Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Williams

A look at the 16th, 17th pick

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will not know until a coin flip at the NFL scouting combine if they or the Baltimore Ravens will pick 16th or 17th in the first round of the May draft.

The only time the Cowboys used the 16th pick in the draft came in 1961 when they selected E.J. Holub in the second round. They have not taken a player with the 17th overall pick since cornerback Kevin Smith in 1992. Before that? In 1990 they took Emmitt Smith, who is now the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

What type of player has been available at Nos. 16 and 17? Here’s a look at the past 10 years.

2013 – EJ Manuel, Buffalo; Jarvis Jones, Pittsburgh
2012 – Quinton Coples, New York Jets; Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati
2011 – Ryan Kerrigan, Washington; Nate Solder, New England
2010 – Derrick Morgan, Tennessee; Mike Iupati, San Francisco
2009 – Larry English, San Diego; Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
2008 – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona; Gosder Cherilus, Detroit
2007 – Justin Harrell, Green Bay; Jarvis Moss, Denver
2006 – Jason Allen, Miami; Chad Greenway, Minnesota
2005 – Travis Johnson, Houston; David Pollack, Cincinnati
2004 – Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia; D.J. Williams, Denver
2003 – Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh; Bryant Johnson, Arizona.

Polamalu is by far the best player selected in either spot. He will be in the Hall of Fame. There are quality players in there like Williams, Greenway, Rodgers-Cromartie, Iupati, Solder and Kerrigan. Andrews had a pretty good short run as well. Kerrigan is solid and has done some good things versus the Cowboys. Coples has showed some pass rush his first two seasons. I expected more from Kirkpatrick, who was on the Cowboys’ radar in 2012.

The Cowboys held the No. 18 pick in 2013 and traded down to No. 31 with the Niners where they took Travis Frederick. They felt they were in a position to trade down and still pick up a quality player. When they saw Eric Reid, Justin Pugh, Kyle Long and Tyler Eifert go off the board in the next four picks they were left sweating it out until they got Frederick.

Bears D more beat up than Cowboys'

December, 9, 2013
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys can feel each other’s pain.

The Monday night game features a pair of defenses that rank among the worst in the league in large part because they have been decimated by injuries. In this case, the Cowboys arguably have a significant advantage.

The injury woes for the Dallas defense have been bad. There’s no doubt that medical issues have played a major role in the Cowboys ranking last in the NFL in total defense (421.6 yards per game) and 21st in scoring defense (25.3 points).

That’s especially true for the Cowboys’ defensive line, with projected starters Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer playing a grand total of 38 snaps this season, all by Spencer in his one outing before going on IR. Key reserves Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass have spent the entire season on injured reserve. DeMarcus Ware missed three games, the first time in his career an injury sidelined him. Jason Hatcher missed a game.

Four other key players -- linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant, cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety J.J. Wilcox -- have missed a combined 12 games due to injuries. The good news for the Cowboys is that all of those players except for Claiborne are available Monday night against the Bears, although star middle linebacker Lee is the only one who is still a starter.

The good news for the Bears? Um, Ratliff is ready to roll after chipping off some rust last week, having signed with the Bears after a miraculous recovery on the heels of being released by the Cowboys when he insisted he wouldn't be able to play this season.

Chicago’s defense, which was dominant last season, is still in shambles. They Bears have fallen to 29th in total defense (386.0 yards) and 29th in scoring defense (27.7 points) after ranking in the top five of both categories last season.

The Bears are missing Pro Bowlers at each level of their defense. Defensive tackle Henry Melton has been on injured reserve since Week 3 due to a knee injury. Cornerback Charles Tillman, who has forced the most turnovers of any NFL defender the last decade, has been on IR since Week 10 due to a triceps injury. Outside linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) will miss his sixth consecutive game.

Middle linebacker D.J. Williams, who was signed to replace retired Brian Urlacher, has been on IR since Week 6. Nickel back Kelvin Hayden has missed the entire season due to a hamstring injury.

The Bears’ leftovers have been pretty bad against the pass and awful against the run. Chicago’s rushing defense ranks dead last in the league, allowing 153.6 yards per game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bears have allowed 3.9 yards per carry with Briggs and 6.6 yards per carry without him.

The Cowboys’ injury woes have been exploited often this season. It’s time for them to benefit from another team's pain Monday night.