alex Tanney was placed on the Cowboys practice squad but was picked up by the QB desperate Browns, late in the season. I thought Tanney was a good young prospect and it’s unfortunate that they lost him. Dallas found themselves without a 3rd string QB in that last game, so finding a 3rd string QB will be a priority.

2014 DRAFT– The Cowboys need a 3rd string QB and may draft one to be developed on the practice squad but I think they are more likely to find a undrafted rookie or experienced free agent to fill that role. If they draft a QB, I expect it to be late in the draft.

4. Tight End
Currently the Cowboys have 3 TEs on their roster with Jason Witten as their main target. James Hanna was added in 2012 and last season they added rookie Gavin Escobar. Of those two, Escobar had the more productive season with 9 catches, 134 yards and 2 TDs. In the final game, Escobar had a spectacular TD catch as he cart wheeled into the endzone. VIDEO
I expect Escobar to be worked into the Dallas offense more next season.

2014 DRAFT– I don’t look for Dallas to draft a TE unless they feel the need to keep 4 on the roster next season.

5. Running Back
DeMarco Murray proved to be more reliable last season as he played in 14 games and finished with 1,129 yards rushing and 9 TDs. Murray finished 10th in total rushing yards in the NFL.

Lance Dunbar was having an excellent season before going out with a knee injury on Thanksgiving Day against the Raiders. Dunbar is expected to recover and participate in preseason workouts. He provides the Cowboys offense more explosiveness through the run and receiving out of the backfield. I look for Dunbar to be integrated more in the offense next season.

Rookie Joseph Randle was solid as a backup for Dallas. He provided 65 yards rushing in the early win against the Eagles and 53 yards against the Bears. At this point, he needs to improve on his pass protection assignments to see more action.

Phillip Tanner was used very little by Dallas last season but was on the roster. It’s not clear if he will be on the team next year or not, but I think they will probably keep him as the 4th RB.

2014 DRAFT-With Dunbar expected to recover from knee surgery, drafting a RB is not expected. If they don’t keep Tanner, they could possibly draft one late.

In 2011, Dallas drafted tackle Tyron Smith in the first round and in 2013 they picked up center Travis Frederick in the first. I think it’s time for Dallas to add a guard to their offensive line who can play right away and help establish a consistent run game.

With Austin likely to be released, I think Dallas may pick up a WR for depth. They need a 3rd string QB to replace Tanney but I’m not convinced they will pick one up through the draft. I don’t look for Dallas to draft a TE or RB this year.