In 2013, Rod Marinelli had 20 different players take snaps on the Cowboys defensive line, some of whom played for the Cowboys just three days after they signed. "Hey, new guy!" Marinelli would call, and the entire defensive line turned around.
In 2014, Rod Marinelli relied on players like Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford, and Henry Melton, who were trying to come back from injuries that had all three sit out the 2013 season, or veteran players like Jeremy Mincey, George Selvie, or Nick Hayden, for each of whom the Cowboys were already at least their third NFL team.
In his third year, Rod Marinelli gets to work with Greg Hardy, the best pass rusher available in free agency, Randy Gregory, probably the best pass rusher in the draft, and a boatload of young talent like DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Chris Whaley, Kenneth Boatright, Ryan Russell, and Ben Gardner, who are all 25 years or younger.
Rod Marinelli finally has some rushmen.
And also because somewhere over the last four years, helped by a quarterback who has suffered a fractured clavicle, a punctured lung, a broken pinkie, a severe hand contusion and repeated back problems that ultimately culminated in a herniated disk and back surgery, the Cowboys came to the belated realization that when other teams are trying to sack your QB, it may be a good idea to try and stop them from doing it.
After the Cowboys signed La'el Collins to further beef up their already stellar O-line,called Jerry Jones and said, "I plan on playing five more years and what we’re putting together here will allow me to do it," Jones recounted.
Last year, the Cowboys would have loved to get their hands on Aaron Donald. This year, they hardly looked at defensive tackles, only bringing in Carl Davis for a visit and working out Chucky Hunter during Dallas Day and drafting neither. They didn't even bother signing a DT as a college free agent.
The Cowboys must really like the DTs they already have on the roster.
Sure, the Cowboys brought in five UDFA wide receivers, and maybe one of them will make the roster as a wide receiver and not just as a kick and punt returner. But have basically told their four guys, "You're it." Bryant, Williams, Beasley, and Street may play on the position group with the least competition. For now.
One of the constants that we keep hearing from Jason Garrett is how he wants competition on the roster. He's been very vocal about the need to bring in as much competition as possible, via free agency, via the draft, and any time else. So while the wide receivers look like winners now, that may turn into a Pyrrhic victory.
The Cowboys cannot be happy with the situation at wide receiver, especially considering Garrett's preference for competition. Don't be surprised if the Cowboys bring in a veteran receiver, even if they have to wait until final roster cuts end August to get their guy.
Like Tony Romo, the running back will benefit form an upgraded O-line that will open up even more running lanes in the ground game. The Cowboys had 17 picks in the last two drafts. Look closely at the number of running backs drafted by the Cowboys with those picks. There are none. That's got to tell you something.
Heck they didn't even bother much with running backs when they signed their college free agents. Synjyn Days is the only back they signed. Instead, they signed two veteran fullbacks. That's got to tell you something as well.
And as rabblerousr recounted yesterday, the Cowboys seem to have a lot more faith in Darren McFadden than most fans do.
At some point during the draft show, Nick Eatman joined the gang and said that he's heard in the hallways at Valley Ranch from the Cowboys coaches that, other than Todd Gurley, they didn't see a running back in this year's draft class capable of unseating McFadden as the starter.
The Front Office
Jerry Jones, and by extension the entire Cowboys front office, received the NFL Executive of The Year award last year. And they could be making a case for getting the award in back-to-back years.
1. They got three first-round talents with just one first-round pick.
2. They did not draft a single small-school prospect as they've frequently done in the last few years. Instead, all eight picks hail from BCS programs. Six of the eight picks are from one of the Power 5 conferences (Gregory, Wilson, Russell are all from the Big Ten, Green is SEC, Gibson is ACC, Swaim is Big 12). Of the two remaining guys, Byron Jones (AAC) and Mark Nzeocha (MWC) played in Division-I conferences.
3. Their top six picks were all brought in for pre-draft visits, allowing the Cowboys to get a much better assessment of the prospects. That may not seem very impressive, but the last time the Cowboys invested a (very) high draft pick in a player they had never met with, that didn't turn out as great as they'd hoped.
4. Also, the Cowboys displayed an uncharacteristic patience during the draft, and perhaps even more importantly, didn't move up in the draft until it was almost over.
5. Finally, the Cowboys will probably get four compensatory draft picks in next year's draft. That's got to count for something too, right?
Who would you add as the biggest winners of draft weekend?