Whatever happens Sunday, here's my take on how the Cowboys
could improve going forward.
1. Improve the coaching
. Norv Turner is almost certain to be on the market, and no team is going to hire him as a head coach again, so if he doesn't want to go into broadcasting, he's likely going to land somewhere as an assistant. Why not back with Dallas, where he could be offensive coordinator merging his ideas with Jason Garrett and letting Garrett focus more on the big picture? The Dallas offense is good, but not great. It needs to be great if we want to win. If Turner won't accept, I would go after Tony Sparano for the offensive side to add some needed toughness. He could also call plays, and help Houck get more out of the O-line.
2. Improve the offensive line.
Our defense can't be fixed in one year, but our offense could be with a stronger offensive line. Think Green Bay, New Orleans, New England, Philly, even the Giants
. We need an offense that can compete with any of them. A 40-point offense, not just a 30-point one. We have the QB, wideouts, running backs, and tight ends. We just need the linemen. We have our tackles, even if we need to flip them. Do you think we can rely on any of the young guys we have -- Costa (undrafted), Kowalski (undrafted), Nagy (7th round), or Arkin (4th round) -- to play at a high level? I doubt it. That means we need to draft a guard or center fairly high, even in the first round, so they can start in 2012. Between the other 4, hopefully they can fill the other slot. But I would also consider coming back to the O-line later in the draft -- even as high as the third round. Dockery and Holland are not the answer, but one of them might provide veteran depth. We also need a better backup tackle than Jeremy Parnell.
3. Upgrade the secondary.
A lot of ink will be written about whether we should focus on the pass rush, or the coverage. I think we should focus first on the coverage. Newman needs to go because his $8 million cap hit is way too high for his production and we need that money elsewhere. Alan Ball
is also a liability. And we can probably do better than Abe Elam at safety. I think we should draft a CB or two, and sign a safety. Laron Landry might be had for a make-do contract if Washington lets him go.
4. Change out the linebackers.
James and Brookings no longer have enough speed, and should not be re-signed. Hopefully Carter can step in full time here. But we'll have to add some depth here.
5. Re-sign Bennett and Spencer.
These guys get ragged on constantly. I think we should keep them both unless someone offers Spencer a huge deal. Bennett isn't Jason Witten
, but he's our best blocking TE, and can catch 2-3 balls a game. We would miss his invisible production if we let him go. Plus, with needs elsewhere, we can't afford a high draft pick on TE. The same is largely true for Spencer. I'd rather spend the first pick on an offensive lineman to protect Romo and open holes for Murray/Jones than on a DE/OLB who might, if he's lucky, get one more sack than Spencer's 6. On defense, I'd rather spend the next pick on a CB. We shouldn't focus on where Spencer or Bennett were picked in the draft. The question should be, what would it take to improve the production at their positions, and what would it cost us elsewhere if we did that? We can do better than them, but it will cost us our first and second or third draft picks, and then where do we go to fix our secondary or offensive line? This is a prioritizing issue. If you want to let these guys go, you have to recognize we will end up with holes elsewhere.
6. Sign a new backup QB.
McGee is not the answer. He has the physical skills. He just can't see the field well enough and quick enough to be an effective passer. I would try to trade him, sign a veteran like Kyle Orton
, and look for a Matt Moore or Tony Romo
to cultivate for depth. Romo is regularly dinged during the year. We need someone who can win 2-4 games for us if necessary.
What this doesn't do is fix the pass rush. Of course I'd love to do that too, but I believe our pass rush/run defense is good enough to win if we give our offense the line it has needed since we won our last Super Bowl. That's the direction I'd go. If we had more free agent money, I'd spend it on another impact player, either at CB, safety, defensive line, or linebacker. I'm just not sure who's available at the moment.
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