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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Cowboys need defense with No. 16

By Calvin Watkins


With the Dallas Cowboys winning a coin flip with the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday morning to pick No. 16 overall in May's NFL draft, the team had better upgrade the defense.

The last time the Cowboys selected at No. 16 was 1961, when the team drafted linebacker E.J. Holub. That year, Holub was a second-round pick with the great Bob Lilly being the first-round pick that season (13th overall).

After finishing the 2013 season with one of the worst defenses in franchise history, the Cowboys promoted Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator to replace Monte Kiffin, who was given the title of assistant head coach.

Fixing the defense seems to be a priority.

A defensive player has been selected at No. 16 in two of the past three drafts. Buffalo picked quarterback EJ Manuel last year, the New York Jets snagged defensive end Quinton Coples in 2012 and Washington picked up defensive end Ryan Kerrigan in 2011.

ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have the Cowboys selecting Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

The defensive line might need some replacements.

If the Cowboys let defensive tackle Jason Hatcher go in free agency, which appears to be the case, and if defensive end DeMarcus Ware is released in a salary-cap move, the defensive line becomes a position of need.

Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III, Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan could fit into the 4-3 scheme at various spots. Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman is another possibility.

Of course, Dallas could also use an upgrade at linebacker, where behind starting middle linebacker Sean Lee, the Cowboys have some concerns.

Starting outside linebackers Bruce Carter and Justin Durant had some struggles with health and ineffective play in 2013, and adding a linebacker for the 4-3 defense would be a positive.

Safety had issues as well, with rookies J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath sharing the role at free safety spot.

You can always add a guard or wide receiver with a first-round pick, but after the defense allowed a league-worst 6,645 yards in 2013, finding players who can push the pocket along the line seems the best route.