The tone was set for this draft starting with the first night when the Cowboys picked Taco Charlton. Jason Garrett wanted “warriors”, he said so in the War Room deliberation process. What does he mean by warrior? Jason Garrett wants to be younger, faster, tenacious, and more versatile on defense. Most importantly, Garrett wants to open up a free-for-all competition all over the roster, but more specifically on a defense that needs to improve.
The Cowboys defense has needed attention and time will tell if these moves work or not, but you can't fault the plan. Cowboys' fans got exactly what they wanted as the front office kept hitting their weakness with resources. What's important to know is that this process surely isn't over but it tells you their level of commitment.
Face it, there is still work to do and these moves don't necessarily mean we're going to see a Top-5 defensive unit but it's impressive. The Cowboys' brass started the rebuild of their underwhelming defense by committing to playmaking and versatility. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie has the skills to play everywhere in the secondary. Jourdan Lewis isn’t the tallest of corners but he makes plays on the ball. They'll come into a team that let their two starting outside cornerbacks walk because they didn't make plays. When it seemed as though they were covered, they drafted Marquez White just to send notice to their own locker room, it's competition time. Guys like Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox were let go so Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier can have opportunities. But, just to make sure Dallas sent a message to everyone involved, they perhaps got the steal in the draft in Xavier Woods, the hard-hitting, tackling and interception machine out of La Tech.
There's their second commitment, it will be an open competition at every level of the team, especially on defense. They found guys like Maliek Collins who beat out Tyrone Crawford and his $45 million contract for the three-tech spot. This front office stole Anthony Brown who outplayed and outstayed Morris Claiborne (missed 9 games in 2016). David Irving was discovered late in the season when the pass rush needed a jolt and the Cowboys had more sacks in the last four weeks of the season than any NFL team. Benson Mayowa had everybody yawning until he was thrust onto the bench for two games, he came back with fire and led the team in sacks.
The Cowboys will field one of the, if not, the youngest defenses in the NFL this year but it's been a long time coming. They look forward to a debut of Jaylon Smith in the lineup pairing with All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee. Taco Charlton will have a shot to show he can be a consistent rushing presence. This is more about what the Cowboys don't want to do anymore and that's a defense that lacks the players to make plays.
They're sending messages loud and clear and that includes not waiting for folks anymore. Randy Gregory is out of sight and out of mind, probably for good. DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will have to step up their games and stay healthy or they won't see the end result of this rebuild. Not one single player is irreplaceable and some already thought they were about to be replaced, Orlando Scandrick will not be traded at this time but that don't mean it's not being investigated.
Rod Marinelli is hungry and he wants his young and talented defense to step up and feed him like the offense feeds Ezekiel Elliott. There is a youth movement underway in Dallas and it's a welcomed sight. Dallas went into this draft and brought in guys with production because the defense hasn't produced at the level to satisfy Will McClay, Stephen Jones, or these coaches. They don't want to have to be a team that heavily leans on the offense, they're building a complete team, a team that is more balanced.
There is no time to continuously wait for guys to reach their potential, the Cowboys see their window busted right open again despite losing some huge names this offseason. This regime understands that they want to not only capitalize on having a young team, but they want to create one of the most versatile and athletic squads in the NFL.
They want to be a lasting heavyweight in the NFL and it starts by opening up the roster spots and creating an incredible competition level throughout the team. We’re not sure that Jerry Jones got his “war daddy”, we know that Jason Garrett and his coaches got some hungry “warriors”. The entire defensive roster has been given notice that there is new blood coming and there are no exemptions from the level of competitive drive they’re creating. If a guy blinks, he may have already lost his roster spot. Frankly, the Cowboys are going to be one extremely fun team to watch at training camp this summer.