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Losing in the trenches -- is Jerry ever going to learn?


Once again we have a draft where Jerry Jones falls in love with skill players when his lines on both sides of the ball are in need of serious upgrades.

Leaving aside whether the new center we drafted at the end of the 1st round was a value pick -- it wasn't -- this is the only FRONT 9 pick we made in the draft.

So we're looking at Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernardeau, and the Free/Parnell turnstyle on the offensive line, barring further moves. And on the defense we're looking at two converted OLBs at DE, one of whom - Demarcus Ware - couldn't finish the season healthy. And inside we have Jay Ratliff, who missed tons of games, and Jason Hatcher, who is on the wrong side of 30 and will be a free agent after this season.

Behind them we have Sean LIssemore, a low round pick who has never been much better than a rotational guy, and Crawford, our 3rd rounder from last year who MIGHT develop into a starter, but who showed no ability to pressure the passer as a rookie.

If you look back at the 8 Cowboys teams that made it to the Super Bowl, they were always among the strongest teams in the league in the trenches. Forget about Aikman, Irvin, and Smith. The offensive line in front of those guys was clearly the strongest in the NFL. They could road grade you and also get out and run. On the defensive side of the ball, the 4 rushers we had were also dominant, and the last of Jimmie Johnson's teams was 8 strong on the D-line. Russell Maryland, who was the first player taken overall in the 1991 draft, might have been one of lesser of these monsters, among them Charles Haley, Jim Jeffcoat, Jimmie Jones, Leon Lett, Chad Hennings, Tony Tolbert, and Tony Casillas. They pulverized Buffalo in the Super Bowl, and would have made 63 points if not for Lett's hot dogging with the ball at the goal line late in the game.

On the offensive line we had Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, Mark Stepnoski, Kevin Gogan, and Erik Williams.

Who cares how good the new second-round TE is? The guy he's replacing was THROWN TO only 10 times, an amount easily taken up by the TE already on the roster, James Hanna, who was THROWN TO only 11 times, and who clocked out much faster than the new TE. Meanwhile, Jason Witten was THROWN TO 150 times!

Same thing for Terence Williams, the new receiver. Is he going to replace Kevin Ogletree's 56 targets? Or are some of those throws going to go to Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, or last year's hurt WR, Danny Coale? Who here thinks Williams as a rookie is going to jump to the #3 receiver spot? I guess this means we're not likely to bring back Laurent Robinson, who if he could stay healthy would be clearly better, and would allow us to devote our third round pick to a FRONT 9 guy.

I have no problem with the safety pick, or the CB pick, or the LB pick. I just would have spent our second and third rounders on offensive or defensive linemen.

Before I sign off on this post -- much has already been written about Travis Frederick, our new Center. My take on this is we surrendered a 900 point spot -- #18, for 820 points - 31st and 74th, when SF could fairly have given us the 61st pick and a 7th rounder. We then could have taken a higher quality safety -- like Matt Elam or Jonathan Cyprien -- at 31, and used the two second rounders to get Frederick and another O-lineman, while going D-line in the 3rd (or perhaps flipping O and D line choices in the 2nd-3rd). Then we could have used our 4th rounder on something else.

We'd have come out of the draft with 3 FRONT 9 players, instead of 1, a much better safety, and mystery guys in the 4th and 7th rounds. At a cost of a TE we aren't going to be able to utilize, and a WR who will probably be 4th or 5th on the depth chart this year.

Every year, the Super Bowl Dallas Cowboys teams recede further into the past. Obviously, Jerry Jones has no concept of how to return to those glory days. It's just sad.

************

A Sunday night edit.

After longer to reflect, I would dial back my criticism a bit with a few points.

1. As has been pointed out, Dallas probably couldn't get more out of SF in the 1st round trade because it was Dallas making the call, not SF. So, either Dallas sits here and takes Floyd or Williams (most likely), or it accepts the deal. At this point, I'm happier with Frederick and Williams than I would have been with just the D-lineman.

2. I'm actually OK now with the selection of Terence Williams. I see how he will be utilized. He's essentially a younger and healthier version of Laurent Robinson, who will be under contract for several years, and he definitely adds the kinds of things Robinson added that Harris, Coale, and Beasley probably never will.

3. I like the new analysis showing that Dallas had the highest average NFL.com rated draft, with everyone selected grading as a 2nd-3rd rounder and potential starter.

4. My main criticism remains, however, that we still need to be stronger in the trenches if we want to return to the Super Bowl. So the one thing I would have changed in this draft is swapped out the second-round TE for another offensive lineman. Because, as we sit here today, we still have Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernardeau, and Doug Free/Jeremy Parnell on the O-line, and not much starting depth behind Jay Ratliff or Jason Hatcher or Demarcus Ware or Anthony Spencer on the D-line. That's 7 holes the Cowboys are going to have to fill very soon. And if they want to make use of all their new offensive toys, they'll have to fill the RG and RT slots THIS YEAR.

5. That leaves me with the question -- how are the Cowboys going to fix the O-line in 2013? Frederick will have to help in the middle, but that alone isn't going to revive our moribund running game or keep Romo from getting killed when Doug Free or Bernardeau whiffs on their blocks.

Thanks for all the comments. I may add some replies below.

VA FAN

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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