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Monday, January 16, 2012
Fixing the Cowboys: Draft a QB and find playmaking DBs

By Calvin Watkins

This is the second installment of fixing the Cowboys.

Fixing Cowboys
1. One of the main things the Cowboys front office will do when it looks at draft picks is find players who force turnovers in the secondary. The problem with veteran cornerback Terence Newman is that he doesn't make enough plays on the ball. And while he was tied for the team-lead with four interceptions, he didn't have one the last seven weeks of the season and was credited with only one pass breakup the last five weeks of the year.

Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, who battled injuries along with Newman, combined for just two picks. Inside linebacker Sean Lee was tied with Newman for the team lead.

That's fine, but in a pass-happy NFL, the corners and safeties need to not only knock passes down, but pick them off to take some pressure off the offense. It's easy to say the Cowboys need a shutdown corner, everybody in the NFL does, but they're not growing on trees. So the Cowboys have to find secondary players who make plays on the ball. Playmakers.

Thomas Mayo
The Cowboys could use more depth at wide receiver, and California's (Pa.) Thomas Mayo, who is working out at the East-West Shrine game this week, is one to watch.
2. Beef up the offensive line. It doesn't matter if you do it in the draft or free agency, the Cowboys have to get stronger here. The tackles are fine with Doug Free and Tyron Smith, but the interior of the offensive line struggled with health and play.

The Cowboys started three different left guards, Derrick Dockery, Bill Nagy and Montrae Holland, and if they had made the playoffs would have missed Kyle Kosier, who suffered a torn MCL in the last regular-season game.

Center Phil Costa started every game, but Kevin Kowalski earned praise from the coaching staff when he came in for a nicked up Costa. Kosier's age, 33, and health, he also had a foot problem, leads you to believe he might not be with the Cowboys in 2012.

It's time for the Cowboys to get younger at the guard positions and they've done that with Nagy and Kowalski, but drafting another guard in the second or third rounds won't hurt. New offensive line coach Bill Callahan is good with younger players and if that's the case, the Cowboys should improve in this area.

3. If the Cowboys don't re-sign Laurent Robinson, there is trouble at the wide receiver position. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, when healthy, are major threats in the passing game. After that, there is concern.

The Cowboys might not use a first-round pick on a wide receiver, but at some point they need to get another one. Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes and Raymond Radway are the returning receivers and all need more playing time.

Jesse Holley and Kevin Ogletree have reached their ceiling with the Cowboys and most likely won't return.The Cowboys value receivers coach Jimmy Robinson and his work with young players, much like they did with former receivers coach Ray Sherman. Robinson has done a good job with Holmes, who the Cowboys wanted to promote to the active roster in early December, but a hamstring injury prevented it from happening sooner. Holmes has good speed and gave the defense a good look on the scout team.

But the Cowboys need Robinson. What to pay him is a question that must be answered in March. If the Cowboys don't have Robinson, depth at wide receiver is lacking. One receiver to watch out for is California's (Pa.) Thomas Mayo, who is working out at the East-West Shrine game this week.

4. Draft a quarterback. This is nothing against Tony Romo, but he has two-years left on his contract and Stephen McGee is the backup and doesn't appear ready to become a No. 1 quarterback in this league.

The Cowboys window to win a title with Romo is growing short, so drafting a quarterback in the second round not only raises the competition level at the position, it also sends a message to the rest of the team. Everybody is expendable.

The Cowboys won't have a shot at Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles and Brandon Weeden are projected as late first-round to middle second-round selections. The Cowboys do have plenty of holes on the roster, but they've done a poor job in taking care of their depth. Getting a young quarterback with potential adds to the roster.

5. Anthony Spencer might leave the Cowboys this spring with a new contract from a different team. If that's the case, the Cowboys shouldn't get too worried, there are plenty of outside linebackers in the draft and that pool might get bolstered if some underclassmen come out.

But Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest), Brandon Lindsey (Pittsburgh), Andre Branch (Clemson) and Ronnell Lewis (Oklahoma) are some names to look out for. If DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff are going to survive the season without getting worn down, adding to the pass rush only helps.