Dallas Cowboys: Jacob Rogers

Cowboys must stick to draft board

April, 23, 2013
IRVING, Texas – Let me start the post this way: I love Dan Graziano’s work. Somehow he keeps track of four teams in the NFC East and seems to be able upset fans of all four at the same time, so he’s doing something right.

Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys and the upcoming NFL draft.

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But I think Dan is over the top in the view that the Cowboys must take an offensive lineman with their first-round pick. In today’s #bloggermock, Dan picked Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker with the 18th pick.

Fluker may well be the Cowboys' pick Thursday, but the vibe is they don’t have Fluker that high on their board.

Here’s what the Cowboys should do: take the best player regardless of the position.

If at No. 18 the Cowboys’ draft board has an offensive lineman as the 29th-best player -- and that’s not how they configure their draft board, by the way, but just go with it for now -- don’t reach on that player.

When you reach, you’re taking a lesser player and end up with a lesser roster overall.

In a draft that does not have the “sexy” skill players, I don’t see one of the team’s top line targets making it to No. 18.

The Cowboys have taken one offensive lineman in the first round since 1981 and that was Tyron Smith two years ago. They have found players like Larry Allen, Flozell Adams and Andre Gurode in the second round.

But the Cowboys' problems along the offensive line are not because they haven’t taken enough first-round picks. The problem is they can’t identify offensive lineman in the early and middle rounds where other teams have.

Despite the last year-plus, Doug Free (fourth, 2007) had a decent enough run, but the Cowboys have received nothing or next to nothing from David Arkin (fourth, 2011), Robert Brewster (third, 2009), James Marten (third, 2007), Jacob Rogers (second, 2004) and Stephen Peterman (third, 2004).

For months the Cowboys agonize over their draft board. They try to fit everybody in where they believe they should go. If you just skip that process on draft day, then you have wasted energy, time and money.

There is no doubt that the Cowboys have a need along the offensive line. There’s no doubt they should take an offensive lineman at No. 18 -- if he's the best player.

But “should” and “must” are two different things.

Here’s my must: stick to the board.

5 Wonders: More rest to help DeMarco Murray

November, 13, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- At 4-5, the Cowboys are not out of the hole they dug for themselves earlier in the season, but they at least have a chance to peak their head above ground with a win Sunday against Cleveland.

Randy says you don't have to cheer the Cowboys' Week 10 win, just don't jeer it.

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I wonder if that will spark a second-half run.

I’m also wondering these five things:

** As many wonder if this is the week DeMarco Murray returns from a sprained foot, I wonder if it makes sense to keep the running back out another week. Hear me out before you faint. The Cowboys have two games in five days coming up with Cleveland on Sunday and Washington on Thanksgiving. Murray has missed the last four games (really four and a half since he had only one third-quarter carry Oct. 14 at Baltimore) with a sprained foot. Asking him to play two games in such a short span might not be wise. Why not hold Murray out until the Thanksgiving game against the Redskins and give him 10 days of rest before he plays again? This is a serious injury he had and one that was close to a season-ender. There are no guarantees that he comes back as good as new, but the Cowboys can give him the best opportunity to play in the final six games. I understand you can look at that 10-day break in another way with that allowing him to rest significantly after the Browns and Redskins games. Cleveland has a poor run defense, so I just think the wisest thing to do would be to give Murray another week to get stronger.

** As some of the long-time readers here know, I’ve not been in the camp of moving Jay Ratliff from nose tackle to defensive end in the base defense. I just don’t believe that what makes Ratliff special at nose tackle would translate as well at end. And since Rob Ryan has called Ratliff the best nose tackle in football, I don’t think he wants to move him either. But this injury to Kenyon Coleman presents an intriguing opportunity. Would moving Ratliff to end help him and his sprained left ankle contend better than having to hold up at nose tackle? I wonder if the Cowboys thinking about using Josh Brent at nose tackle full time with Ratliff, whose left foot/ankle has been bothered by high and low sprains and a case of plantar fasciitis, moving outside. If the Cowboys want to get their best players on the field more, which is how they described the move of Brandon Carr to safety in sub packages earlier in the season, then is Brent a better option at nose than a Tyrone Craford, Sean Lissemore or Marcus Spears at defensive end with Coleman out? It might be.

