Jerry Jones: "Cowboys Interior O-line And Secondary Didn't Match Up Well With NFC East Rivals"

Jerry Jones is excited about the 2012 season.

For the latest episode of Special Edition, Mickey Spagnola of dallascowboys.com sat down to talk with Cowboys owner, president and general manager Jerry Jones (yes, Spagnola did call his boss all those things) about the status of the team.

Obviously, the whole "interview" was much more scripted than a normal press interview would be, so there really weren't any awkward Jerry moments, and it made the whole thing a lot easier to understand and transcribe.

Jerry Jones, despite being asked about his expectations going forward, decided to give summary of what the Cowboys had done in the offseason and touched on three things we'll look at in more detail after the break:

  • Competition on the roster
  • Matching up with the NFC East
  • Improving the secondary and interior offensive line.

Competition on the roster

Jerry Jones: "I think we created more competition within the team than we’ve had in many years past. That’s a good thing."

We've been all over this aspect of the Cowboys' offseason, so I won't spend much time here. The Cowboys brought in a record number of free agents this offseason and Garrett is a big proponent of competition throughout the roster. There is going to be a lot of competition in camp.

Matching up with the NFC East

Jerry Jones: "I think we addressed, in the secondary and in the offensive line specifically, areas that we weren’t matching up real well last year with our division opponents – even the Redskins, but certainly the Eagles and certainly the Giants."

Here's a chart that summarizes the performance of the secondary and the offensive line on a per game basis against the divisional and non-divisional opponents:


Defense Offensive Line
Per game performance
Points Allowed
Passing Yards allowed
Sacks Allowed
Hits Allowed
NFC East Opponents 27.0 296.7 3.5 6.3
Non-divisional Opponents 18.5 212.6 1.8 4.3

The Cowboys had a 2-4 divisional record last year. While they won both contests against the Redskins, they were swept by both the Eagles and Giants.

The secondary allowed almost a hundred more passing yards versus NFC East teams than against other opponents. Only once in six games did the Cowboys pass defense hold the NFC East teams below 250 yards passing. They did however manage to hold seven of their ten non-divisional opponents below 250 yards passing.

But the weak divisional record is not just on the secondary. The offensive line allowed twice as many sacks against the East as they did against the other opponents, and the NFL playbooks also show that the line gave up more QB hits per game against the East.

So what did the Cowboys do about that?

Improving the secondary and interior offensive line.

Jerry Jones: "I think we’re in a better position to match up now. The game will tell, but if you look where we are size-wise in our secondary, if you look where we are size-wise - and hopefully talent-wise – in the offensive line, we’re matching up better."

"In our interior [offensive line], where we think we’ve got better size, I think we’ve got to look not only at who we have as our starters, but we’ve also got to look at that backup, because they are sure to get some action. So I’m anxious to see how that plays out, but not worried about it. I think we’ve got a good chance to be as good in the interior as we would expect to be."

We recently took a detailed look at how the Cowboys secondary matches up in terms of size against the NFC East, and we saw that the Cowboys added not only playmaking talent, but extra size in their secondary. As it stands today, the projected starting corners for the 2012 Cowboys will be Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Carr is listed as 6'0" and Claiborne is listed as 5'11". That's three extra inches over last year's combo of Mike Jenkins (5'10") and Terence Newman (5'10").


Related: For Cowboys, CB Height Could Be Difference Between Winning And Losing

And the same thing applies to the offensive line. Last year, Montrae Holland was listed at 340 pounds when he got canned after training camp. He came back significantly slimmed down and coaches described him as looking like a completely different person. Accounts of his playing weight vary, but it was probably around 320. Nate Livings, who'll likely play left guard, is listed at 332 pounds and is three inches taller than Holland was.

Mackenzy Bernadeau is listed at 308, but during this call, Garrett says he weighs 325 pounds, also more than Kyle Kosier's 309 last year. Assuming a starting lineup of Livings, Costa, Bernadeau, this is how the interior O-line compares versus last year:

2011 2012
POS Player Age Height Weight Player Age Height Weight
LG Holland 31 6' 2" 320 Livings 30 6' 5" 332
C Costa 24 6' 3" 311 Costa 25 6' 3" 314
RG Kosier 33 6' 5" 309 Bernadeau 26 6' 4" 325

The Cowboys added bulk, height and youth along the interior. And while the weight numbers may still change once the official measurements are announced at the start of camp, overall the Cowboys clearly added more beef to the line.

The other dynamic along the O-line, one that will very likely impact who makes the roster and who doesn't, is new OL coach Bill Callahan. Under his short tenure, he hand-picked four guys for the interior offensive line: Livings, Bernadeau, Leary and UDFA Harland Gunn, whom Callahan tried to recruit to Nebraska while the head coach there.

Here's how those four guys compare to the incumbents:

Callahan's guys Other guys
Player Height Weight Player Height Weight
Livings
6' 5" 332 Costa 6' 3" 314
Bernadeau 6' 4" 325 Arkin 6' 5" 310
Leary 6' 3" 324 Nagy 6' 3" 303
Gunn 6' 2" 324 Kowalski 6' 4" 301

The guys that Callahan brought in provide some much needed muscle and beef for the interior O-line, at least on paper. Who actually ends up with a roster spot will be an interesting story to watch in camp.

The Cowboys ranked 31st in DVOA on third down and 31st in the red zone according to Football Outsiders. Last season, the Cowboys faced 41 third- or fourth-down situations with 1 or 2 yards to go and converted only 21. If you're the new O-line coach, you're probably going to want guys in your unit who can move the pile enough to get those first downs a little more frequently. And looking at the weight of Callahan's guys, it looks like he has a plan on how to get that done.

There'll likely be much less drama around the tackles, where Smith and Free are locked in, and the only remaining question is what do the Cowboys have in Jermey Parnell.

Jerry Jones: "I’d like to see Parnell at tackle. We’ve got him as our swing tackle there and we brought in McQuistan. I’d like to see those guys get the kind of time in preseason games that will make us feel good – Parnell in particular – about putting him in there if in fact Smith, our left tackle, or certainly Free has a problem."

The Cowboys identified the interior O-line and the secondary as the areas where they didn't match up well with their NFC East rivals and are getting ready to implement some significant personnel changes there. We'll find out in due course whether those changes will have been enough.

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