Over the weekend, the Dallas Cowboys made their statement very clear...it was all about getting help on the defense and Rod Marinelli can't be happier. Now, Dallas looks to poise themselves for another run in 2015. Before all of the organized team activities begin, I still have a few thoughts on the Cowboys post-draft.
In D-Mac They Trust
Dallas decided against taking a running back and the world erupted. "They were supposed to take a running back!" Jerry Jones responded by saying other than Todd Gurley, none of the other backs would have unseated Darren McFadden. What that says emphatically is that the Cowboys have the best offensive line in football and they are ready to line up and go. Of course, there will be some competition with Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams plus any undrafted free agents. However, McFadden is a very inexpensive risk that can bring a big reward.
Let us not forget Stephen Jones' comment about evaluating players that came from Oakland. According to PFF, the Oakland Raiders had an overall offensive production grade of -153.9. That included a pass blocking rating of -15.7 and run blocking of -46.4. Their offensive line was bad, people. McFadden played 530 snaps, he averaged only 3.4 yards per carry. You don't think that putrid line had anything to do with it?
Going For Broke On Defense
It started with a few losses in Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, Henry Melton and Sterling Moore. Dallas then added nickel corner Corey White, linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar. They retained Rolando McClain and Nick Hayden, added Greg Hardy and looked ahead to the draft. The Cowboys were able to answer a bevy of questions on their defense, which included starting-caliber players in corner Byron Jones and pass rusher Randy Gregory.
To be able to draft two potential blue-chip talents and not have to move to get them is unfathomable in most cases. Sure, the Cowboys will have to deal with some marijuana issues in Gregory, but it seems like the young man is ready to work hard. Here's what he told the Dallas Morning News:
"That's something I've definitely been working on and something I can definitely fix," Gregory said. "I'm 22 years old but I think I carry myself real well and I think I need to carry myself a little bit better as far as decision making goes. I think a lot of people are getting tied up in the weed and think it's just a weed problem. I don't think it's a weed problem. I think it's decision making. I think I'm immature. I'm definitely working on that. I want to prove everyone wrong and I want to do it with this team. I think this is the best team I can do that with."
The Cowboys could have a very formidable defense in 2015, by the looks of it that's exactly what they were planning on doing all along.
Draft Day Discipline
Watching how this team has handled recent drafts should be nothing short of spectacular. This year's draft though was almost majestic. The Cowboys just waited for the draft to come to them. That in itself can be very dangerous because of where they were picking, but they had a steady patience to just wait and see. By doing that, this team was rewarded handsomely with two impact defenders in rounds 1-2, insurance policies in 3-4, and quality rotation/ depth players in 5-7. Dallas didn't buy into the "need" discussion that almost every analyst was clamoring about, instead they made their selections with an impressively calculated demeanor.
So they're getting a little bit of flak for taking a guy with some knucklehead in him, the fact remains that Randy Gregory is a first-round talent. The support system with this organization will be able to figure it out., and when they do, you may be looking at the steal of the class. Byron Jones is an absolute boy scout, but he has the athleticism and play-making ability to be something special right off the bat. Chaz Green will step right into Jermey Parnell's shoes and become the swing tackle with the upside to replace Doug Free down the road. Damian Wilson was one of my favorite prospects in the draft, his tenacious attitude and "lunch-pale" mentality will fit right in no matter where he plays. Ryan Russell looks to join a defensive line rotation where he could play inside or outside. Laurence Gibson will compete with Darrion Weems for a back-up position. Mark Nzeocha will try to find a role on special teams and Geoff Swaim will try his luck as a blocking tight end. All of these picks are not likely to make the team, but rounds 1-5 could really fill out this roster. The discipline shown by Stephen Jones and company hopefully allowed for this team to rebuilt their defense.
Finding A Returner
Dallas has flirted with the idea of letting Cole Beasley be the return guy and maybe he will. Beasley, though, is too important to the offense to let him get rocked too often. Through UDFA's the Cowboys have quite the competition starting that could be the most fun to watch in training camp. Antwan Goodley (Baylor), Lucky Whitehead (Florida Atlantic) and George Farmer (USC) all look to earn the job. All of these guys also will have to show their abilities to not only handle kicks but make tackles. Dwayne Harris was one of the more underrated talents on the Cowboys roster the past few years. Harris handled kicks obviously, but he also blocked in the running game and made critical tackles on special teams.
These receivers will get every chance to make the team but they will have to take Harris' style into consideration to do so. This year's camp is shaping up to be an entertaining one, and this position could be the one with the most eyes glued to it. Rookie mini-camps start this weekend, let the competition begin.