The point of my fanpost is to raise questions and initiate discussion rather than provide answers. Now that the Cowboys’ season has ended, we are left with questions as to what happened and what needs to be fixed.The offensive line has long been a concern of Cowboy fans. This season the right side of the line seems particularly weak. The linemen are getting older and won't be improving. I recently looked up some statistics on NFL.com regarding our offensive line and was surprised to see things weren’t as bad as I initially thought. The Cowboys were ranked 11th in fewest sacks allowed and 17th in fewest hits allowed. They were 16th in total rushing yards and 23rd in rushing touchdowns. These stats aren’t great, but with the exception of the rushing touchdowns, they aren’t horrible either.
Since 2004, the Cowboys have drafted the following offensive lineman (prepare to read some names you don’t recognize and some which sound familiar): Jacob Rogers, Stephen Peterman, Rob Petitti, Pat McQuistan, E. J. Whitley, James Marten, Doug Free, Robert Brewster, and Sam Young. There have been some attempts to address offensive line needs in the draft with very limited success. Now, we have the changing of the guard with Jason Garrett as the new head coach. I don’t know if that will mean a change in scouting and who evaluates talent.
Question 1: Is our O-line really THAT bad, or is it merely average to slightly below average? Because we can expect the line to decline further, how much of a priority should it be in the draft?
I also looked up some defensive statistics. Dallas is ranked 31st in total points allowed. They are 26th in passing yards allowed and 12th in rushing yards allowed. The Cowboys are tied for 14th in sacks, 7th in interceptions, and tied for 15th in forced fumbles.
Allowing the second most points of all the teams in the NFL reflects all aspects of the defense. It’s a problem not easily solved, and there are multiple solutions. Many people have complained that the Cowboys don’t rush the passer enough. Opposing quarterbacks have time to make their reads without pressure, and the receivers have time to get open.
The secondary also has its weaknesses, which is an understatement. We have seen displays of poor tackling, bad decisions, lack of speed, pass interference and other penalties, blown coverages, and many other mistakes. This season we saw a regression of Mike Jenkins. In the 2009 season, I remember reading in our game threads comments about him being a beast and by far the best cornerback we had on the team. This season people were wanting him fired. His regression is probably due to a number of factors. For one thing, he didn’t have adequate safety help. The defensive player most called out for his poor play on this blog (and elsewhere) is Alan Ball. He was often lost, beaten on plays, blowing his assignments, and missing tackles.
There were coaching issues - poor preparation, inadequate schemes, lack of accountability, etc. Many have called the Cowboys predictable and unoriginal. (That could probably describe both offensive and defense.)
Question 2: What is the root cause of the collapse of our defense - bad safety play, lack of pressure up front, player regression, bad coaching, something else?
With the season recently finished, this is a great time to reflect since everything is still fresh in our minds. What do you guys think?