Robbing Peter to pay Paul? Cowboys can't afford to neglect offense to strengthen defense

The Cowboys have done some nice things so far in free agency, but nearly every dollar invested has helped the defense.

Meanwhile, on offense, our 15th ranked scoring offense has lost considerable ground with the departure of Laurent Robinson. Don't underestimate his value. Bob Sturm tracks the use of different Cowboy sets, and we used 3 wideouts 36% of the time last year. But we got 46% of our passing yards in these sets. Without Robinson, we also pin so much of the season on the health of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Austin missed 6 games last year, and was outproduced by Robinson. Bryant has also missed games his first two years. This is a BIG loss that will not easily be filled.

Another big loss is on the offensive line. No one expects Holland or Dockery back. But who's going to replace them? Mackenzy Bernadeau? In 2010, he was the worst Carolina lineman, by far. He may have improved, but that could be like saying you hope Phil Costa has improved. Phil Nagy? Overpowered in limited time last year and then he got hurt. David Arkin? Hasn't played a down. And who's going to play center? Costa? Kowalski? (He couldn't beat out Costa last year.) Can we rely on Kyle Kosier? He fought a bad foot most of last year and has had foot problems before. He'll be 34 this season. He was gassed at the end of last year. Don't we need someone younger and better?

We also lost Martellus Bennett. Perhaps not a huge deal, as he averaged only 1 catch per game last year. Still, we'll miss his blocking, and we'll need to replace him with someone. Can't run the number of 2 TE sets we do without 3 quality TEs. (We ran 2 or 3 TE sets 58% of the time.)

The only place we gained on offense was signing Lawrence Vickers to replace Tony Fiammetta. This is a real improvement, as Vickers seems like a beast and Fiammetta missed several games with a bizarre ear problem. We ran FB sets just 21% of the time, and ran the ball 16% of the time with a FB, but we gained 46% of our running yards out of these sets.

We also signed Kyle Orton, a necessary move, but everyone will agree if he plays it's because Tony Romo is hurt, and that's not a plus. With the offensive line we currently have and the opponents we have on schedule for next year, having Romo get abused seems likely.

I know a lot of folks wanted the Cowboys to focus on D this offseason. The problem is that our offense was not good enough in 2011 even with Robinson and a healthy Romo to win more than 8 games. 15th in the league in scoring is not good enough. Of the top 12 offenses, 9 made the postseason.

There is still time for the Cowboys to improve on offense. What free agent money we have left needs to go here, at WR (where a mid-to-late draft pick can't be expected to have much impact), and the offensive line. And we'll need to draft high if we want any lineman to be a factor this season. (Even 2nd rounders aren't necessarily ready their first season.) That's at least 3 slots left to fill, G, C, WR, with quality players.

We shouldn't be done on defense either, as we need an impact pass rusher and more secondary depth. But that can be addressed in the draft. The offense has stepped backwards to this point, and we cannot afford that.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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