Ok, let’s be real…
Attempt if you will to dispel any bias, put all kidding aside, show no preferential or subjective reasoning, and display no partisan desires. Yes, to do so is difficult. It’s counter-intuitive. Some might say it’s inhumane. Whether you’re judging a dog show or watching people go about their business in an airport, any opinion we formulate about something tends to have some subjective quality. The fact of the matter is that emotion is part of the human personality and removing our feelings when trying to analyze something (anything) is almost impossible. But when it comes to discussing direction for a sports franchise, especially a football team, the absolute most important characteristic to have is impartiality and unbiased thought. Being honest about something, even when it might be received as undesirable or unpopular, usually results in the greatest amount of success in the long run. With that in mind:WHAT ARE THE NEEDS, IN ORDER OF PRECEDENCE, FOR OUR BELOVED DALLAS COWBOYS?
For the most part, my sensibility tells me that needs are based on two things – individual and team production. In the NBA, there’s such a statistic as the + / - (plus or minus). It’s an indication of the number of MORE or LESS points that are scored while that player is in the ball game. A positive plus / minus of 5 means whenever that player is on the floor, the team generally outscores the opposition by 5 points. This statistic is merely an indication of team performance – it does not take into account how many points that particular player scored or how good or bad defense he played. It simply states a fact: when that player was in the game, the team either was better or worse relative to the immediate competition. Unfortunately, there is no plus / minus for the NFL. PFF does a good job of determining job performance against the ‘average’ but that deals with just individual production and is not regularly available to the public.
That aside, I think that it’s evident that there are distinct weaknesses on our team. Anybody who watches them play can see the obvious lack of production in certain areas. But which areas? How do you determine which specific group of players are better than others? For instance, the Cowboys AS A TEAM were 23rd in the league against the pass. That statistic is USUALLY an indication of less than stellar play from their defensive secondary but other factors should be considered (such as the linebacker ability in pass coverage, defensive line and linebacker pass rush, blitzing from secondary positions – even the time of possession of the offense). In other words, there will always be some indication of the team needs but nobody (not even the Cowboys front office) can ever truly assess access the impacts of individual or even groups of player additions / deletions as the individual and collective production of single or groups of players is impossible to delineate.
Hold that thought. Below is a list of players signed for AT LEAST the 2012-13 season (according to Rotoworld cross referenced w/ Dallas Cowboys official team website):
Alex Albright (LB), David Arkin (OG), Baraka Atkins (DE), Miles Austin (WR), Dan Bailey (K), Josh Brent (DT), Dez Bryant (WR), David Buehler (K), Victor Butler (LB), Mario Butler (CB), Robert Callaway (DT), Bruce Carter (LB), Shaun Chapas (FB), Barry Church (S), Kenyon Coleman (DE), Phil Costa (C), Kai Forbath (K), Doug Free (OT), Dwayne Harris (WR), Jason Hatcher (DE), Andre Holmes (WR), Mike Jenkins (CB), Chris Jones (P), Felix Jones (RB), Kyle Kosier (OG), Kevin Kowalski (C), L.P. Ladouceur (LS), Sean Lee (LB), Orie Lemon (LB), Sean Lissemore (DE), Danny McCray (S), Stephen McGee (QB), DeMarco Murray (RB), Bill Nagy (OG), Terence Newman (CB), John Phillips (TE), Raymond Radway (WR), Jay Ratliff (DL), Tony Romo (QB), Brashton Satele (LB), Orlando Scandrick (CB), Gerald Sensabaugh (S), Mana Silva (S), Tyron Smith (OT), Marcus Spears (DE), Philip Tanner (RB), Justin Taplin-Ross (CB/S), DeMarcus Ware (LB), Teddy Williams (WR), C.J. Wilson (CB), Jason Witten (TE).
So, if the Cowboys were to start the season tomorrow, they would be able to field 51 players. Yep, just two shy of the normal 53 man roster (but this 51 includes players from the practice squad). The break down by position includes 2 QBs, 3 RBs, 1 FB, 6 WRs, 2 TEs, 2 OTs, 3 OGs, 2 Cs, 5 DEs, 3 DTs, 7 LBs, 4 S, 6 CBs (Taplin-Ross counted as CB and not S), 3Ks, 1 P and 1 LS. Look at that for a moment . . . that’s 8 defensive linemen, 7 linebackers, 6 wide receivers and 3 kickers. THREE KICKERS! From the looks of it from just a numbers (volume) standpoint, the team doesn’t appear to be in that bad a shape (if you value the kicking game especially). However, going into the upcoming season, there are 6 positions that lost primary starters: OG (Holland), OLB (Spencer), S (Elam), ILB (James/Brooking), P (McBriar) and FB (Fiametta). There is one other position where the possibility of last year’s starter returning is questionable; that is the other OG (Kosier) due to knee injury and age.
