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Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Five Wonders: Regret on scheme switch?

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas -- We'll start this week's Five Wonders with an anti-wonder: I don't wonder if we will see a game as entertaining as the Dallas Cowboys' 51-48 shootout loss the Denver Broncos on Sunday. I know we won't.

Right?

Anyway, on to the Wonders:

1. I wonder if Jerry Jones wonders about the defensive switch he initiated in the offseason when Rob Ryan and the 3-4 scheme were fired for Monte Kiffin and the 4-3 scheme. Of course, he doesn't because that would mean Jones would have to realize the personnel he has put together on defense is flawed. The Cowboys can pay $50 million to a cornerback (Brandon Carr), trade up to the sixth pick for one (Morris Claiborne), pay top dollar for a defensive end (DeMarcus Ware) and extend their middle linebacker (Sean Lee) and not get the results. This isn't to blame those guys for the defensive woes, but the holes on the defense are obvious and were obvious before Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford and Jay Ratliff were hurt. Games are won and lost up front and the Cowboys were content to go into the season with Crawford as the top backup defensive end, despite his inexperience, and Ratliff as the vaunted three-technique, even though there was real evidence he was a declining player. George Selvie and Nick Hayden are good role players as a fifth or sixth or seventh defensive linemen, not starters. Every defensive lineman is now “playing up” a level, so to speak, and the lack of pressure is killing the defense. Jones needed more foresight not because of injury, per se, but recent history and demonstrated ability.

Dallas' Roy Williams
The Cowboys may be hesitant to make a trade after the failed move to acquire Roy Williams.
2. The trade deadline is Oct. 29 and it seems like we are seeing more deals than there have been in the past. So I wonder if the Cowboys will get into any serious trade talks to help the defense. The last big-time trade they pulled off in such a way was the Roy Williams' deal in 2008 and that backfired in a major way. I don't wonder if the Cowboys would be gun shy about doing another deal, but do they have the pieces in place to make a deal? They are tight on cap room, but they can move some money around to come up with enough room for the final eight games of the season. A player-for-player deal would be hard just because they don't have something a lot of teams would want. (For those wondering about Miles Austin, stop.) The Cowboys need to find pass-rush help. Do they look at teams struggling, like a Tampa Bay, which could be looking to dump players and move on? The NFC East is there to be taken. It doesn't much matter. The Cowboys can hang with the good teams, which they showed Sunday, but they need a difference-making piece to help Ware and Jason Hatcher.

3. I wonder if the Cowboys continue to attack offensively the way they did against the Broncos. If they don't, then I'll wonder why they didn't. Tony Romo was brilliant, according to many people after the game even with the turnover. The Cowboys attacked with their passing game. Romo trusted the pass protection. The receivers were able to get down the field. They went to an empty look plenty of times and flourished. With the defense struggling the way it has, the Cowboys need to go after other teams the way Peyton Manning goes after defenses. They can't play passively and hope the defense holds the opponent to 20 points. They need to go for the throat with Dez Bryant, Austin, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, DeMarco Murray, Gavin Escobar, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley. Spread the field and go and live with the consequences. If you're going to go down, go down swinging.

4. I'm not a big fan of projecting numbers out, but sometimes it's fun. I wonder if people realize just how well Romo has played through the first five games. He has 1,523 yards and is completing 72 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. He took his average per attempt from 6.7 yards to 8.1 yards with his 506-yard outing against Denver. But let's forecast Romo's current stats over 16 games: he would throw for 42 touchdowns and six interceptions with 4,874 yards. It's not Manning numbers, but they would be sublime.

5. The first four Wonders were major deals, so we'll go a little under the radar for the fifth Wonder. I wonder why Danny McCray is not a gunner on the punt team. McCray has been the Cowboys' best special teamer since he showed up in 2010. He entered this season with 65 special teams stops in three season and had three entering Sunday's game. He was a dynamic gunner even for a guy without great speed. He was able to power his way through the press coverage at the line and force the returners into a decision. On the Cowboys' only punt Sunday, gunner B.W. Webb was pushed out of bounds and was hardly in the play on Trindon Holliday's return. It has not killed the Cowboys yet, but why not put players in the best position to succeed?