Hi, long time reader...first time poster. Like many of my fellow BTBers, I'm still in a state of shock over the way the 2011 season came to an end for our Cowboys. I can't say the way this year turned out has really surprised me all that much...but it definitely left me feeling disappointed. The one upside to the fact that the Cowboys more or less blew 2011 is that now we get to my favorite part of football...the offseason.
Every year I tend to annoy everyone I know because I'm always certain that this is the year for the Cowboys. I have believed in the talent on the roster for the past few years, I believe in Romo, and most importantly, I believe that Jason Garrett is the coach to lead us back to the promised land. More after the jump.
That said, I agree with a lot of what I've read here about the end of the season. While pissed that I'm going to watch the Giants play in the postseason...I view the Cowboy's collapse as a blessing in disguise given the state of our team. With all the holes on the roster, I really doubt there would have been much playoff success (if any). Yes, it would be a huge improvement over last year but really no different than 2007 or 2009. Wasted potential.
What I don't really agree with is the offseason approach that many of the BTB members seem to support. One, I want to keep Anthony Spencer. People tend to think that our pass rush is the biggest problem on the team for some reason, and that Spencer is the main issue with it. I believe that Spencer isn't the key, and the lack of a pass rushing defensive end is what we really need to impact our pass rush. While Spencer may disappoint some, I feel like he is playing the role designed for him on our defense, i.e. stop the run and help cover the backside of plays. Not everyone on the defense is going to be a ten sack player every year (not that Spencer has ever been close). If he comes cheap, we keep him. If not, that sucks but we're losing a solid player. My take on our pass rush is that its something in need of a tune up, not an overhaul.
We ditch TNew too, which is too bad. He's been one of my favorite players for a while but when its time to go, its time to go. L. Robinson would command a higher price tag if there weren't so many other great receivers becoming FA's this offseason so I think we can lock him up too. Other than that, player retention is up to Garrett, if we don't resign everyone else I'm sure we can find plenty of JAG's on the street.
The main point I wanted to focus on was our overall draft strategy. Instead of worrying about our pass rush and secondary, I think we will be best served by focusing on what continuously beats us: the strong pass rush of all NFC East teams and our inability to close out games. If Romo gets lit up or we need a first down to close out a game I basically assume we are going to lose. And going 0-4 vs. the Eagles and Giants makes me very upset.
That's not to say that the secondary should be ignored, but I don't think bringing in two new corners and a new safety is going to make them instantly turn a corner. Maybe an offseason under FatRob will do the trick, I'm sure if they know where they need to be before the offense is calling its snap count that would help. We should bring in a new corner or two, but not at the expense of what really costs us games.
An improved offensive line is the key to the Cowboys success over the next few years. How many more games would they have won if they had a line, and running back, that can punish a defense and milk the clock down to zero? Jets, Pats and Gmen#1 could all have gone our way. Giving Romo time in the pocket definitely won't hurt anything either.
So here's my dream offseason for the Cowboys and how it relates to the team needs I've outlined:
FA Additions (notable ones at least) - Calais Campbell and Courtland Finnegan
Obviously, the best pass rushing DE in free agency gives our pass rush a boost, helps Spencer turn the corner and gives our secondary a bit of help too. Even if we are strapped for salary cap next year a back-loaded contract for a stud DE is cool with me. Plus Eli Manning won't shred us nearly as badly if he doesn't have all day to throw.
Finnegan is a high character guy (I just hope he and Dez don't fight the way they do every time they play) who is a savvy veteran who will provide a little more leadership in our defense's back end. Shouldn't be too costly, with Brent Grimes and some of the other younger DB's available.
Draft - I'm not breaking it down all the way but I'll tell you what type of picks I want.
1. David Decastro or Trent Richardson - I think Richardson is gone by our pick but if you could put AP in our backfield, wouldn't you do it? I think he comes out and steam rolls the league and could be a legitimate closer for our offense. I don't view Felix as a long term solution and while Murray was spectacular last year but to me he stinks of Julius Jones. Hopefully I'm wrong but I want a power runner on this team regardless.
Decastro strengthens the interior of the line (FINALLY!!!). He keeps Romo alive and may make our current backs look like we all hope they do. I think he elevates the play of our center and gives the Yuglies a chance to develop into the OL depth we never have when we need it.
2. Pass rush/DB - Depends what we get in FA but this sounds appropriate. If Janoris Jenkins falls to the second round I say we move up, otherwise, maybe a DE/OLB prospect (Billy Winn?)
3. DB/ILB - Let's grab someone here who can add depth to our weakest positions and possibly push for some time in sub packages.
4-6. Don't care - Let Rob do his thing.
7. QB - Romo isn't gonna make it all the way through every season and I think we may find Kellen Moore or Case Keenum in this round. I think Kellen Moore is Drew Brees v2.0 but thats just me. Kids a winner.
All in all I think we are in good shape to rebound in 2012 and flat out dominate in 2013. Fear The Star.
P.S. Sorry if this is long winded or boring. I think everyone that contributes here makes this seem a lot easier than it is. More writing/ Better content to follow.