Discounting where the need is filled (via free agency, draft or from someone already on the team), these 6 and possibly 7 positions are a starting place in terms of filling holes.
Unfortunately, when you factor experience into the mix, the picture looks much worse. Of the 51 players listed above, 17 were rookies last year and another 11 had 2 or less years experience at the end of the year; that’s over half the team! You factor that in and I am of the opinion that there is no starter worthy talent at the following positions: S, OG, C, CB #3 and quite possibly (as mentioned above) the other OG position. I’m also skeptical if Scandrick will suffice as a legitimate #2 CB even though he’s certainly receiving the paycheck of one; I’m not so sure Chapas is the answer for starting FB; or if the Boys will find a #3 WR in Williams, Holmes, Harris or Radway. Butler is questionable as filling in at LOLB. I’m concerned about there being only 2 OTs, 2 TEs and 2 QBs signed and whether McGee is really a #2 QB; for now I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Along those same lines I think that the backup TE (Phillips) will fill the vacant TE #2 slot and that Chris Jones can be the full-time punter. The team will need 3 OTs, 3 TEs and 3 QBs though. So, that leaves us with the following positions as definite needs: S, OG, C, OT, TE, CB, WR, FB and QB. But, back to the original question . . .
WHAT ARE THE NEEDS, IN ORDER OF PRECEDENCE, FOR OUR BELOVED DALLAS COWBOYS?
Order of precedence? Which need is greater than the other? Hmmm, that takes even more thought. Of the positions which contain no one who possesses talent/skill worthy of starting, who is the LEAST able to fill the position (if the team had no other choice)?
- GREATEST NEED: I think CLEARLY, the greatest team need is safety. Although a few players’ contributions on special teams has been somewhat stellar, the combination of Church, McCray, Silva or Taplin-Ross playing opposite Sensabaugh is by far the scariest of thoughts. I'm not stating that this need be filled 1st, just that it's the greatest need.
- 2nd GREATEST NEED: The play at center was absolutely atrocious. He did start last year, but Costa is not a starting quality center by any means as of right now. Outside of some drastic improvement by him or Kowalski, center is the team’s next greatest need. It was somewhat hard to determine which need was greater (C vs. S) but the center position has the benefit of a player who at least has starting experience.
- 3rd GREATEST NEED: Right along with center, offensive guard has got to be next. Neither Nagy nor Arkin are start worthy as indicated by the team signing, cutting then re-signing Montrae Holland and acquiring Devin Dockery in the hopes of someone being able to produce quality minutes. Luckily, Holland played OK (Dockery was injured). With both Dockery and Holland the way of free agency, the hole at OG remains and is easily the 3rd largest need. Keep in mind, there are only 3 OGs signed and two of the teams greatest needs are along the offensive line. And, as PFF has mentioned the offensive line grades, it's evident this is a weak area of the team (quite possibly the weakest).
- 4th GREATEST NEED: With Spencer gone, left outside linebacker is a need – even with 7 linebackers signed through next year. As I mentioned, I’m skeptical as to whether Butler or someone else can fill the LOLB role. I have no idea if they can or not but am fairly certain if that were the case going into next year, I’d feel more comfortable with Butler at LOLB than I would with McCray as S or Costa at C or Arkin at OG.
- 5th GREATEST NEED: Finally, I signify cornerback as the last great need of the team. The specific cornerback position (#1, 2 or 3) isn’t really that much of a concern to me as the fact that at least one more starter worthy one is necessary. I’m fairly certain some combination of Jenkins and Scandrick will be on the field. The real question is who else will be with them and how much they will cost.
- Other lesser needs include (as mentioned above), WR, FB, OG (if Kosier proves unable to play), OT, QB, and TE. These positions are essentially backup and aren’t of great need.
I know that this was long but essentially it is just part of the issue. Next article will be the best method on how to fill those needs.