** I wonder what kind of market there will be for Mike Jenkins in the offseason. He did not play against Philadelphia because of back spasms after sitting out of practice last Thursday and Friday. He played one snap at Carolina on Oct. 21. He missed the first game of the season as he continued to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. When Jenkins has played, he has done a good job in the team’s sub packages. His absence against the Eagles was felt even more because of Morris Claiborne’s struggles. Had Jenkins been around, the Cowboys could have used Jenkins to allow the rookie to clear his head in a five-penalty afternoon. They were forced to use Vince Agnew for a handful of plays when Orlando Scandrick went down with what looked like a calf injury. Jenkins’ marketability took a hit when the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr and drafted Claiborne, but he could have been in position to cash in with a solid season as a backup. It’s not that he hasn’t played well. It’s that he hasn’t played enough. He turns 28 in March and I wonder if he is looking at a one-year, make-good offer from a team rather than a larger deal he could have received.

** In the last two games Dwayne Harris has produced punt returns of 37 and 78 yards, with that 78-yarder going for a touchdown against the Eagles. He’s proof that you don’t need to be the fastest guy in the world to be a punt returner. Speed might be more important at kick returner, but I wonder if the Cowboys should give Harris a look there as well. He is not a perfect practice player, according to those around at Valley Ranch, but the game is not too big for him either. He has a feel for when things get real, which is a good trait, but also a frustrating one for coaches who want to see a player perform in practice too. Harris is strong enough to make the first tackler miss and he seems to fall forward all of the time. The kick return game has not been good whether Felix Jones or Lance Dunbar have been the returners. Maybe it’s time to give Harris a shot there, too. And I think he could get in the mix at wide receiver as well. From Jason Garrett’s post-game comments against the Eagles about Harris, you get the sense he wants to see more of the second-year wide receiver.

** I’m still wondering about this for some reason, but is it time to put David Arkin in the bin with other failed offensive line picks of recent years with Robert Brewster, James Marten and Jacob Rogers? Arkin, a fourth-round pick in 2011, has been active for four games this season but yet to see a snap. He was inactive for every game last year. For the first time this season on Sunday, the Cowboys chose to go with guard Mackenzy Bernadeau as the backup center even though he has yet to play a snap there in his career. Arkin was viewed as a project when picked but he struggled this year in camp with his confidence, especially having to play center when Phil Costa and Bill Nagy were lost to injuries. The ability to anchor is the key question. He’s just not strong enough yet. If last year was viewed as a redshirt season, then this season has to be viewed as a lost season because of how little faith the team has shown in him. With Kevin Kowalski practicing now but still on the physically unable to perform list, the Cowboys could use a roster spot. If there is a shred of good news it’s that Arkin is practice squad eligible if the team wants to continue to see his progress.

Cowboys with offensive line issues

November, 2, 2010
When you look at all the problems this year for the Cowboys, protection, the offensive line is the main one.

They don't create enough holes to allow running backs Felix Jones and Marion Barber to make plays. It's hard to generate positive runs when there is no room.

Jones and Barber are not good enough to find other ways to make plays on a consistent basis in the run game. The Cowboys have placed too much faith in the offensive line to open running lanes knowing Jones needs space to make people miss and Barber, while isn't afraid of contact, doesn't bounce off defenders nearly as much as he used too.

Tony Romo is good at avoiding pressure but sometimes he needs to stand in the pocket and find receivers down the field. Left tackle Doug Free was late off the ball twice, once leading to an interception and another time it resulted in a tipped pass. Alex Barron, who the team traded for to add depth, cost Dallas a season-opening victory with a holding call on the potential game-winning touchdown.

Health issues to Marc Colombo, Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier raises questions about their long-term futures. Leonard Davis was benched earlier in the year and Free has played well. Montrae Holland, who was re-signed in the offseason as a backup, has played OK.

Mel Kiper, ESPN's resident draft expert, explored the offensive line issues for the Cowboys with a column on Friday. You need to be an ESPN Insider to check it out.

Here's a sampling of what Kiper said of the offensive line:

" Since 2004, the "best" offensive lineman Dallas has drafted is Doug Free, a fourth-rounder in 2007.

" Since 2005, they've drafted 48 players and Free is the most productive lineman of all those picks.

" The best O-lineman Dallas has taken in the last 10 years is Andre Gurode in 2002, whom they got in the second round.

" The Cowboys haven't drafted an offensive lineman within the first two rounds since 2004, when they picked Jacob Rogers out of USC. Rogers got hurt and was quickly out of the league.

" Before Gurode, the last offensive lineman the Cowboys picked who really panned out was the once-great Flozell Adams, who they grabbed in the second round … in 1998.