When you put the position groups of the Dallas Cowboys under the microscope, what do you see? What are the areas that cause you the most concern?
The scar left from not having a viable option at backup quarterback is pretty noticeable. But Tony Romo will be back next season and when he's on the field, the Cowboys are sitting well at QB. Despite the ineptitude on offense in 2015, the Cowboys have aces all around them. Tony Romo (QB), Dez Bryant (WR), Jason Witten (TE), Tyron Smith (LT), Travis Frederick (C), Zack Martin (G) - all aces.
On defense, the Cowboys made some good strides as they were able to thwart the movement of the opposing offense, especially against the pass. The pass defense improved by 30 yards a game going from 28th in 2014 to 6th in 2015. The Cowboys have some good pieces in place.
Sean Lee (LB), DeMarcus Lawrence (DE), Tyrone Crawford (DT), Byron Jones (S) are all keepers.
Rookie Byron Jones is a safety/corner hybrid, but he seemed a lot more comfortable at the safety position. So that leaves the cornerback position as the one spot where the Cowboys have some real questions.
KEEP WHAT YOU'VE GOT
Orlando Scandrick has been a solid piece at the corner position for the last few seasons. Scandrick is 28 years old and the Cowboys have $15 million invested in him over the next four seasons. But how will he be able to perform after returning from knee surgery last August?
The Cowboys will have tough decisions to make regarding Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. Do they give Clairborne a second contract? Is it time to cut their losses with Carr?
In a recent interview on 105.3, former Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls weighed in on the current cornerback position.
"To me, [Claiborne] is the most solid one that played last year. That's sad really. He didn't get any interceptions. He did make some plays on the ball a lot. A lot of incomplete passes came his way, but when you look at how he played, it made Carr's play look even worse. I don't think Carr tackled anybody or anything."
Ouch. To be fair, Carr did tackle some people, but you can't blame Walls for being unimpressed. Brandon Carr has been a $25 million cap hit for the Cowboys over the last two seasons and during that time he has a grand total of zero interceptions.
If Dallas doesn't keep these guys, they may need to dance around in the free agent market.
Trumaine Johnson (Rams)
Janoris Jenkins is the Los Angeles Rams top free agent corner, but Johnson has established himself as a strong cover corner in this league. In just his fourth season, he has shown consistent improvement from year to year. 2015 was a breakout season for the young corner as he was 3rd in the NFL this season with seven interceptions, and finished 4th with 24 pass break-ups.
Casey Hayward (Packers)
Over the last couple of years, the Green Bay Packers made a big commitment to beefing up their secondary through the draft as they have taken defensive backs with three of the four picks they've had in the first two rounds. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (Round 1, 2014), Damarius Randall (Round 1, 2015) and Quinten Rollins (Round 2, 2015) give the Pack a young core of pass defenders. Add Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett to the mix and Green Bay suddenly has plenty of depth.
This means Hayward could be expendable. He's just a pup himself at the young age of 26 and is very good at sticking the coverage. Could he be the type of low-cost option the Cowboys might be interested in going after?
The Cowboys may choose to take one of the elite stud corners in April's draft as there are a couple of options that look very appealing. Here are the strengths of the boys from Florida according to CBS Sports:
Jalen Ramsey (Florida State)
Ramsey has gliding athleticism with long strides and fluid change of direction skills, staying controlled in his pedal transition and collecting himself with ease in small spaces. He has above average anticipation, vision and instincts, seeing the field extremely well with uncanny awareness and timing to create turnovers and get his hands on the ball.
He closes in a blink and wraps well as a willing run defender. He shows outstanding dip and bend as an edge blitzer, using his long arms to knock down passes and bat the ball when lined up near the line of scrimmage.
Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida)
It is hard not to gush about Hargreaves as he combines quickness, balance and route-recognition to excel in coverage with rare physicality and open-field tackling ability to be just as effective in run support and when blitzing off the corner. He possesses good size for the position with a compact, athletic frame.
When lining up in press man coverage, Hargreaves gets a stiff initial punch in on the receiver at the snap and shows good balance and light feet dropping into coverage, fluidly changing direction and the acceleration to remain in the hip pocket of receivers. He's equally effective in off coverage, reading the quarterback's eyes and breaking quickly downhill to disrupt passes. Hargreaves' lack of height is mitigated by impressive body control, timing and competitiveness in jump-ball situations. He possesses excellent hand-eye coordination to slap the ball away as it arrives as well as good hands for the interception (six in two seasons).
Scouts will also appreciate that unlike some of the other highly regarded defensive backs throughout the country, Hargreaves is far from just a cover corner. He's very aggressive in run support, fighting his way through blocks and showing zero hesitation in taking on bigger ballcarriers. On most occasions, Hargreaves makes the effective stop, often significantly cutting short the yards gained in impressive fashion.
There are definitely some great choices for the Cowboys when it comes to addressing this position. It should be interesting to see how they go about it.
What would you do?