Stephen Jones took some time to talk to 105.3 The Fan about several things of interest to fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Here are some links to articles derived from his interview, along with the truly important thing: What I think it really means.
As we all are agonizingly aware, the NFL Draft was pushed back two weeks due to a 'conflict' at Radio City Music Hall. While certain fringe, nut job conspiracy theorists (like me) think this had a lot to do with the NFL wanting to run the draft coverage during the May ratings sweeps period, I think everyone can agree that it would be really nice to get the draft moved back up so that we can get an earlier end to the endless and increasingly improbable rumors and mock drafts.
The grumbles from just about everywhere have not fallen on completely deaf ears at NFL Headquarters. The NFL is considering moving all or part of the draft to another location, or even running each day of the draft from different places. I am sure the latter option would just thrill the franchises who would have to have people scrambling around the country, but this is all about revenues. The NFL Draft has become an amazing success for the NFL Network and ESPN, and the thought of having it somewhere else could be very attractive. Especially if it could be held at a real showplace for the league. Say, a nice enclosed stadium that is used to handling other big events already.
Stephen and his father Jerry know just the place.
"As you can imagine, we like the idea," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. "Anything that we can do at AT&T Stadium for our fans, give them a more up close and personal look at, I think would be a plus."
Things are still in the early stages, but this just seems too good an idea. There is a possibility that this could come down to some kind of a bidding process, of course, with the league going with the best offer.
I put my money on Jerry Jones in that case. And I may have to take some time off for the draft if that happens, since I can drive to the stadium and back.
Of course, with this year's version of the Draft (finally) coming in a few days, there were several topics to cover about what Dallas plans to do.
One thing that has been circulating in the interwebs is that the Cowboys may be looking for someone to take over at the inside, or Mike linebacker position to allow Sean Lee to kick out to be the weakside or Will linebacker. Stephen Jones shot that down.
"We've discussed a lot of things, that's not one of them," Jones said. "To be candid with you, I don't think we're really leaning that way."
The reasoning behind the idea of moving Lee was that he is getting too banged up in the middle. While no one questions his toughness (remember the Killer Q-Tip cast?), he certainly has been missing at times when he was sorely needed. Of course, with a player who contributes as much as he does when he is healthy, any games where he is unable to line up are a problem.
Jones explained that the team does not see the issue as being one of Lee's lack of durability.
"It's one of those things where we think we've had some tough luck with Sean, and I think he'll overcome that," Jones said. "He's so good in the middle there leading the way, leading the defense. It's a natural spot for him to work from. Hopefully, we can keep him there and have the complementary guys around him. Hopefully, if he stays healthy, I know it'll be a Pro Bowl, if not an All-Pro, type year."
This, to me, is yet another argument for bolstering the defensive line. If the front four are a bit more capable, then Lee should not be asked to make as many tackles in the hole. It also could be justification for using a draft pick on someone who could come in to challenge Bruce Carter, since it often looked like Lee was having to come in and clean up plays where Carter did not perform well last season. But whatever Dallas does in the draft, don't expect to see Sean Lee anywhere besides his familiar territory right in the middle.
Another topic Jones went into some depth on was the safety position. There is a big question right now about who will start alongside Barry Church, who is the only safety who is assumed to have a fairly secure starting job. Jones gave a vote of confidence to J.J. Wilcox, who he thinks is the most likely one to get the job. He feels that personal tragedy might have hurt his overall performance in 2013.
"J.J. Wilcox had an outstanding training camp," Jones said. "The day his mother passed, he was actually promoted to be the starter. Everybody deals with adversity in different ways, especially a heartfelt loss like losing your mother. No one knows how anyone's going to respond to that, and obviously he was very close to his mother who had been sick, and had taken wonderful care of her and was obviously just a terrible, gut-wrenching loss for him. I just think it took him a while to respond. But toward the end of the year, we were starting to see flashes of the J.J. that we saw in camp."
Wilcox is not the only safety the Cowboys have returning. Jeff Heath was thrown into the fray before he was truly ready, but his struggles on the field are balanced some by the effort he gave under duress and his special teams value. Jakar Hamilton will have a shot, and so will the Cowboys' own personal unicorn, Matt Johnson.
"I know everybody kind of smirks, but one day if Matt Johnson stays healthy, then we'll finally get to look at him," Jones said. "Hopefully, that'll turn for him. Hopefully Matt's going to prove you guys wrong and a lot of people wrong and stay healthy and be the guy we thought we drafted out of there two years ago."
Thankfully, in a little over a week, the draft will be in the books, and we can start defending or attacking the Cowboys' choices, as we see fit. Although Jones sees a little benefit to the coaching staff in having some extra time to dig into the prospects, he also sounds more than ready to get this over and done with.
"It's why you're in the business," Jones said. "If you love football, who's not going to enjoy picking your players and putting your team together? But at the same time, obviously it's big business and a lot at stake and it's nerve-racking and tense. When you're done with it, you had a great time but you're also kind of glad to get it behind you."
At least it is getting closer.